Keller went from figure skating as kid to one of ice hockey’s best

ASSOCIATED PRESS Canada’s Jennifer Wakefield, left, is defended by the United States’ Megan Keller during the first period of a women’s hockey game in 2017, in San Jose, Calif. Keller’s parents are originally from the Williamsport area.

As a toddler, Megan Keller was already on the ice. Not for hockey, but for figure skating. She wanted nothing to do with it unless she was decked out, head to toe, in her hockey gear.

“She didn’t want anything to do with figure skating,” her mother, Lynn Winner Keller recalls.

Soon after, though, a love affair began with the ice, hockey and competition. That allowed Megan, with a little help from her brother and parents, who are both Williamsport natives, to develop into one of the best defenders in the world and she’ll get a chance to prove that this Sunday against Finland in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Megan’s parents, Greg and Lynn, both were born and raised in Williamsport before moving to Detroit in 1987 for work. Greg is a 1979 graduate of Williamsport where he played football, and later was an All-PSAC tackle and one-time captain at Shippensburg University, while Lynn is a 1979 graduate of Loyalsock where she ran track.

The Kellers sill have grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles in the area and still make it back to the city every now and then, just not as much as they used to when the kids were younger. But some of Megan’s fondest memories are skating on the frozen pond at the Armory.

“I remember coming back to Williamsport and ice skating at the Armory with my cousins and my brother during Christmas time, but it’s been a few years (since we’ve been back),” Megan said. “We use to go to the Little League World Series and come back for Christmas time. We get back there as much as we can and it’s always great to get back there. … We use to come back three or four times a year and I think one of my favorite memories is ice skating at the Armory.”

Megan is a three-year starter and two-time All-American at Boston College. She’s currently taking a break to compete in the Olympics and will return next fall to finish her communication degree.

She’s been a part of the U.S. Women’s National Team the last four years and already has three International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships gold medals. She’ll look to add an Olympic gold medal later this month. The U.S. Women’s National Team hasn’t won an Olympic gold medal since 1998, but has won the last two silver medals in 2010 and 2014 and has medaled in the last five Olympics.

None of this success is by accident. Megan started from a young age, around two or three her mother recalls, and was playing with her brother and the neighborhood boys two and three years older than year. Her brother, Ryan, was a four-year letterwinner on the Michigan State University ice hockey team. After graduating in 2016, he played a year with the Indy Fuel, the minor league team of the Chicago Blackhawks.

“There wasn’t a lot of girls hockey when I was growing up. My brother was definitely always a role model for me,” Megan said. “It was great to have an older brother like him because he allowed me to tag along and be the annoying little sister at times. He beat up on me quite a bit. It was just the brother-sister rivalry we had but I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”

Megan qualified for the Olympics back in May after trying out with about 60 girls. She, as well as 22 teammates, including some of her college teammates, have been in Florida, just outside of Tampa, the last nine months training about six hours every day.

“Ever since I was younger it was my dream, especially growing up. At that time there wasn’t any women’s pro league,” Megan said. “The Olympics is the pinnacle of women’s ice hockey and they were always my role models growing up. Ever since I was little and watching the Olympics, I knew that’s what I wanted to do and that’s where I wanted to get when I was older.”

Now Megan is at the top of her sport and has reached her goal. Her next one is a gold medal. And just as she accomplished all her other goals, her family will be right there with her.

“The thing that has driven her the most is she’s a true competitor. Everything to her is a competition,” said Lynn. “She would watch the Olympics and said she was going to do this. Just dream until your dream comes true, and the best part about that is we get it do it with her.”