WALPOLE, MA -- The Walpole Express, for instance, were right in the mix of the first-year league with an 16-10-1 record. It wasn’t just the in-league competition that has had them playing tightly-contested games all season, but they’ve also had a chance to take on some of the best women’s hockey team in their under-19 age group from outside of the league.
This was made possible through the EWHC Showcase Series. Express head coach Danielle Doherty was especially impressed with the team lineup at the December showcase, which included a Stanstead College team out of Canada on which just about every player is already a NCAA Division 1 commit.
“Bringing those high-end teams draws a lot of college coaches to the showcases,” said Doherty. “At Cyclones Arena [host of the December showcase], I saw tons of Division 1 scouts. Against Stanstead, we lost 7-0 – it’s not that it was expected, but we knew they had a great team. The difference in our teams is that Stanstead is so deep. Many of those players have skated together for years and all three lines can score on any little mistake that you make.”
Doherty said the EWHC is much more competitive in going international than its predecessor, the NEWJHL.
“Adding Hockey Training Institute and the two Ontario Hockey Association teams upped the competition. It just made the league stronger and our showcases are better, bringing in these teams but also [non-league] teams like Stanstead College,” said Doherty.
In the most recent EWHC Showcase, the Express earned two wins over the New Jersey Rockets and lost two very close 2-1 games to the league-leading OHA Tardiff team and to the OHA Juniors.
Also at that Showcase, held at the East Coast Wizards’ home Edge Sports Center between Jan. 13-14, the third-place Northern Cyclones defeated and tied the second-place OHA Juniors.
Outside of the showcases, Doherty took a lot of satisfaction in seeing her team improve to the point of turning around an earlier-season 7-1 loss to HTI with a 3-0 win over that team on the road in late January.
The Express split against the HTI, and also earned a pair of wins against the OHA Juniors on that late January road trip.
“I think a big reason we had such a great road trip is the fact that we practice four times a week. It also helps that we just put a $100,000 training facility at Rodman Arena. The girls do off ice training two to three times per week depending on their game schedule,” said Doherty.
“The last factor is the Walpole Express Academy. Five of my junior players, including owner Rob Barletta’s daughter Sami Barletta, are attending the Academy, utilizing NCAA-accredited Nebraska Online schooling. My role, in addition to being the junior head coach, is the classroom teacher. The students skate every morning working on their individual skills as well as an hour in the gym. We have 11 students (six boys and five girls) that really push each other.”
The inaugural EWHC playoffs are approaching in March, and the Express are certainly hoping to be a part of the championships at the Warrior Ice Arena. The Warrior is the practice home of the Boston Bruins, and is located in Brighton, Mass., in the heart of NCAA Division 1 country – Northeastern, Harvard, Boston College and Boston University are all minutes away.
The Eastern Women’s Hockey Conference has been recently on a great streak of announcing college commitments, with eight announced in January and the pace is expected to pick up exponentially in February.
“Drawing in these teams such as Stanstead College gives the college scouts the opportunity for the colleges to see our league and say this league is good,” Doherty said. “Adding teams to the league like HTI and OHA, that is great for the league and it’s good exposure for the Express girls because of that.”
Follow the EWHC online at easternwomenshockeyconference.com, and follow the league’s NCAA commitments with the hashtag #EWHCCommits