Phalon, Chiuccariello spark Salve Regina
When Danielle Phalon has the puck on the tape of her stick, anticipation rises in the rink.
A sophomore wing for the women’s hockey team at Salve Regina University, the 5-foot-5 Phalon uses her skills to weave her way through the tightest of creases, splitting past helpless defenders.
“She’s one of few people who can get people out of her seats,” Salve Regina coach Michael Cox said of the Stoneham High graduate. “She creates things that I don’t see and that aren’t even there. She creates things out of thin air. She’s fun to watch.”
Named to the ECAC East All-Rookie team last season, Phalon is the Seahawks’ leading scorer (11 goals, 17 assists). And Cox has the luxury of hiding her on the second line.
His first line is anchored by three juniors. Left wing Michaela Chiuccariello , a junior from Winchester, has a team-leading 15 goals to go with nine assists. While Phalon dances her way through the defense, Chiuccariello uses her flashing speed to slip behind opposing defenders.
Chiuccariello and Phalon were once intense rivals in the Middlesex League. This season the pair have led Salve Regina to a 16-6-4 record and the program’s first home playoff win in five years.
“In a lot of ways, we’ve caught lightning in a bottle,” Cox said.
Last Saturday, Salve Regina beat Plymouth State, 5-0, in the ECAC East quarterfinals, advancing to this weekend’s semis against Castleton. It was the program’s first postseason victory since 2008-2009, against Norwich. Salve Regina had lost in the first round of the ECAC East playoffs at home the past four seasons.
“It was very nerve-racking knowing the track record with the [previous playoff] losses at home,” Phalon said. “We wanted to win, and there was a rush of emotions when the final buzzer rang and we broke the streak.”
Though the 21-year-old Chiuccariello and Phalon, 19, skate on separate lines, they are paired together on Salve Regina’s power play and penalty kill units.
Chiuccariello recalls her high school matchups against Stoneham as intense, but she relishes the chance to play with Phalon.
“I love playing with Danielle; we always know where we each are,” Chiuccariello said.
“She has great skill, and I’ve never met a player with such good hands. Every game, she’s doing something amazing. Every game, you’ll see her hands and everyone will be cheering in the crowd.”
One of those moments was earlier this year in a 7-2 win against Nichols College, when Phalon scored a pair of power-play goals. On one, she collected a teammate’s rebound, was knocked down to one knee, and still scored.
Her skills are a product of her relentless work in the offseason.
“I really work in the offseason stick-handling-wise and it has helped,” she said. “I’ve really focused on practicing with my hands a lot and it’s helped me on the ice.”
Instead of practicing with a puck, she uses golf balls: “It’s a lot more bouncier than a puck and moves quicker, so it makes my hands faster and keeping control of the puck easier.”
Yet she envies her teammate’s speed.
“We work really well together,” Phalon said. “We kind of have the same history with the Middlesex League. Her speed is ridiculous, and she puts up a fight in front of the net and is a really gritty player.”
For Chiuccariello, it is all about reading the defense and finding holes on breakout plays.
“If I see the defensemen are going to pinch, I know I can take off and my defenseman can chip it by and be gone on a breakaway,” she said.
Her 15 goals are a career high, and she also led the team in scoring last season with 13 goals. As a freshman, she scored seven.
“Michaela is so fast, she has boundless energy,” said Cox, in his eighth year as coach.
“She’s probably had 15 breakaways this year, and she gets behind defensemen, catches a breakout pass, and has been on. She’s relentless on the forecheck. Her freshman year she created a lot of opportunities, but she has really learned how to finish at the college level.”
Salem State’s Carter is player of year
Salem State junior Rachael Carter (Merrimack, N.H.) was named the MASCAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Year after averaging 20.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for the Vikings (13-13). She delivered 28 points and six rebounds in an 81-63 victory over Fitchburg State in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament Tuesday night.
Westfield State junior guard Jen Ashton (Beverly) was also a first-team pick, while Salem State senior forward Ginny Fleming (Peabody) was a second-team pick.
On the men’s side, Salem State senior guard Andrew White of Medford was a first-team selection, while junior guard Bryan Ortiz (Salem) was a second-team choice.
Back to Haverhill
as track coach
Rick Brown was a track-and-field standout at Haverhill High School in the 1970s. When he left for college, he was certain that Haverhill was in his rear-view mirror.
Fast forward 38 years, and Brown, a retired Massachusetts State Police sergeant, has been appointed coach for track-and-field at Northern Essex Community College, charged with building the school’s program.
Brown has had success building programs at both Bishop Feehan and Bryant University.
On Friday the Haverhill High athletic department is hosting a comedy night at DiBurro’s, featuring comedian Jimmy Dunn.
Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at Haverhill High School.Reach Anthony Gulizia at firstname.lastname@example.org.