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women's college hockey notebook

Saint Anselm women’s hockey has found a leader in Kelly Golini

Kelly Golini starred for Methuen/Tewksbury (above) before heading to Saint Anselm.Jonathan Wiggs

As Kelly Golini took the ice for warmups before Saint Anselm’s first women’s hockey game of the season back in October, she was hit by an announcement over the speakers at Maine’s Alfond Arena.

“They said it was Maine’s first home game in over 400 days,” said the senior forward from Tewksbury. “I thought, if it has been that long for them, how long has it been for us to even play any game?”

Pandemic restrictions caused Maine to play only road games last season. However, Golini’s Saint Anselm squad was completely off the ice in 2020-21. That announcement, meant to inspire the home Black Bears, instead served as motivation for Golini and her Hawks teammates.

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Twenty-two seconds into the game, Golini scored. Near the end of the first period, she scored again. And at the end of 60 minutes, Saint Anselm — a team in the still-sparkling-new New England Women’s Hockey Alliance — had pulled off a 3-2 upset of Maine, a program that has existed decades longer than the Hawks. It was Saint Anselm’s first-ever nonleague Division 1 victory.

“I don’t think anyone takes us lightly after that,” said Golini. “People noticed. I got 10 texts afterwards saying, ‘You beat Maine?!’ We proved to ourselves and a lot of others that we belong.”

As a high schooler for the Methuen/Tewksbury team, Kelly Golini takes a shot at the Concord-Carlisle net during a 2018 contest.Mark Lorenz for the Boston Globe

Saint Anselm belongs in Division 1, and Golini belongs at Saint Anselm. One of the Methuen/Tewksbury co-op’s all-time greats, she hasn’t skipped a beat since taking the ice for the Hawks (4-9-1). Over her first two seasons, she has skated in every game.

In her senior year, she has been a key on the ice and as a leader, earning NEWHA Player of the Week honors twice, most recently after a goal and two assists against Post University.

“Her leadership is continuously emerging, which is huge for such a young team,” said Saint Anselm coach Jen Kindret. “She brings it every day, and her work ethic and skill are really helping us to compete every game.”

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If you had asked Golini a few years back if she would be captaining a Division 1 hockey team at this point in her life, she would have said no. A promising youth player who was making headlines for her high school team before she even started ninth grade, she stepped away from Methuen/Tewksbury her freshman year to devote her time to the Boston Shamrocks, a renowned club program known for getting players on college rosters.

“I would see my friends’ pictures from school and hockey and felt like I was missing out,” said Golini. “I knew we had only a few years back until we would all leave for college. It felt like I was leaving them sooner than I had to.”

Golini found herself hating hockey, and made the tough choice to step back from that junior hockey experience and play for her high school team again. She credits that decision for where she is today.

“Given my feelings, who knows if I still would be playing hockey if I hadn’t made the switch?” she said. “I came into college loving the game again.”

Since she has regained her love of the sport, Golini hopes to see it grow. Saint Anselm and their NEWHA leaguemates are one of the reasons the NCAA Championship Oversight Committee voted to expand the NCAA championship from eight teams to 11. The NEWHA becomes auto-bid eligible next season.

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“We were all following the decision, and we were posting online in support of it,” said Golini. “The growth of women’s hockey has been huge. I’m honored that our team and our league will soon qualify for the tournament, and that more teams will. That is why we play hockey.”

Nashville-bound

This weekend, Boston College heads to Nashville to play in the Smashville Women’s Collegiate Hockey Showcase at the Ford Ice Center, the training home for the NHL’s Nashville Predators. It will be a key nonconference set of games for the Eagles (8-5), who will face Colgate, the eighth-ranked team in the nation, on Friday, and either No. 3 Minnesota or 11-4-2 Mercyhurst on Saturday.

Nashville may be all in on the Predators, but women’s hockey is still an unknown entity to the area. BC coach Katie Crowley is pleased that her team helps expose the home of country music to the women’s game.

“It’s an exciting time for our sport, and to be able to showcase it in a nontraditional market makes it extra special,” said Crowley. “There is a [high-level] girls’ tournament down there at the same time, so there will be a lot of attention on women’s hockey there this weekend.”