The moment Meghan Kraus fell in love with hockey is still a vivid memory.
"I was 5, and I was watching the Olympics, and I decided I want to hit people with my stick," Kraus said with smile.
The 16-year-old Kraus has dreamt of little else in the 11 years since that moment, and the dream of going to the Olympics is still very present in her life. Just ask what she listens to when she works out.
"I always watch the movie 'Miracle.' I have the speech he gave them in the locker room on my iPod," she said. "It's like, 'You don't have enough talent to win on talent alone,' and so I always think of that when I'm working out.
"Some people have big egos, and they stop training because they think they are the best, but that's actually when you need to train more."
Kraus, a sophomore at Bellingham High School, and fellow Bellingham-native Mina Tari, a senior at Squalicum, have spent the past three and five years, respectively, playing for the Washington Wild U-19 girls' hockey team based in Seattle. Both were instrumental in guiding the Wild to a 51-9-4 record and a USA Hockey Girls Tier 2 National Championship quarterfinal appearance.
Instrumental is one way of describing the two vastly unique Bellingham products.
Kraus, who finished the year second on the team in total scoring with 64 goals and 33 assists, has matured into one of the teams most prolific offensive threats.
"She really has a nose for putting the puck in the net," Wild coach Les Grauer said in a phone interview. "At any level, whether it is boys or girls, goal scoring is always in short supply, and she is a very good goal scorer."
Kraus' concept of, "It's not fun unless you score," has never quite resonated with the older, less-flashy Tari, who said she prefers the dirty work.
"I feel like I need to protect my teammates," she said. "One time, this girl was flicking pucks at people's heads and hitting them when the ref was turned around. I remember she hit one of my small teammates, and she punched her in the facemask, and I remember flipping out and destroying her."
Protecting her teammates is a role she has come to relish, but it's not her only role.
Tari showed flashes of brilliance as a goal scorer during the year, something Grauer said earned her own unique rendition of a famous song.
"Mina had a streak of six or seven games when she was scoring on a regular basis, and the girls started singing Alicia Keys' song, 'This Girl is on Fire' when she would come by the bench to high-five everyone," Grauer said.
Tari finished the year with 13 goals and 24 assists.
The quarterfinal loss at nationals brings about a moment of change for both Kraus and Tari.
Tari ends her five-year career with the Wild to pursue an education at the University of Washington, while Kraus eyes a move to Alaska to pursue a higher level of competitive girls' hockey, and inevitably her Olympic dream.
"When I was younger, I always wanted to be in the Olympics, and if I (can), I will," Kraus said.