Story/Photos by Janet Schultz© NHOL
The Nazareth Women’s Ice Hockey Team will be defending the United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC) title as they hit the ice this season.
Head Coach Chris Baudo knows that is a challenge with 19 freshmen/sophomore players, but he also knows they will be competing at the high level they have for the past five years.
“Our goal is always to reach the mountain top and win championships,” said Baudo. ““It’s about the everyday process to win the day and get better.”
“The team we are today will not be the team we are in two or three months,” he continued. “There is a lot of growth for us.
Nazareth is coming off a 22-6-1 season with the UCHC championship trophy in their possession. More than that, they also have the 2022 championship that came after a 27-2-0 record. In their first year of play (2018-2019)they went 19-5-2.
The team has leadership in their Juniors and Seniors. They can roll four lines and seven defense which should wear their competition down. Baudo won’t be relying on six forwards and four “D” but will play everyone with different people chipping in on any given day.
“Our players share an identity of how to compete. They will make the other teams defend and will make it hard for them to play against our defensive zone,” Baudo shared.
In addition their goaltending is experienced with McKinley Hoff and Mia Paquin returning and the addition of Rebecca Mullaby from Tabor Academy.
Baudo has watched as the players connected both on and off ice but knows that working with youth will be a challenge in garnering continuity in structure and the way they want to play.
“It’s a challenge but we can grow,” said Baudo.
“Two years ago when they went 27-2 there were 15 seniors on the team they basically told me ‘stay out of the way coach, we know what we are doing’ and they embraced the identity of the team” explained Baudo.
“We have all of that now but we are young. It’s exciting and awesome.”
Katie Cascio agrees.
“I think we can win because we have great leadership. The upper classmen are leading the way and the underclassmen are excited,” she said. “
“We all have to start somewhere and we all have the same goal in mind,” she said.
“The Nazareth fans are going to see a young team but one that comes out hard all the time, consistently playing 200 feet, floor checking, back checking, blue paint, getting pucks to the net and one that competes together and a group that supports each other,” said Baudo.
“We want them to be just as excited for back checks as they are for goals,” he continued.
“I hope they see that from a playing perspective as well as a cultural one.”
“We love our group and what we have here,” said Baudo. “It’s a different challenge every year and this year we are young and will rely on the group of captains.”
Cascio Looking for Championship in Senior Year
Senior Defender Katie Cascio started skating at two years old and by the time she was three she was giving hockey a try.
“My brother (Joe) was playing and I wanted to do what he did,” she explains.
“I haven’t had anything make me work so hard but there is such a reward with it,” she explains. “Nothing is more rewarding than winning a ACHC Championship and sharing the experience with teammates. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Cascio has experienced two ACHC Championships and is looking to add the third as she completes her collegiate hockey career.
The hockey experience has also given her leadership skills that she will take into the business world as she prepares for a career in marketing.
She does have advice for those young players in high school and travel hockey programs. Advocate for yourself.
“Don’t be afraid to speak up in case your Coach isn’t helping you out and don’t be afraid to ask the coach to do something.”
C is referring to contacting college coaches about wanting to play. While college coaches may not be able to contact a high school player directly, the high school coach can be the middleman and she found that college coaches like a player who can advocate for themselves.
“Also have an open mind,” said C. “When I was in the recruiting process I thought I wanted to go to a big school but found that even though Naz is small, I fell in love with it.”
Cascio began her play with the Arrows out of NY and then moved to the Long Island Waves, girls hockey program (now known as the Lady Islanders). She also played with the North American Hockey Academy and the Bishop Kearney Selects 19U AAA team.
She is the daughter of Joe and Alicea Cascio.