Women all over the Hudson Valley have been facing-off, mucking it up in the corners, and playing a sport that requires a high level of dedication, skill, and toughness. And all that while skating.
Women’s ice hockey isn’t exactly new in the Hudson Valley: The Westchester Wildcats are celebrating their 34th anniversary this year. But, thanks to more clinics, programs, and teams for women (and girls) — plus the US Women’s Olympic Team taking home the gold in South Korea last February — it’s creating a bigger buzz.
There are several women’s ice hockey programs in the area, each fielding multiple teams: they include the Arctic Foxes (Clifton Park), Frozen Assets (Troy), Saugerties Nightmares, and Westchester Wildcats (Elmsford). For those under 18, there’s the Hudson Valley Girls High School Hockey League, which began last year and hosts clinics and instruction at Brewster Ice Arena.
“The adrenaline, the cold air, the wind in my hair. I just light up inside.”
—Danielle Lepore Scaramuzzo, Westchester Wildcats
The women’s game is the same as the men’s: five skaters and a goalie, two refs on the ice, three 12- or 15-minute periods, and lots of action, although no checking. “The adrenaline, the cold air, the wind in my hair. I just light up inside,” says Danielle Lepore Scaramuzzo of Hartsdale, who plays for the Westchester Wildcats.
“I love the exercise, the mental toughness,” says Abby Muraco, an Albany resident who has been vice president of the Arctic Foxes program since 2017. “It’s a lot of fun, and I enjoy competing.”
Her coach, Brian Garland, adds, “It’s all about the passion, seeing our players willing to learn and improve, and the team becoming a family. Women are more accepting and focused than men I’ve coached.”
Get on the Ice!
Ed Montalbano, coach of the Saugerties Nightmares, says the women’s drive is fantastic: “The women pay attention, they take notes, and buy into the drills. Hockey is hockey, and they love it.”
“Playing is a pleasure, requiring total focus,” says longtime Nightmares goalie Karen Evans of Staatsburg, who has been coaching ice hockey since 2011, has played for the Nightmares since 2015, and also referees men’s ice hockey games. “The mental aspect is tough, as you don’t want to let your team down.”
Rinks that run programs often have “learn to play” sessions, a “rec” team for novices, and an experienced travel team, so anyone can join.
Arctic Fox Melissa Wien says, “My husband and son are my biggest fans. My teammates came to my wedding! I become a different person on the ice: a hockey player, not just a person playing hockey.”