The Montclair State University women’s hockey team is off to a great start for the 2017-18 season. After completing a season sweep of Villanova University at home and taking down the University of Pennsylvania, the Red Hawks have produced a perfect record at 9-0-0.
Juniors Britney Meneghin and Kristen Iattarelli as well as sophomores Kawanne Ferguson and Harper Sanderson each discussed the team’s start and what has helped them keep focus.
“I feel like we learned from last year how to work as a team,” Meneghin said. “All of the [team-bonding] we did last year [and] all the troubles that we had are now behind us, so that brings us together a little more and creates a better bond on the ice.”
The women’s hockey program at Montclair State enters its fourth season this year looking to improve on its first three campaigns. Through nine games, the Red Hawks have eclipsed their win total from last year by six games, showing that the Red Hawks are a very different team.
Assistant coach Ed Gaetjens has preserved his personal tradition of wearing a colorful suit to all Red Hawk games; a tradition that players say has rubbed off on head coach Dave Solomon this season.
“Coach Dave’s picked up on it,” Iattarelli said. “Both [Solomon and Gaetjens] wear purple suits.”
Iattarelli noted this year’s schedule by pointing out different bench sizes between the new teams that women’s hockey is facing.
“This year, we’re playing a couple different teams,” Iattarelli said. “The teams we play have big benches [and] they have some girls that are beginners, but a lot of the teams can skate. Especially with the small bench we have, we have to be really mindful [that] we’re playing teams that are of our skill-level or sometimes better.”
In the past, the women’s hockey team has lacked experience. When the Red Hawks needed a goalie last year, the coaching staff asked forward Ferguson to make the switch from forward to goalie. Now in her second season protecting the net, Ferguson has begun to see results and so has her team.
“Everyone has their spot [to do] what they’re best at,” Sanderson said.
Taking initiative is anticipated and positions like goalie have had to be experimented with because team members are limited.
“When a team is this small and every player is so close in age like [we are] there’s leadership expected from everyone,” Iattarelli said.
According to Ferguson, team leadership has evolved for the women’s hockey team.
“[Leadership] is different every year,” she said. “This year, [selecting captains] is based on who’s in charge of scheduling.”
Players taking initiative is not restricted to the ice. Getting games scheduled takes a leader in itself.
“There’s leadership off the ice,” Meneghin said. “There’s players who go above and beyond, like Harper does to get our games scheduled.”
Iattarelli mentioned Columbia University as who the Red Hawks’ toughest opponent was during their first nine games.
“Columbia has two skaters that played at prep hockey,” Iattarelli said. “Columbia has a shorter bench, but those girls’ skill level is insane.”
The Red Hawks defeated Columbia 7-4 in one of their closest games yet.
In spite of scoring plenty of goals and getting defense, the Red Hawks rank first in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) East with 95 penalty minutes, a stat that the Red Hawks are looking to compress as the season progresses.
“We need to stay out of the box, even though while we’ve been in the box, we do pretty well,” Meneghin said.
Though the team has racked up many penalties, it has yet to impact their defensive performance for too long.
“We definitely make up for [our penalties],” Ferguson said. “If we lose a puck, we get it right back. [The puck] is never in our zone for too long.”
The Red Hawks are first in the Eastern conference with an 9-0-0 record and with 80 goals scored.
The Red Hawks’ perfect record is on the line when they make the trip to Maryland to play the 2-5-0 Towson University Tigers this Friday, Nov. 17.