PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – Three days after winning the NCAA Division III women's ice hockey national championship — her second as a student-athlete in addition to the Cardinals' fifth in six years and seventh overall — Plattsburgh State's junior defenseman Hannah Kiraly traveled halfway across the country to watch her brother Danny, also a junior defenseman, compete in the NCAA Division III men's ice hockey national championship game. Hannah drove to the Burlington airport where she flew to Detroit then to Milwaukee, where she met her parents. They finished the trip with a three-hour drive northwest to Stevens Point, Wis.
Danny would soon become the second Kiraly to win a national title, as the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point would go on to beat Norwich University, 3-2, in overtime in the championship game in front of a home crowd at K.B. Willett Ice Arena.
Two national championship winners in the span of seven days for the Kiraly family, an unbelievable accomplishment.
What makes the win even sweeter for Danny was that Hannah was able to see her brother play in person for the first time in eight years. After watching the Pointers cap off an unbeaten season with the overtime victory, she coined herself the "Stevens Point good luck charm."
THE KIRALY SIBLINGS are from Glendale, Ariz., where they grew up with a healthy mix of family, friends and hockey. The siblings were introduced to hockey at a young age from their father's side.
"It felt like there was a hockey stick in our hands 24/7 growing up," says Hannah.
When you think of hockey in America, Arizona doesn't come to mind first, but that didn't stop the Kiralys from the game they loved. In fact, living in Arizona only enhanced the Kiraly siblings' love of hockey.
"I loved it," Danny says. "I got to go to the rink every day in shorts and a t-shirt, something most kids playing hockey didn't experience."
Hannah and Danny are one-and-a-half years apart from each other, so growing up, they were more like friends rather than siblings. They developed a special support system with each other from an early age.
"I don't think [there was any sibling rivalry]," says Danny. "If anything, we helped each other get better and work on aspects of our game."
While the two maintain a strong relationship, that doesn't stop competitiveness between the two. For example, who's the better athlete?
"Between me and HK?" Danny rhetorically asks himself. "Me, for sure. Sorry, Hannah."
That support system between the two has continued to this day. They text each other before and after each of their games and always try to catch each other's games online. Both Hannah and Danny credit their parents, Dave and Kelly, for creating that support system.
"They played a huge role," Danny says. "They did everything for us, and we wouldn't be where we are without them."
WITH LITTLE HOCKEY IN ARIZONA, the family would be forced to travel great distances to play games and tournaments, but their parents did it without a second thought.
At age 14, Hannah enrolled in the NAHA Academy, an all-girls hockey boarding school, where she began to break out as a top female hockey prospect. Unfortunately, during Hannah's senior year, she was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease and was forced to sit out the entire season.
After facing adversity, Hannah didn't throw in the towel. Once she was healthy enough to begin playing again, she joined the Northern Cyclones' junior team. This is where she caught the eye of Plattsburgh State's head women's ice hockey coach, Kevin Houle. Once Hannah visited SUNY Plattsburgh's campus, she immediately fell in love with the school and hockey program.
"I knew I felt at home right away," Hannah says. "I loved the school and knew I could win a national championship here."
Danny joined the Pointers' program this season as an NCAA Division I transfer, as he competed at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks for two years before transferring to Stevens Point.
While athletes the caliber of Hannah and Danny have several successes, both are easily able to pinpoint their career-defining moments.
For Danny, it was making the prestigious USA Hockey Camp two years in a row.
"That was a pretty cool moment for me making it two years in a row," Danny says. "I made one as a defenseman and one as a forward after I was cut the two years prior."
For Hannah, hers is simple: winning her first national championship as a freshman in 2017.
It is most college athletes' dream to be able to hoist a national championship trophy at the end of their season, and for the few who win a national title, the achievement is wrought with emotions of exuberance and accomplishment.
"The feeling is indescribable," says Hannah, who smiled after a loss for words.
"It was insane," Danny says. "I was just so happy and excited that we accomplished the goal we set from day one. Easily the best day of my life so far."
This year's national championship win for Hannah wasn't her first, as the Cardinals defeated Adrian College in overtime in 2017 to win the program's fourth straight national title at the time. After falling to Elmira College in double overtime in last year's national semifinals, Hannah and the rest of her team remained focused on returning to the top in 2018-19.
"Coming into the season was exciting," Hannah says. "It was exciting that we knew what we had to change to become better and get back to the championship game."
The Cardinals won their second Northeast Women's Hockey League (NEWHL) championship in the two-year history of the league to start their postseason push this season, earning the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament. Plattsburgh State came from behind to defeat Endicott College, 3-2, in overtime in the first round before defeating Williams College, 5-3, in a back-and-forth game in the quarterfinals. The Cardinals downed Adrian College, 4-1, in the semifinal round to set up a meeting with Hamline University in the championship, which was a rematch of last year's third-place game. In front of a mostly Hamline crowd in Mendota Heights, Minn., Plattsburgh State posted just the second shutout in the history of the championship game, blanking the Pipers, 4-0.
For her efforts, Hannah, who was named an American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA)/CCM All-American for the second year in a row in 2018-19, was named to the All-Tournament Team, as the blueliner posted a +6 rating during the championship weekend.
THE ILLUSTRIOUS CAREERS that both Kiraly siblings have experienced come back to one root factor: the love and passion they have for the sport of hockey. While 2019 has seen several successes for the Kiraly family, it is more than just winning two national titles.
"My parents were just so happy that we all got to be together [for Danny's national championship in Stevens Point]," Hannah says. "It didn't matter if we won or lost; it was just an amazing experience our family had."