By: Christopher Walsh
The Sacred Heart University women’s ice hockey team finished their season with a 27-6-2 record. The Pioneers capped off their season with a New England Women’s Hockey Alliance (NEWHA) championship victory.
Thomas O’Malley is in his 15th year as head coach of the women’s ice hockey team. He attributes the success of the season to the effort and dedication from both players and coaches.
“We just had a really good group of people that were actually very good hockey players,” said O’Malley.
The team had many important contributors that helped them achieve their great success. Senior captain Taylor Moreland surpassed Michelle Panella for all-time goals in Sacred Heart history. This previous record had stood since 2006.
“It means a lot, it really shows that all of my hard work these past four years paid off and it was truly a great feeling,” said Moreland.
Along with Taylor’s record-breaking season, six women were named to the All New England Women’s Hockey Alliance (NEWHA) for their outstanding play. Senior Brittany Smith had a career year for the pioneers, recording 13 goals and 11 assists in 33 games. Likewise, junior goalie Sarah Erban was selected as the NEWHA Goalie of the Year for her six regular season shutouts and .803 win percentage.
“It’s a great feeling. We put in a lot of hard work all year round,” said Erban.
O’Malley, who has been coaching for 33 years, was recognized as the All-NEWHA Coach of the Year for his leadership on and off the ice.
“It was a great honor. I was surprised, and I have a very heartfelt appreciation for it,” said O’Malley.
Seeing how his team was happy for him meant so much to O’Malley.
“When I was walking back to the bench, I had the wonderful opportunity and honor to look at my team down on the goaline,” said O’Malley. “I just took that award and I waved it at them down the line because they’re the ones that made it happen.”
The team worked hard on and off the ice the entire season to make sure they were prepared and ready for anything that came their way. They had some close games with their rivals Holy Cross and Brown, but their preparation had them ready for those big moments.
“We just took it one game at a time, one practice at a time, and kept it going from there,” said senior Brittany Smith.
Moreland witnessed a gradual change of team atmosphere throughout her four years of playing.
“My freshman year we only won seven games, so to see the turn around in the last four years was awesome,” said Moreland. “We all believed in each other. We all had so much energy and it really showed out on the ice.”
O’Malley is making several arrangements for next season. He is looking to fill the void left behind when the seniors officially graduate.
“My next project will be setting up our travel and all those things for our upcoming year and finishing a few recruiting loose ends,” said O’Malley.