Granite City Hockey Goalie Michael Atkins Plays On Five Consecutive Championship Teams, Is Stillwater Male Athlete of Month
GRANITE CITY - To be able to play on one championship team is an honor unto itself. For a player to be a part of five consecutive championship teams is an amazing feat.
And that's exactly what Michael Atkins has accomplished, as the senior goalie for the Granite City High hockey team played on his fifth straight championship team when the Warriors won its second straight Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association's Class 2A championship last week with a two-game sweep over O'Fallon in a best-of-three series.
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Atkins is a Stillwater Senior Living Male Athlete of the Month for Granite City.
Atkins' record was very impressive during that run as well, going 96-17-11 in his five years as a top goalie for Granite, recording 45 shutouts while playing on junior varsity championship teams in eighth grade and as a sophomore to go along with three varsity titles in his freshman, junior and senior years.
Atkins also played in the league's Rising Stars game, a JV All-Star game, getting a shutout in his one period of play, and also played in two MVCHA All-Star games, earning shutouts in his single period.
In addition, Atkins got plenty of help from fellow seniors Ethan Kuhenel and Bobby Scott, along with his other teammates, and were part of those championship teams during that period, which is already being considered the greatest era in Warriors' hockey history since the founding of the program in 1978-79.
"Obviously, it's pretty insane," Atkins said during a telephone interview, "but I was talking to a couple of my coaches and that they think anyone who's won five championships in a row in a high school career is great."
For comparison purposes, it's like the five consecutive IHSA state soccer championships won by the Warriors when the school was known as Granite City South, from 1976-1980. an incredible feat that has yet to be duplicated. The excitement of the fifth championship was incredible to Atkins.
"Along with the adrenaline rush I had, it was pure excitement," Atkins said, "because I was thinking that was my last time on the ice as a Warrior. It was just the best way to end my high school career."
The memories of the five titles were different to Atkins, as each year was a different set of circumstances.
"Each year was a new year," Atkins said, "with new opportunities and I always knew I had a good team in front of me and better coaches on the bench."
Those coaches included former St. Louis Blues and NHL player Darin Kimble, who's coached the Warriors' varsity to the championships in each of his seasons on the varsity.
"He was arguably the best coach in the league to have," Atkins said of Kimble, "and he made us believe we could do it every single year."
Atkins' father, Ken, is of course, very proud of Michael and his accomplishments on the ice and off as well.
"We've always been very proud of him," Ken Atkins said. "When he first started playing at eight-years-old, we had coaches tell us that they wish they had Michael on their team."
Atkins played for the Twin Bridges Lightning club in East Alton and Granite City, and he made such an impression in the St. Louis area that he was being recruited by other area clubs to play for them.
"I got an E-mail from one of Michael's first coaches," Ken Atkins said. "It was from a Meremac Sharks coach that they were going to buy his parents a house in South (St. Louis) County and get us jobs so we could move there and play for them."
The proposal was turned down and Michael continued to play for the Lightning. He took to being a goalie naturally and developed both his talent and a very strong work ethic when other teams needed help.
"There were times that he'd spend at team practice," Ken Atkins said, "then other teams didn't have a goalie at their practice. He'd volunteer to be their goalie and there would be times that he'd be out on the ice for five hours straight because other teams needed a goalie. That's our kid."
Michael's mother, Amanda, is equally as proud of her son and recalled a time when he received his very first equipment bag as a goalie.
"Watching him the first time he was handed a goalie bag and he put the pads on, his face just lit up," Amanda Atkins said. "It was in a tournament for eight-and-under, it was the first game of the tournament and our team didn't have a set goalie. So we decided that it was going to be a pass-the-bag season. Michael was first up and that's where the bag became his."
Michael showed a natural talent for goaltending immediately and developed his skills rapidly and his parents supported him in every way they could, leading up to his incredible championship streak in high school. Amanda Atkins gave much credit to her son's coaches along the way.
"I think that we would credit the coaching staff in Granite has been exceptional," Amanda said. "For the last five years, from his first coaches, Tony Watson, Dany Greene and Kyle Watson, and he had good coaching his first two years in high school in Kenny Wakeford and Kevin Nenninger in JV. And ultimately, the coaching and dedication of Darin to our club to Michael and the amazing Warrior hockey club, we couldn't have asked for anything better."
As far as his future in hockey, Michael will be attending a trade school to become an electrician but plans on playing one more year with the Lightning as an 18-year-old. it's a club that he's very fond of and where he got his start.
"It's where I started playing when I was eight," Michael said, "and to end it where I started."
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