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Building Something Special in Beantown

Tuesday, August 7, 2018, 3:21PM

With launch of U14 team, Boston Shamrocks now offer complete development program for girl hockey players.


By Steffan Waters
USA Junior Hockey Magazine

If you've looked at what the Boston Shamrocks have to offer lately, you'll see a new addition to their list of programs, a full-season U14 girls' team. The U14 Boston Shamrocks are set to make their debut in 2018-19, joining the Junior Women's Hockey League (JWHL) U14 Division where they will play the likes of North American Hockey Academy Prospects, Newbridge Academy, Little Caesars, Chicago Young Americans, and Washington Pride. While it may seem like just another junior hockey organization rolling out a lower age limit club to increase its offerings, the addition of the U14 program is far more than that for the Boston Shamrocks. The player development opportunities the U14 team will provide is going to have major ramifications for the upper-level Boston Shamrocks teams and aspiring girls' hockey players everywhere.

“We are excited to launch our girls' U14 program,” said U19 coach Kristi Kehoe. “This allows us to really focus on being a complete developmental program. We can create and teach a single message that will promote a true growth process for the players from a young age through maturity.” The message was echoed by U16 coach Molly Corl, who, herself, became a product of the Boston Shamrocks' program just over a decade ago.  “The more experience you have in a program like [the Shamrocks], the greater the development you'll have as a player and person.” 

The impact the U14 team could have on the U16 and U19 teams is, at a minimum, a couple years away, but having a system in place where a girl could join the Shamrocks as a 12-year-old and then stay with them, growing on and off the ice, until they're 19 is something that has Shamrocks' coaches at all levels optimistic of what will come in the future.  “We envision that, three-to-five years from now, our U14 initiative will start to add high-quality hockey players to our U16 and U19 teams,” said Kehoe. “We want to make our funnel, where the girls continue to grow and develop as hockey players, student-athletes, and people, as strong as it can be.”

The U14 team's inaugural season will feature a difficult schedule. They will have a mix of league weekends, major tournaments, and local friendlies. The schedule was designed to challenge the girls both physically and mentally. The coaching staff wants to start laying the foundation for success and believes that it starts with fighting through potential adversity going up against some of the top teams in the country despite being a new program.

“Our goals for the season are fairly simple,” stated Kehoe. “We want to provide an environment where the girls can learn to push themselves out of their comfort zones, try new things, and grow from those experiences.”  Look for the Boston Shamrocks U14 team out at an area rink this season as they start laying the foundation Kehoe, Corl, and the rest of the Shamrock leaders envision.

U19s Ready for New Season with Kehoe on the Bench

While much of the excitement at the Boston Shamrocks is surrounding the introduction of the U14 team, it has not been overlooked that the U19 Elite team is getting ready to embark on another challenging schedule in the Junior Women's Hockey League (JWHL).  Last season, the Shamrocks U19 team experienced some growing pains as it featured a new coaching staff and almost an entirely new roster, with players coming from the U16 team and from Canada. The Shamrocks started fast out of the gate, but hit a wall in December, losing 8-of-10 games in December and early January to fall a game under .500. But the positive attitude both players and coaches brought to the rink day-in and day-out never wavered and eventually reaped results.

The Shamrocks finished the 2017-18 season with a 14-12-0 record, winning six of their last nine games to finish over .500 and fifth in the JWHL standings. They finished the regular season on a high note, winning their last three games before reaching the playoffs.

The 2018-19 season again poses a unique challenge for the Shamrocks as Kristi Kehoe has taken over as head coach, replacing Sean Murphy.  Kehoe's resume is impressive which, hopefully, will ease the time it takes for the players to acclimate to her and her style. A four-year player at Northeastern, two years as an assistant coach at SUNY Cortland, and a four-year run as New England College's head coach, is just the start. She spent part of last season with the Chinese National U18 Team and is the Director of Girls Player Development for the New England District of USA Hockey.

Needless to say, Kehoe brings a wealth of knowledge and teaching ability that will help the Shamrocks move closer to becoming one of the top two or three teams in the JWHL. Her experience as a collegiate athlete and coach will also help prepare the girls on the Shamrocks, both now and in the future, for their transition to the college game.  “We really want to emphasize that our focus is developing our girls as a whole person, not just hockey players,” said Kehoe. “I want to grow our girls into confident young women, strong studentathletes, and creative hockey players.”

The U19 team once again has a strong schedule that Kehoe envisions will challenge the team in “the best way possible this season.” They'll have the opportunity to play against most of the top teams in the United States and Canada, putting the Shamrocks in front of as many college coaches as possible.  Going up against those top teams will be some very talented players that wear the Shamrocks' logo across their chests this year.

Kehoe is keeping an eye on three returners who she expects to take major steps forward this season for the Shamrocks: Tre Bunn, Kaleigh Cadorette, and Kaily DeSantis.  Bunn, a defenseman, is an anchor for the Shamrocks in the back playing a traditional defensive defenseman role.  She played in all 25 games, scored five points, and made sure she stayed on the ice with just four penalty minutes. Kehoe expects Cadorette and DeSantis to return and play larger roles on the team this season after combining for just four goals and five assists as year ago.

The Shamrocks are also excited about a quality group of newcomers, both from the U16 team as well as imports from other teams. Look for Riley Nichols and Joceline Hudanish, both from the Shamrocks' U16 team, as well as Shamrock newcomers Alexa Matses, Hannah Sharlow, and Ashley Keaveney to make a noticeable impact in 2018-19.  Matses, a goaltender who recently graduated from Philips Academy in Andover, Mass., is already committed to Northeastern. She is one of several players that Kehoe envisions will play at the next level.  “We have quite a few post-grad and seniors that have the ability to play college hockey,” Kehoe said of her team.  “We are excited to help them reach their goals and get to that next level.”  That is just one of the several goals that Kehoe has set for the upcoming season.  What would constitute a successful season for the Shamrocks?  Well that includes “fine-tuning our skills, increasing our compete level, and growing our knowledge of the game.”

Stability Breeds High Expectations for U16s

Last summer, U16 Head Coach Molly Corl said that she urged “any girl thinking of playing for the Shamrocks should do it sooner rather than later.”  Her reasoning was sound. She knows the type of developmental program that the Boston Shamrocks have built under Bob Rotondo's leadership, being an alumna herself, and wants other young, aspiring hockey players to experience the growth that she did during her time with the Shamrocks.

This year's U16 Shamrocks' team features almost entirely all returning players or players who have played multiple years with half-year teams within the Shamrocks' organization. The stability is something that Corl believes can lead to something special.  “We're looking forward to a great season and have high hopes for this team,” stated Corl.

To achieve those high hopes, the U16 Shamrocks will have to run through a gauntlet of a schedule. The schedule was designed to challenge the Shamrocks while also increasing exposure for the girls by entering the best tournaments and showcases in the country. Similar to the U19s, Boston is taking a step back from the number of JWHL weekends, allowing for more focus on those tournaments and showcases.

As previously mentioned, the 2018-19 edition of the U16 Boston Shamrocks is primarily made up of Shamrock organizational veterans.  Coming up from half-season teams to focus more seriously on hockey and their personal development are Sheridan Terrazzano, Mia Buonarosa, Katie Flynn, Anna O'Neill, and Ava Hills. Corl is excited for them and for what they'll bring to the team knowing that the girls know what it takes to be a Shamrocks player.

Newcomers not coming from within the Shamrocks' organization include Washington Pride transplants, Grace Babington and Helen Gillespy. Joining the U16s for her freshman year is Aylah Cioffi.  Babington played with the Pride's U14 team a season ago making this her first taste of U16 hockey. Gillespy, on the other hand, already knows about U16 hockey in the JWHL as she arrives in Boston after playing 68 games for the Pride's U16 team as a defenseman a year ago. Cioffi is a standout at St. Mary's in Lynn Massachusetts, having played for the Spartans since 7th grade. She'll bring additional skill to the U16 Shamrocks.  “We have lots of promise and plenty of talent,” said Corl. “There is, however, still room for us to grow throughout the season. I'm excited to watch that happen.”