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White River Native Back Home for All-Star Game

Alli Devins, of White River Junction, maintains her grip while doing pullups at the River Valley Club in Lebanon this week. Devins will play in the Make-A-Wish Hockey Classic in Burlington today. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Alli Devins, of White River Junction, maintains her grip while doing pullups at the River Valley Club in Lebanon this week. Devins will play in the Make-A-Wish Hockey Classic in Burlington today. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

White River Junction — Homecoming is normally reserved for autumn weekends, with the leaves falling and the temperatures dipping. But Alli Devins is celebrating it today instead.

She’s been gone four years, but she hasn’t really been all that gone. Rather than following the four-year hockey route at Hartford High School that her father and two brothers took, Devins looks at today’s Make-a-Wish Hockey Classic as a return home after a solid career at Connecticut’s Westminster School that has netted a further playing opportunity this fall at Union College of ECAC Hockey.

“It was an honor being selected, definitely, because I’ve not been around,” the 18-year-old wing admitted earlier this week. “But one of my friends was selected last year, so I’m excited about it this year. It’ll be great to get back and reconnect with old teammates I played with until high school. I’m just really excited.”

The Make-a-Wish kicks off a busy all-star day around the Burlington area today, with Vermont’s girls meeting New Hampshire at 4 p.m. followed by the Twin State boys showdown at 6:30 p.m., both at UVM’s Gutterson Field House. The reborn Twin State Basketball Classic is also on tap today, its girls-boys doubleheader starting at 6 p.m. at Essex High School.

Devins follows ex-teammate Hadley DesMeules to Gutterson, both in terms of Upper Valley roots (DesMeules hails from Pomfret) and as someone who pulled those roots from the ground to replant them at Westminster.

Although her father, Mark, and older brothers Brian and Dan all played their prep hockey at Hartford, the youngest Devins felt more inclined to pursue the game elsewhere. The decision, she said, hinged on academics as well as athletics.

“I didn’t really know I wanted to go away until very soon before my freshman year,” Devins admitted. “When I looked at (Westminster) and fell in love with it, I knew it would be hard to leave my friends from home. That’s the hardest thing, but I knew that it was a better situation for me. It prepared me more for college, so in the long run I was so happy there, and really glad I did what I did.”

A hockey player since the age of 4, Devins enjoyed large amounts of success at Westminster — located in Simsbury, Conn., 10 miles northwest of Hartford — while also taking advantage of a prep school’s more permissive approach to out-of-school sports.

With the Martlets, Devins skated to New England Preparatory School Athletic Council championships in her first two seasons. Last winter, she co-captained a squad that went 19-4-0, falling in the NEPSAC Division I quarterfinals in double overtime to Cushing.

Additionally, Devins joined the Mid Fairfield Stars program, which added four more months of travel play each hockey season that didn’t conflict with her Westminster schedule. Contacts Mid Fairfield coach Moe Tarrant had in college hockey led to Union’s interest in Devins.

“Alli is a power forward with great speed,” Union coach Claudia Barcomb said in a news release announcing the Dutchwomen’s incoming class earlier this week. “I think she’ll end up being a solid penalty killer for us. She has a great work ethic and attitude.”

That point of view jives with Devins’ perception of her hockey strengths: “Probably speed and awareness of what’s going on around me,” said Devins, who had 17 goals and 44 points during her Westminster career. “I’m more of an assister on a line.”

Although Hartford didn’t factor into her high school plans, Devins has remained close to friends who stayed. She has stayed in touch with Kelsey Kehoe and Amy Koh, two Hartford seniors who won a Vermont girls basketball championship two winters ago, as well as Taylor Friedman, the Lebanon High athlete (and former Hartford resident) bound for Springfield College field hockey in September.

Although she couldn’t enjoy her friends’ championships in person, Devins did keep up on their exploits. They, in turn, occasionally attended Westminster hockey games.

“We were all friends in middle school in Hartford; I played a lot of sports with Taylor, and Kelsey and Amy were in a lot of the same classes, so we became close from all that,” said Devins, who also played field hockey and softball at Westminster. “I wasn’t at their school, but I was getting updates on their games. I was texting Patti Friedman (Taylor’s mother) a lot. … I always saw games when I could, and they were always there for me.”

After playing most of her youth hockey in Hartford, Devins moved to the Waterbury-based Vermont Stars before leaving for Westminster. She’ll be reunited with a former Stars teammate, North American Hockey Academy graduate Carly Watson, at UVM today, along with other girls who were once peers on cold Vermont ice sheets.

“It’s just a bunch of girls I’m excited to see,” Devins said. “I’m not overly excited to see anyone in particular. I’m just excited to get up there, have some practices and play the game.”

After all, it’s homecoming today.

Seeing Stars: Devins is the area’s sole representative on the Vermont girls Make-a-Wish roster, which has nearly as many prep and travel team graduates (eight) as public school players (12). Lebanon’s Amelia Gage and Chrissy Drake will suit up for New Hampshire with Kearsarge’s Lauren Adie and Allie Folcik, both of whom skated with the Cougars’ boys team last winter. … Hanover defenseman Mike Yukica is the only Upper Valley resident scheduled to play in the Make-a-Wish boys game. … Over at Essex, four area graduates will play in tonight’s revived Twin State Basketball Classic, back after a three-year hiatus. Lebanon’s Moriah Morton and Emily Kehoe will play for the Granite State against Vermont and Hartford graduate Stephanie Grobe in the 6 p.m. girls contest; Lebanon’s David Hampton will follow for New Hampshire in the 8 p.m. boys nightcap.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.