With the Saint Michael's College women's ice hockey team continuing its membership in the up-and-coming New England Women's Hockey Alliance (NEWHA), which gained full NCAA Division I status this past offseason, head coach Chris Donovan and assistant coach Madelena DeThomasis '13 reflected upon what it means for the program, which joins the University of Vermont as the lone Division I league members in the state.
Changes are underway as the Saint Michael's College women's ice hockey team heads into its third year in the NEWHA, and its first as a designated Division I competitor.
Donovan is at the helm for his 20th season, but his first in a full-time capacity. "With this change, we must also change," he said. "This year alone, we've made tweaks to our strength and conditioning program, and added yoga and mental skills training sessions to our routine. Our goal is to provide better support for our athletes, both on and off the ice, as they make their way through an increasingly busy season and school year."
The program is looking toward the future, but is still very much grounded in the present. Strong returning leadership, in the form of second-year captain Alissa Sullivan as well as senior captains Torrie Gray and Jordan Monbouquette and junior captain Krista Ferrari, will bolster the team.
"It has been amazing so far to be part of the team as we make the shift to Division I. The changes [made] have helped us to become stronger players, and a stronger program overall. I am excited to see what the rest of this season, and the seasons to come, has in store for us," said Ferrari.
In addition to the physical changes being made, Donovan is careful to point out that much focus is also being put on less tangible things, like mindset and work ethic. "It is important that each player comes to the rink ready to give 110 percent every day," he said. "We're looking for complete commitment across the board."
The team will play an increased schedule this year, with 29 regular-season games on the slate, and plans to play at least 32 next season. "The increase in the number of games is something that we, as a team, are very excited about," said Sullivan. "This is an exciting time to be a Purple Knight."
Saint Michael's will look to roster 28 players, with two managers and a coaching staff of four, next year. As NEWHA Commissioner Bob DeGregorio stated in the New England Hockey Journal about the league's transition to full NCAA Division I status, "this transition will take four to five years."
"We are excited to move forward and welcome the challenge," added Donovan. "We are committed to doing everything we can for the success of the Saint Michael's women's ice hockey program."