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Lady Islanders

by Staff Writer / New York Islanders
They put on their skates the same way as everyone else.

They lace them up just as tight.

And, with each long stride on the ice, they make a huge stride for the future.

The multitude of female hockey players that are distinguishing themselves on the ice rinks of Long Island can no longer be ignored. And the Islanders themselves are playing a major role in the evolution of women’s hockey.

With a new organization that will only grow as time goes on, the Islanders have created a central, unifying force for women’s youth hockey on Long Island—the Lady Islanders. The Lady Islanders have been formed through an economic and creative partnership with the Long Island Waves and Suffolk Police Athletic League (PAL)—Long Island’s leading youth hockey programs for women.

As a result, the Lady Islanders youth hockey program will provide women with a great opportunity to learn the sport from the early stages of the game and continue to compete right up to college.

The new league is already taking shape, and it will be comprised of seven teams. They are:

•    A 19U Tier 1 women’s team. Co-sponsored with Suffolk PAL, the Long Island Lady Islanders will play out of The Rinx in Hauppauge and Islanders Iceworks in Syosset.
•    A 16U Tier 1 girls team, co-sponsored with the Long Island Waves, which will play out of The Rinx and Islanders Iceworks.

•    There will also be four teams whose home base will be Islanders Iceworks: 16U, 14U, 12U and 10U.

•    A new program: Introduction to Girls Hockey, to be taught at Islanders Iceworks.

The Waves, along with Suffolk PAL, have already produced numerous highly talented girls that have gone on to accomplish great things in the hockey world.

Meagan Mangene is one of the best examples of the type of hockey talent that comes from Long Island. Mangene has established herself as one of the best young women in the game, playing on an all-boys team, participating against some of the world’s best talent in a Swedish tournament, and winning a gold medal on the first ever U-18 Women’s team. And all of this by the age of 15! 

“I used to watch my brother play when I was younger,” says Mangene. “I asked my parents if I could play and they got me started with once a week clinics.”

From there, Mangene has flourished into one of the most highly touted female hockey players in any geographic region.

Beginning with a season in Mites, Mangene began to take the sport seriously and her parents started having her take private lessons. She was a member of the Pee Wee Islanders, where she competed against some of the best boys her age in the world—never missing a shift.

After completing a year of Pee Wee hockey, Mangene was asked to play for a team from Chicago called “Team America.” The team traveled to Sweden and played against top-notch competition from all around the world. And if that isn’t overwhelming enough for a young girl, how about being one of just two girls on the roster.

“It was an all-boys team other than one other girl who was a goalie,” says Mangene. “But it was great.”

After competing in Sweden, she went to Nationals Camp in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was chosen as a forward even though she had never really played the position. But the scouts at the camp discussed her abilities with her coaches, and decided to place her on the first-ever women’s Under-18 National Team. It was on that team that she competed in Calgary against other U-18 teams from around the world.

Building off the past success of female hockey and combining it with the current demand of competitive female leagues, Zoe Schwam, the Director of Hockey for the New York Lady Islanders, is doing her part to help the sport grow in the female community. She insists that interest and talent is clearly there, and with the new league, girls will have more opportunities to play and grow as hockey players, starting at a young age.

“Our travel teams compete against teams all over the Mid-Atlantic and consistently qualify for the State tournament,” said Schwam. “Last year the Waves 16U were State champions at the Tier 2 level.”

The girls who participate and succeed on the Island, are given the tools and knowledge needed to excel at the next level.

“Most girls are hoping to play at the collegiate level and as hockey on Long Island grows more girls will be recruited from our organizations,” said Schwam.

One of the girls who hopes to continue playing hockey at a higher level is 15-year-old Jessica Spidle. A high school sophomore who has already been playing hockey for 10 years, Spidle hopes to someday play for a Division I school.

“I played in a boys house league until I was 12, then I went to 16U Tier 2 for two years, then 19U Tier 1,” says Spidle. “I play for PAL, practice twice a week and two games on the weekend. It’s a pretty competitive girl’s league.”

Spidle’s chances of continuing her hockey career are realistic, thanks to the hard work and practice, and the instruction she has gained from the programs offered on Long Island. Dan Bedard, Director of the Islanders Amateur Hockey Development Program, is confident that before long it will be commonplace to see Long Islanders go on to succeed in women’s hockey.

“Samantha Faber, who came out of Suffolk PAL, is now a superstar at UNH, and is one of the top goal scorers in the NCAA,” says Bedard. “Alisa Fromkin, who is a goaltender playing at Andover Prep, played with boys until she was 15- years-old. She was the first girl to play on the Quebec pee-wee Islanders team at the young age of 13. She will be playing for Division I Boston University next year.”

One hockey player with a legendary name, has made a name for herself thanks to her outstanding abilities. Jaclyn Arbour—the granddaughter of Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour—has become one of Long Island’s best young women in the game, starring for the Suffolk PAL team.

Growing up in the shadows of a legend on Long Island can weigh heavily on a young athlete not knowing their true potential,” said Jay Arbor, Jaclyn’s father and Al’s son. “But Jaclyn has excelled and has showcased her love and passion for the game of hockey passed down to her from her grandfather.”

Jaclyn Arbour is now helping younger players learn the game, by volunteering at The Rinx in Hauppauge.

So why are so many girls flocking to the rinks throughout Long Island in hopes of scoring on a slap shot, or making a glove save between the posts?

“Playing hockey is a great outlet for girls,” adds Schwam. “They learn necessary skills like teamwork, leadership and competitive spirit. Additionally, girls are able to interact with other girls who have the same goals and passion for athletics.”

With behind the scenes passion from supporters like Schwam, and the devotion from the many young female players on Long Island, there’s no reason why young women should not continue to dream big about hockey.
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