There comes a bit of pressure while walking into Hobbs Ice Arena when you carry the Akervik surname. After all, Akervik Rink is adorned in large letters above the doors of the middle of the three ice surfaces, big enough to draw your eyes as soon as you walk into the building.
“I didn’t realize how much of a big deal that was until probably high school,” Charlotte Akervik said. “I don’t think my family put any pressure on me. I think everyone in our family understands if you want to be successful, it’s on you.”
Luckily for Charlotte and the Eau Claire Area Stars, she lived up to the billing.
Akervik proved over her four years with ECA there was little that could slow her down, especially not opponents. A torn ACL she suffered as a sophomore couldn’t stop her either, as eight months after that injury she was back and producing again. At this point, the scary incident isn’t even on her mind anymore.
“That’s a pretty good indication of the type of kid she is and how determined she is,” Stars coach Tom Bernhardt said.
She leaves as one of the top players to ever don the Stars’ blue and black sweater after amassing three all-state and four all-Big Rivers selections in addition to a state title. In February she kept the Ms. Hockey Award in Eau Claire, earning the Wisconsin Girls Hockey Coaches Association’s nod as the state’s top senior a year after Abigail Stow earned the honor.
There was no question who would earn the Leader-Telegram’s All-Area girls hockey player of the year honor.
“To have a defenseman like that, that you build your power play around, that you build your penalty kill and d-zone around, that’s something that you don’t come across very often,” Bernhardt said. “She was really a coach on the ice for us for four years.”
Akervik possesses a versatility and poise that’s uncommon to find at the high school level. Matching up against her often meant picking your poison. If you sag off her, she has the speed and confidence with the puck to launch a rush. Over commit to her and she’ll dish the puck to an open teammate. In settled situations in the offensive zone, she was never afraid to let off a wicked slap shot.
“We literally gameplanned around her,” Hudson Raiders coach Matt Szypura said. “It was just huge for us to not take penalties. That means she gets that puck that much more and with that much more time and space. With her shot, that’s super dangerous.”
Unsurprisingly, many of Akervik’s best memories on the ice come from the team’s state title run her junior year. After missing the beginning of the season as she worked her way back from her knee injury, she totaled 25 points in 15 regular season games and four more during the playoff and state run. She notched three assists down in Madison, playing a major part in the Stars’ first ever state title.
“To add that to what we had already accomplished that year was a huge addition for us,” Bernhardt said.
As a senior, she took on a more offensive role, adding to her immense tool kit. She finished the season as the top scoring defender in Wisconsin, recording 19 goals and 41 points in 23 regular season games.
“I just think it’s how my game is evolving,” Akervik said. “I used to be super sit-back, stay-at-home defenseman. I like this role I’m playing now more. It’s more fun.”
Her high school career didn’t conclude the way she would hope, as ECA’s season came to an end at the Chippewa Area Ice Arena with a 3-1 loss to Hudson in the sectional final. There are certainly “what ifs” from that game, especially considering the Stars entered the third period with the lead, and mixed feelings dealing with the pinnacle of success coming her junior year.
“It was a really weird high school career,” Akervik said. “We started out with barely any skaters. A couple people on our team weren’t even playing. You go from a team that’s just kind of questionable, to go from bare minimum to high point junior year is kind of like, ‘Woah, wait a second. We’re good now.’
“I don’t know, it’s just a mixture. Each year was different, and I’m happy with how it ended. I obviously wish we would have went to state, but in the long run I’m happy with how my high school career went.”
With her high school career over, the other Big Rivers coaches should be able to get a little more sleep.
“It’s going to make life a little bit easier, that’s for sure,” Szypura said. “It sucks seeing her go, too. You like to see those types of players come through Wisconsin high school hockey. As much as we would like to beat her, there’s a lot of respect too. We were at the state banquet when she got the Ms. Hockey Award. All of our girls on our team knew how she earned it and that she definitely deserved it.”
Akervik has traditionally spent her springs running track for Eau Claire North but is taking this final season off to prepare for her next chapter, a collegiate hockey career at Minnesota State. She’s been training at FitELITE, equipping for the faster and more physical nature of college hockey.
“The ball’s in my court now,” Akervik said. “How good I want to be is up to me.”
She’s one of two Stars heading to the Division I level next year – the other being Ava Kison, who will join the newly formed Franklin Pierce program. They’re the first two ECA players to ever go DI. In the summer she’ll make the trip to Mankato to officially begin her collegiate process.
“It’ll be nice to get up there and start skating with the girls,” Akervik said. “Kind of get a feel for the school, so when I’m going in for the fall it won’t just be a complete culture change for me.”
Akervik joins a program she said reminds her of ECA when she first joined the Stars and one that stuck by her throughout her rehab process. The Mavericks went 9-19-7 this year and 3-16-5 in the highly competitive WCHA in their fourth year under head coach John Harrington. She said the results of the individual games show the team is close, especially considering Harrington is starting to work with a group entirely recruited by his own staff.
As she adjusts to a new environment, she’ll be keeping an eye on how her former teammates continue to build off the title team’s legacy.
“Those are most of the girls I’ve been playing with my entire career,” Akervik said. “I’ll definitely be watching.”