Someday, 2021 Cleveland High School graduate Kylie Phillips will be a good leader.
As the captain of her U-19 girls hockey team, the Mustangs, she’s already a good leader, often imploring her teammates to play hard and — most importantly — “have fun … and feel included.”
Among the top 10 percent of the CHS graduates in May, she’s headed to New Mexico State University, where she’ll study psychology and criminal justice, while still being part of that Mustangs team, which travels a lot, and playing when she can in a pick-up league in nearby El Paso.
Phillips was on hand for the Arizona Coyotes’ July 16-17 visit to The MAC in Rio Rancho, ostensibly to introduce hockey to area youngsters. Phillips admitted to having flashbacks to her early days in the sport, which she began playing as a 4-year-old.
Fourteen years later, it’s still fun and she’s not only the captain of her squad, which numbered only 11 players last season, but she also led her team in scoring and was second in penalty minutes.
Opponents, she said, “would just trip over my stick.
“I wouldn’t intentionally trip; I’ve never done that,” she said, somewhat sheepishly.
She’s lived in the same house her entire life, schooled at Christian Life Academy, home and then at Desert Willow Family School before spending her four high school years at Cleveland High.
Navigating the hallways at CHS, with 2,500 or so students, she recalled, “was really overwhelming. … I had cousins that go there, but that was it. They were my only friends.”
Phillips also played softball at Eastdale and Sunset, as well as for a club team, but preferred hockey.
“My brother and sister played when they were younger,” she said. “My sister had problems with her ankles when she was a kid, so the doctor recommended her to get into ice-skating to strengthen them. So my mom got her and my brother into skating lessons, then my brother started playing hockey; she tried it a little bit, but stuck to figure skating.
“I figure-skated, too. When I was 3, I always wanted to play, so they put me into skating lessons — I’m sure I fell a lot.”
That paid off.
“The next year, when I turned 4, is when they put me on a team — the Mini-Mites,” she said, then being one, if not the only, girl on the team. “I loved playing it. It was my way to socialize, my way to make friends.
“I play every position, except goalie, but my favorite (position) is center,” she said of her cool sport. “I feel (others) would say I’m a pretty aggressive player, a coachable player.”
She’s not out to score goals, either: “I’d rather give an assist than score,” she said, although she recalled having a hat trick of her own in a game vs. Utah in Colorado.
“That was a really good game. I remember people being excited in the stands,” she said. “My slap shot is real hard, it’s just not that accurate — it’s getting more accurate. But I’d say my wrist shot is pretty good.”
She trains year ’round, “but our season this year won’t start till September. I’m on the New Mexico Mustangs’ double-A game. We play in the WGHL (Western Girls Hockey League).”
It’s an eight-team league and includes teams in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Idaho, so there’s a lot of traveling involved. The Mustangs were 4-11-1 and finished seventh in the 2020-21 season.
“Last season, I think it’s pretty safe to say everyone on our team had a lot of fun,” Phillips said. “We only had 11 skaters and one goalie.
“Girls are very aggressive,” she said. “I’ve noticed that girls are more aggressive with their words … they’re nasty on the ice, for sure. But there’s also a lot of body contact, too.”
Her parents, Mark and Shannon Phillips, and her grandparents help her foot the bill; hockey can get expensive with all the equipment and travel involved.
Her advice to youngsters thinking about playing hockey?
“I would just say to them it’s going to be hard at first and they’re not going to be great right away, like they see on TV. But it’s a lot of fun and it’s definitely worth it to work at it and get better.
“The bonds that I’ve made throughout playing hockey are bonds probably that I’m going to have the rest of my life,” she said. “My best friends are people that I play with. Every time we go to tournaments or games or anything, we’re just always together, having fun — and that’s what I look forward to the most.
“Obviously, I love playing the sport, but I look forward most to going to hotels and having fun with my friends.”
Yeah, she likes to have fun.

Kylie Phillips poses with Howler, the Arizona Coyotes’ mascot, at The MAC.