By Jacob Johnson
It was a normal, late, brisk October evening at Smead Arena. Sounds of pucks rocketing against the boards, and the echo of ice skates carving ice boomed throughout the rink, the Springfield College club hockey team was readying themselves on the cusp of their season.
But, this year was different; the walls of this rink had never seen two separate squads from Alden Street.
For the first time in school history, Springfield will have two squads on the ice this winter, as the club women’s ice hockey team will play in their inaugural season. After getting through a year’s worth of research and proposals, the team is now hard at work at Smead Arena preparing for the season ahead.
“It was a long process. We started last fall and we had to put in a proposal, but you really have to have numbers,” said Thomas Verrico, the current head coach of the women’s hockey team as well as assistant director of intramural and club sports at Springfield College.
Verrico has been around the sport of hockey for most of his life. He played juniors hockey growing up and played on his high school hockey team.
One of the bigger obstacles for the club was simply getting enough recruitment to field a team after some initial skates in the spring to get a feel for roster numbers, which to this point has been a success.
“We did two skates in the spring just to see how our numbers were and now we’re really getting going,” Verrico said. “We had interest, about 25 girls showed interest to play hockey before the first year students came on campus. The students did most of the work putting the proposal and research together, then coming to me to put it all together.”
Verrico is no stranger to starting up clubs at colleges. When he was the Intramural sports coordinator at Curry College, he played an integral role in establishing the women’s ice hockey team three years ago, where he was also the head coach. He coached the program for its first three years before taking his current job at Springfield College.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the school,” said Verrico. “Great for retention, and the students want it.”
As a new club sport, the women’s hockey team is looking to establish a fun, energetic culture this year that’s built to last for a long time.
“A couple wins would be nice” said team president and captain Sam Foulkrod, as fellow captains Ashley Pilling and Julia Rodrigues laughed. “We’re just trying to get the program situated, get more people to play. Those are our goals for now. Get a good atmosphere.”
Some players have their eyes set on a bigger goal. When first year student Reese Earle was asked about team goals for this season, two words echoed:
“‘Yoffs (Playoffs) baby!”
Currently, the team has a 15 person roster, with three women who are currently playing field hockey and cannot practice until the end of their season in November.
The team has varying levels of experience. Many players have been skating since they were kids, while some players had never skated until this spring’s first team workouts. Many of the women on the team played in recreational and competitive summer leagues to prepare for this upcoming season.
“I played all through high school and have played in summer leagues, so it’s really cool to be back out here playing,” Foulkrod said.
Even team captain and treasurer Julia Rodrigues has never played hockey before. But, that’s not stopping her from enjoying her time on the ice.
“It feels weird considering I’ve never played hockey before,” said Rodrigues. “I’ve always wanted to play so it’s cool to be out on the ice.”
Now that the team is hitting the ice, players that have played for the majority of their lives are ecstatic to be able to continue to play the sport they love competitively.
“The women’s team organizing this year was perfect timing,” said Reese Earle. “I didn’t know if we were going to have a women’s team or if I was going to have to try out with the men’s. So this is a real blessing. Springfield was one of my top colleges without having the women’s team here, so it’s obviously just great to have this here this year.”
It should be an exciting year for the women on ice this year. Currently, the team is practicing twice a week at Smead Arena and are working on getting team gym times established. With the men’s team is looking to win their third straight Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association Colonial title, the women’s team is hoping to feed off of their energy and make some noise.
The women’s team will participate in the Independent Women’s Club Hockey League (IWCHL), and are a part of the seven team Adirondack Division West, with at least 14 scheduled games for this season. They will face Curry College in their season opener at Smead Arena on October 25 at 8 p.m., following the men’s hockey game at 5 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Jacob Johnson