Story and Photos by Janet D Schultz, NYHOL©
The Western New York Girls Varsity Ice Hockey League is welcoming a new team this year–St. Mary’s of Lancaster! St. Mary’s is the only single school team in the 9-team league.
With a solid boys varsity program for the past 11 years and inquiries from girls wanting to play hockey, the administration determined it was time and most of the players did not want to join the Monsignor Martin Team, which is made up of several catholic high schools. It was determined that there were enough players this season to ice a team.
“This was the next natural step,” said Coach Roberts.
Next up came the naming of the Coach. Maeghan “Mae” Roberts was an ideal candidate. A former WNY player who had assisted her father, Chris, with coaching just happens to be a social studies teacher at St. Mary’s. She was approached and said yes.
“I don’t know if I took this on, or if it found me,” said Coach Roberts. “It was the perfect storm that I came in at the time they were starting girl’s hockey, so they said come help us out.”
“We had enough girls and decided to make a run for it, so this will be our first season.”
“I am looking forward to the first season. The girls are so excited; there is so much enthusiasm and a lot of excitement. They want to play for this team
“I love this league. I played in the inaugural season and helped get it off the ground,” said Coach, who was a senior the first year of the WNYGVIH League.
“To see the league grow and add another team and to see the league have a team that is one school is really exciting. It’s where we want to see that League go.” she continued.
Now with two private school teams, St. Mary’s will face Monsignor Martin in a Private School Championship in Feburary. In the past the League has held a League Championship with all teams participating and a Section Championship, which Monsignor Martin wasn’t eligible for. While there will still be two Championships, one will be Private School Champion and the other the Section VI Champion, who is eligible for the NYS Championship.
“Monsignor Martin has always been a competitive team and ranked as one of the top three schools in the league,” said Roberts.
“It will be competitive and a really good game,” she continued.
The St. Mary’s bench will look a little smaller than MM but they have the enthusiasm to be there and exited to get the St. Mary’s team off the ground.
Coach Roberts has experience on the ice. Seventy percent of her team has played, or are playing on travel teams in the area. There is one newbie, a senior, and the others have played travel before and just aren’t playing this year.
“Our strength will translate on the ice and in the locker room. They all go to school together and have been meeting over the summer so the strength comes from their enthusiasm to be here
“Their strength comes from the leadership I see already coming out of a handful of girls that will build what this program is about. We will always strive to win but we are building a positive program that supports teamwork and their skills and what our school is about.
On the ice she sees their goalie as being a powerhouse. Avery Hall will very quickly make herself known in the varsity hockey league, according to Roberts.
On the bench is Mia Leemer, who suffers from a brain tumor which has ended her hockey career; but St. Mary’s has given her a jersey and at practice this week she was cheering on her teammates.
“She had her surgery and is doing well. She will be on the bench with us,” said Coach Roberts.
Leemer was instrumental in helping to build this program from the beginning.
“Our players see a bigger picture and they are grounded by that,” said Coach Roberts.
One of her assistant coaches is her long-time teammate Kristen Brzyski. They played together and were coached by Coach Roberts father and then went off to play club hockey at SUNY Oswego.
The WNYGVIH League opens Monday, November 22 with three games. Dropping the puck at 4 p.m. will be St. Mary’s against Hamburg/Eden/West Seneca (HEWS). St. Mary’s will host that game at their arena at the Cheektowaga Town Park.
Playing at 4:15 pm will be 2021 League Champion Monsignor Martin (MMAA) at Lancaster/Iroquois/Depew (LID) at Holiday Twin Rinks and at 4:30 p.m. 2021 Section VI Champion Williamsville will play Niagara County at Hyde Park.
On Tuesday it’s Kenmore/Grand Island (KGI) hosting Frontier/Lakeshore/Orchard Park at 7:50 p.m. at Lincoln Arena.
Monsignor Martin will be at Clarence/Amherst/SweetHome on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at Northtowns Arena.
The League will then take a Thanksgiving break and return to the ice on Monday, November 29. The full schedule is available on our website www.nyhockeyonline.com under Womens/Girls Hockey.
Along with welcoming Head Coach Mae Roberts, we welcome back the WNYGVIH League teams and Head Coaches: Kevin Miller with HEWS; Bob Klimowicz, FLOP; Nicola Adimey, CASH; Jeffrey Orlowski, KGI; Scott Santora, LID; Greg Grosskopf, NiCO; Mark Brownschidle, MMAA and Chairman of the WNYGVIH and Williamsville Head Coach Rick Hopkins.
WNYGVIH is now in its 12th season.