Women’s Hockey On The Road To 2015
- Updated: January 13, 2014
There wasn’t much time for Erin Hamlen to even think about the task at hand. As soon as she was hired last summer to be the first head coach of Merrimack’s women’s hockey program, she hit the ground running, recruiting players and trying to determine a timeline for the program’s launch.
Seven months into the project, the pieces are starting to fall into place. The Warriors have some verbal commitments already rolling in and the non-conference schedule for the launch year – 2015-16 – is starting to take shape.
“A lot of happened in a short amount of time,” Hamlen said. “Right away it was about recruiting an assistant coach and then recruiting players and contacting teams to play non-conference games. There hasn’t been too much time to think, and that’s OK. It’s a busy time.”
Hamlen hired Brent Hill, a former player at St. Michael’s College and an assistant coach at RPI, to help run the program. The pair have been recruiting heavily in Minnesota and across Canada, as well as here in New England.
“Our hotspots right now are probably Minnesota and then across Canada,” Hamlen said. “We’ve had a lot of great reaction. New England is always a hotbed as well and it’s important to be good at selecting players around here. We’ve also found that outside of this region, players aren’t as conditioned to certain programs because they didn’t grow up around here.
“Minnesota is definitely a big area for us. There are a lot of programs out there and then across Canada, from Alberta all the way over to Ontario and eastern Canada, there are a lot of great hockey players.”
Under NCAA rules, coaches cannot comment on specific players until they sign a National Letter of Intent.
Players who have verbally committed can either enroll at Merrimack next year, the year before the program itself will begin, or some could post-grad a year before joining the college in 2015.
“There aren’t as many options for women’s hockey beyond high school,” Hamlen said. “For some girls, it might be good to get on campus, get into a strength program and a conditioning program and just adjust to college life. For others it might be best to play a year of juniors or prep school, but that’s not for everyone, either. It’s really a decision the individual player will have to make about what is best for her.”
Over the course of the recruiting process, some players have jumped at the opportunity to be part of something they can build, which is a unique thing Merrimack can offer over every other program in the nation at the moment.
“We’ve talked to a good number of players who have started their high school programs,” Hamlen said. “Some people, their personality is to be leaders and we’ve spoken to some players who have been part of a group to start a program at their high school and to be that first team picture that’s going to hang on the wall in our locker room. That’s a big selling point, I think. Not many times do you get the chance to go somewhere, as a coach or as a player, and have a clean slate. That’s what we have here. Everything we do for that first year is going to be the first time we do it, so every player on that roster, hopefully years from now, can look back and know that they were a part of something special.”
On top of recruiting, putting together a non-conference schedule for the 2015-16 season has been a priority. And while some agreements need to be papered before Hamlen can discuss details, the 2015-16 schedule is nearly complete, she says.
“There are some exciting games I think we’ll be able to play,” she said. “We want to be competitive right away and that means you have to be playing some of the best programs. We’re going to be able to do that in our league, and then out of the league we should have some games against some ECAC schools and I think there is even a western school that is going to travel out here to play us at home, which if it can happen, is going to be pretty exciting. This is definitely a fun process, being able to build our team and watch it all come together, but we’re looking forward to getting out there and playing some hockey.”