Perham's Kennedy brothers lead Detroit Lakes' offensive charge
Aiden and Easton Kennedy go to Perham. However, in hockey, they dawn the Laker red and white. The Kennedy brothers are proving to be a vital offensive duo this season.
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Aiden and Easton Kennedy don the black and gold of the Perham Yellowjackets eight months of the calendar year.
Aiden, a senior, and Easton, a freshman, are multi-sport athletes at Perham High School. The two brothers are also two of the most vital pieces of the Detroit Lakes boys hockey team.
Detroit Lakes co-ops with Perham for boys and girls hockey. Perham kids play youth hockey in Detroit Lakes through high school. The Kennedys aren't the first set of Yellowjacket transplants to wear the Laker red and white. However, the Perham kids are leading the charge offensively in a season that poses the potential to reach new heights.
"We're lucky to have the partnership that we have with the surrounding communities, including Perham," Detroit Lakes head coach Ben Noah said. "It's interesting. The kids that we get from Perham are in such incredible shape. They're wonderful athletes. They're doing awesome things over there with their training programs. The Kennedys' success is not an accident."
Detroit Lakes is 12-4-1 after its overtime win over Northern Lakes on Monday night. Easton scored twice, bringing his season total to 18 points (9G, 9A). He's fifth on the team in scoring and is the only varsity-rostered freshman.
"He came in kind of as a role player, more of a fill-in guy," Aiden said of Easton. "We had some missing spots. Throughout the year, he's just gone up and up. Now, he's probably our best player. He's carrying this team for us. He's the most skilled guy we have. He's probably going to play Division I hockey at some point. He knows that. He has to step up to the challenge, and he does that well."
Easton gave up his final year of bantam hockey to play at the varsity level. A decision to leave the friends he grew up with came with the pressure of being an impact player.
"It was really hard leaving my friends," Easton said. "They've been my friends since I was really young, but it's also a huge step up for my hockey career. This season has really helped me. I get to play for some of the best coaches I'll play for in Tanner Lane and Ben Noah. I get to improve as a player against better players. I also get to play with my brother in his last year of high school hockey."
Easton is five points behind Aiden, who is second on the team with 10 goals and 13 assists. Aiden missed most of his junior season with a shoulder injury he suffered playing for the Perham football team.
During the end of the 2021-22 campaign, head coach Ben Noah raved about Aiden's versatility and leadership. A year later, he's one of Detroit Lakes' captains, leading the Lakers to a No. 8 Class A ranking, according to Let's Play Hockey .
"Of course, at home, he's always pushing me to be a better player," Easton said of Aiden. "He's the guy I look up to as a youth player. He's our hardest-working player on the team. He's the one pushing our guys if practice isn't going well. He takes us a step up and pushes us farther. Everybody looks up to him and (Jacob Thomas) because when things aren't going our way, they can change things just like that."
Believe it or not, this is the first time the Kennedy brothers have played organized hockey on the same team together. The four-year age gap never presented this opportunity they called "surreal."
"This is our first time playing together besides on the outdoor rink," Easton said. "It's awesome. I didn't expect it to happen, but it's been a really fun year with him."
He's probably our best player
In most sports, Perham and Detroit Lakes square off at least once a year. It's all part of the friendly rivalry that adds to a fun locker room dynamic on the boys hockey team.
"Besides hockey, DL and Perham have always been the kids who don't really like each other too much," Easton said. "When we play each other, it's fun to get after it at football games or volleyball games. But after, we're all talking, and it's a good time."
After last year's miracle win for Perham in the Battle for the Paddle, the Detroit Lakes-residing players earned 365 days of bragging rights over the Kennedys after the Lakers beat the Yellowjackets 49-6 on the gridiron in September.
"We hear about it too much," Easton said, rolling his eyes.
The Kennedys will call themselves Lakers for two and a half more months this year before their hockey season ends. However, both of them realize the unique opportunity in front of them.
Detroit Lakes hasn't played for a Section 8A championship since 1996. As a top-10 team in Class A with a senior-heavy roster, this year is as good as any to make a run.
"We have to come to practice every day, and not as a team that comes in expecting to win every game," Easton said. "We have to earn it. The last couple of games against Brainerd, Alexandria, Little Falls and Northern Lakes again, we have to come ready to earn it, and that starts in practice. We have to be prepared."
For Aiden, the finality of his final high school season is setting in. The sticks are gripped a little tighter. The legs move a little faster. The hits are delivered a little harder. He's making sure there's nothing left in the tank in March.
"I think all of us seniors are digging in and starting to realize that we're in the home stretch now," Aiden said. "We're all ready to get after it. I come to the rink every day to work my butt off because I'm not going to be sitting there at the end of the year saying, 'I wish I would've practiced harder that one time. I wish I could've done more.' I'm doing everything I can to make sure that I'm leaving everything I have out there to end the year."