The New England Womens Junior Hockey League made its debut for the 2014-2015 season with six franchises, and those same six teams are well underway for the NEWJHL’s second season.
The idea for the NEWHJL was spawned when a group of Northeast-based junior hockey team owners/managers, all of whom have successful organizations on the mens side, joined forces to launch a new junior hockey league for girls. The league was designed “to offer increased opportunities for teenage girls to play competitive hockey with the intent of moving into the college ranks.”
The NEWJHL adheres to USA Hockey rules and standards of excellence, while paralleling many USA Hockey Junior operating standards.
All six organizations in the league – the Northern Cyclones (Hudson, NH), East Coast Wizards (Bedford, MA), New Jersey Rockets (Newark, NJ), Hartford Jr. Wolfpack (Cromwell, CT), Walpole Express (Walpole, MA) and Boston Bandits (Bridgewater, MA) – have mens teams in the Eastern Hockey League.
Last year’s inaugural title was won by the Northern Cyclones and the team has pretty much picked up where it has left on this season, going undefeated in league play in the early going.
And that despite having many new faces, as coach Joe Flanagan reports his team has 14 new players on the roster, returning only four from last winter’s title team.
One returner is forward Erica D’Errico, who scored 61 points last winter in leading the Cyclones to the NEWJHL title, earning league MVP honors in the process. D’Errico, who has missed some games with injury this season, has committed to the University of Connecticut.
Senior Meghan Kraus (from Bellingham, WA) is also back. She led the league in goals last season. Junior Katie MacCuaig is another key forward to watch.
Team captain Kirsten Iwanski (Marquette, MI) anchors the blue line. Other keys on defense are Maddie Truax and Hannah Kiraly (Glendale, AZ) in front of solid goalies Jill Moffatt and Kayla Rios.
“I think we have more depth this year, and good team speed,” Flanagan said. “I think we will get some more consistent scoring throughout our lines.”
Right on the heels of the Cyclones are the New Jersey Rockets, who won seven of their first eight league games.
“We played real well at the end of last year and are a lot stronger,” said Rockets coach Mark Hurle. “We have a couple more polished kids on the team this year.”
Offensively, the Rockets are led by junior Jean-Marie Padden, who notched 11 points in those first seven games. Other forwards to keep an eye on are Alexa Parigi (9 pts) and Jordan Naidach (4 goals). Sarah Martoni has 3 goals.
Amanda Peterson is the cornerstone of the Rockets defensive unit, one of several returners from last year. In goal, Annika Asplundh won her first six starts.
The Walpole Express have turned things over to new head coach Danielle Doherty, a former player at Boston College.
“I see us getting stronger as a team and as individuals as the season progresses,” she said. “I believe my team can challenge for the league title.”
Senior Kailey Jacobs has propelled the Express offense in the early going. “She is a very fast, hard-working player who has a knack for finding the back of the net,” Doherty said.
Other keys up front so far have been Meg Gilbride and Julia Nagel. Defensive standouts have been post-grad Sydney Harris (Pueblo, CO) and Lauren White.
The Express are blessed with a pair of solid netminders in post-grad Helen Cooney (Doylestown, PA) and returner Jess Olivieri.
The East Coast Wizards were 5-2-0 in league play after sweeping a pair of weekend games. Veteran coach Paul Kennedy’s team dropped a one-goal decision to Walpole in last year’s quarterfinals.
Offensive leaders project to be tri-captains Maddie Davis (Edmonds, WA) and Rachel Peacock, both returners from last winter’s squad. A lot is expected of newcomer Allie Damren, who captained the Express last season.
Defensively, returner Reid Nichols is a leader. A couple of new players –tri-captain Olivia Villani (Pittsburgh) and Julia Radcliffe (Anchorage) – will be strong additions to the blue line.
The Wizards feature a solid trio of goaltenders in French National team member Talide Pousse, Boston College commit Molly Barrow, and North Carolina native Delany Gill.
Despite the slow start to the season, the future looks bright for the Hartford Jr. Wolfpack, who welcomed 12 new players to the program.
Junior defenseman Catherine Lawrence, a returning blue liner, is already getting looks from college scouts and is a strong skater with an excellent shot for associate coaches Craig Millard and Jason Olson. Nicole Demers is another strong rearguard.
New goalie Victoria Lahey has taken over the number one spot between the pipes after Edy Moritz moved on to UMass-Boston.
Up front, scoring will need to come from the likes of returning senior Mary Kate Thompson, and newcomers Anyas Morin and Erin Persico.
The Boston Bandits will be looking to improve as the season progresses. The team has lost three one-goal games already on the young season.
Coach Steve Molind hopes to get solid production up front from senior Ari Soldano, post-grad Siobhan Murtagh, junior Marissa Massaro and sophomore Kiki Doucette.
On the blue line, post-grad Amanda Giles is off to a nice start of the season, with post-grad Erin Smith helping out.
The goaltending duties have been split between junior Carrington Nevard (Washington) and senior Amanda Jarzemba (New Mexico).