After a 9-25-2 season, Erin Hamlen wanted to infuse winning ways into her Merrimack women’s hockey program. When she had two assistant coaching positions open up this summer, she didn’t have to look far.
Stephanie Wood, the head coach at Austin Prep and Women’s Director of the Islanders Hockey Club, was often at Lawler Arena in both capacities. Hamlen tapped her as one assistant. She then looked toward one of the area’s most successful Division 3 teams, UMass Boston. Danielle Blanchard was the Beacons’ head coach for the last two years.
“We’re trying to bring the winning mentality into our program and have the compete level always as high as it can possibly be,” said Hamlen at Hockey East Media Day. “So they both bring a great level.”
Hamlen is just one of several area Division 1 coaches who bolstered their staffs with assistants who have already made their names in the Boston area.
Merrimack’s addition of Blanchard made a lot of sense. The 2008 winner of the Laura Herd Award as the best D3 player, she has been incredibly successful as a player and a coach with SUNY Plattsburgh. She has won five national titles as a coach and two more as a player, including being named the tournament’s most outstanding player in 2008.
But the addition of Wood, a Northeastern alum, might be the more intriguing move. Her influence on the last decade of Massachusetts high school hockey cannot be overstated. She grew Austin Prep into a powerhouse, going 210-34-21 during her 11 seasons there and winning three MIAA titles before the school became an independent in 2022. Several of her players have made Division 1 rosters.
“Stephanie comes from a very skill-development-oriented situation,” said Hamlen. “She played obviously at Northeastern, so she played a high level of hockey. She brings a passion, and she brings that compete level.”
Boston College and Harvard also found coaching gems locally to fill their staffs. The Eagles lured back 2015 alumna Kate Leary as an assistant coach. The New Hampshire native spent the last two years at Merrimack as an assistant under Hamlen, and before that coached for Saint Anselm. Leary brings reminders of the Eagles’ early 2010 powerhouses, having been a part of three Frozen Four squads.
“She was a player who scored a lot of goals and scored a lot of big goals for us,” said BC coach Katie Crowley. “We’re excited for her to teach our younger players how to score goals and how to be more offensive.”
New Harvard coach Laura Bellamy looked for someone with recent knowledge of the area’s hockey landscape and experience coaching at the national level. That led her to Meredith Roth, Holy Cross associate head coach and USA U-18 Team assistant coach.
“It’s a great fit,” said Bellamy. “She comes from Holy Cross, which is a great academic institution, so there’s a great fit in that. She is a great recruiter and is known to have really good relationships with players, which is what we want to do.”
New position causes buzz
Last week, the women’s college hockey community was abuzz with news that College Hockey Inc. would be adding a director of women’s hockey to its staff. The reaction was so great that executive director Mike Snee had to clear his schedule.
“My full-time job for the last week has been responding to inquiries about this role,” said Snee.
The position is a big step for an organization founded 13 years ago to address eligibility issues for men’s players. Its original work centered on promoting college hockey as a suitable path to the NHL to youth players and families. It has worked, and College Hockey Inc. now has offices in Waltham, Minnesota, and Michigan, and also does public relations and feasibility studies for schools interested in adding teams.
It was that last responsibility that led to the creation of the new women’s role. Snee said the organization has completed three feasibility studies for schools looking to add women’s hockey, and will soon start a fourth. That led to the group asking its primary funders, the NHL and USA Hockey, for an increase to add the position.
In addition to work with feasibility studies for new women’s teams, the director will promote the sport to the general public and prospective players.
Snee has had more than 20 formal applications so far, and hopes to have a hire in place by the new year.
“This role will take something that’s already really great, women’s college hockey, and make it even better,” said Snee.
NU starts with split
No. 5 Northeastern showed defensive prowess last Saturday in its season opener against No. 10 Penn State, winning, 1-0, but dropped Sunday’s matchup, 2-1. The defending Hockey East champions travel to upstart Long Island University this weekend. BC begins play this weekend with a tough series at No. 9 Clarkson.
Kat Cornetta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.