OA’s Friend Has St. Anselm Poised for Postseason Run

Hannah Friend
Former OA standout Hannah Friend lines up a hit against St. Michael’s. The senior forward recently became the program’s all-time leading scorer. (Jim Stankiewicz/St. Anselm College)

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With a 3-0 win this week against Franklin Pierce, the St. Anselm field hockey team improved to 15-2 and set a new program record for wins in a season. The Hawks also clinched at least a share of the NE-10 regular season title heading into Saturday’s finale against St. Thomas Aquinas. Leading the way again this year is former Oliver Ames standout Hannah Friend, who recently became the program’s all-time leading scorer.

Friend, who was the first HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year in 2013 and the 2014 Player of the Year, is second on the Hawks this season with eight goals and 23 points and has a team-high seven assists. She now has 35 goals and 25 assists in her career, both program records, and her 95 points is 21 more than the previous record holder.

“I don’t really care about stats,” Friend explained this week. She joked, “The only reason I knew I was close is one time I came into my coach’s office and she was like, ‘Not to freak you out but you’re two goals from the record.’ I was like, oh cool and I hope I get them.”

Friend added, “It’s great to see that hard work is paying off and it’s a humbling experience for sure. Everyone who is working around me has helped me get there. It’s kind of like a team accomplishment.”

The team is soaring through another strong season, recording shutouts in all 15 of its wins (another program best). Although there is still another regular season game to play, and to celebrate the seniors, Friend is focused on the one thing missing from her collegiate resume – an NE-10 tournament title.

St. Anselm has been in the mix each of the past three years. Last season, the Hawks lost 2-1 in overtime to rival Merrimack, in 2017 it was a double overtime 3-2 loss to LIU Post, and in 2016 the Hawks suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to Post in the championship game.

After reaching two finals and a semifinal, Friend is ready to lift the trophy and feels like the Hawks have the potential to get there.

“We talk about this all the time with the seniors,” she said with a laugh. “We’ve been there way too many times without bringing it home. We just work towards it every day and just hope that if we get there we bring our ‘A’ game and work our butts off and bring it home. We have everything except the championship, so it would mean a lot obviously.”

The Hawks, currently ranked No. 4 in Div. II, have also been a regular in the NCAA tournament over the past three seasons (the only DII tournament appearances in program history). They earned a first round win over Stonehill in 2016 to reach the final four, but lost in the first round in each of the last two years.

“That would be the best thing ever,” Friend said about a national title. “We definitely have the potential for sure this year and we just have to pay attention to the littlest detail and make sure everyone is working hard and no one is slacking off and just grind it through. We can’t letdown.”

Field hockey is a family affair for Friend. Her mother was a standout player, who played with the Canadian national team, her brother has coached the sport, and her sister also played. Friend picked up the sport in fifth grade at the suggestion of a classmate, much to her mother’s delight. “I brought it up to my mom and she literally lost it,” Friend joked. Her mother began a middle school program and now has two club teams running in Easton.

After her stellar career at OA, Friend made the leap to the collegiate game and seemed to have no problem with the transition to the next level, starting 21 games as a freshman and scoring a team-high seven goals.

“I was definitely really nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect,” Friend said about her freshman season. “I worked really hard over the summer. Our team is so supportive and we just have such a great environment that you feel comfortable and the more comfortable you are than the more confident you are and it lets you play to the best of your ability.”

The comfort level that she felt as a rookie is something that she is now, as a senior, trying to impart on the younger players in the program.

“The more everyone feels a part of the team, the more comfortable everyone is with each other, the better everyone is going to play,” she said. “I make sure to reach out to everyone and individually build a relationship with each girl, which I think really helps a lot. The more you can be connected with your team, the better.”

Those connections are helped by the fact that many of the players on the team are familiar faces from countless battles in the Hockomock League. Six current players on the roster are from Hock schools, including OA (junior Kendall Clifford), King Philip (freshman Emma Izydorczak), and Canton (senior Mary Nee, junior Andrea McNeil, and freshman Maggie Malloy), which continues a trend at St. Anselm in particular and the NE-10 in general.

“It’s just funny when you’re playing against them and now we obviously have to let that go because now we’re playing together,” said Friend, who said Nee is now her roommate and one of her best friends.

As the regular season winds down and the end of her field hockey career approaches, Friend is trying to keep things in perspective and enjoy her time with teammates.

“We’re always just go, go, go with practices and games and everything,” she said, “but at the end of the day I always just try to take it all in because I know that in a month, regardless of if we make it all the way, I’m not going to have this opportunity, which is sad.

“It’s definitely important to appreciate all the little moments, even the things like working out or pushing yourself, because it’s going to be sad when it’s all over.”

Editor’s Note – Hannah Friend scored two goals and assisted on a third on Saturday against St. Thomas Aquinas, as the Hawks clinched the outright regular season NE-10 title with a 6-0 win. She is the first player in program history to reach 100 points for her career.

Spillane Continues Stellar Career for St. Anselm Hockey

Former Franklin standout Kaitlyn Spillane is among the team leaders in goals, assists, and points for St. Anselm women’s hockey as she closes out her successful career with the Hawks. (Jim Stankiewicz/Saint Anselm College Athletics)

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St. Anselm College women’s hockey is on a roll at the start of the new season, racking up 14 wins in the opening 17 games including a win against Franklin Pierce on Friday, and one of the leaders for the Hawks again this winter is senior forward Kaitlyn Spillane.

The former Franklin standout is closing in on the 100-point milestone for her career (she has 88 as of Saturday morning) and is currently third on the team in goals with seven, second on the team with 11 assists, and second with 18 points.

“We’re having a really great year,” said Spillane on Friday afternoon, hours before the Hawks faced Franklin Pierce in the first of two games with the Ravens. “We have a super-young team and it’s awesome to see how successful we’ve been considering how young a team we have.”

The young roster, which includes 16 underclassmen (sophomore Jamie Gottwald, an Oliver Ames alum, is among that group), can look to Spillane for leadership after she was named a team captain prior to the season. Having played right from the start of her collegiate career, Spillane can offer her perspective on what young players need to do to get on the ice.

“When I was a freshman,” Spillane explained, “the seniors gave me some advice and you can’t hit everything, so it’s interesting to be a senior now and give advice to the freshmen that you might not have gotten and do as much as you can.”

Asked what it meant to have her teammates look to her as a captain, Spillane responded, “It was an honor and flattering. I have 24 teammates right now and they’re all super-talented, so for them to look at me as a leader was definitely a humbling moment.”

While some players pick up the sport in youth leagues or in school, hockey has always been a part of Spillane’s life. She joked, “I feel like I was skating before I was walking.” When she was two years old, she was given a pair of figure skates and, according to Spillane, she cried because she wanted them to be hockey skates.

“It was just something I was almost born into,” said Spillane. That comes as no surprise to anyone in Franklin.

The Spillane family has become synonymous with hockey at Franklin High. Before Kaitlyn starred for three seasons, her father Chris was a standout player as a Panther (a member of the 1983 state title team) and at UMass Boston before earning 300 wins and counting as a coach of the boys’ program (including the 2016 state title), her brother Ryan was a senior on the Franklin team that became the first to be selected for the Super 8, and C.J. is a junior forward on the Panthers this winter.

Growing up, Spillane was encouraged by her father to play both girls’ and boys’ hockey and she considers herself “fortunate” to have had both opportunities. “My dad was pretty adamant that I stay with the boy’s game because it’s fast-paced and it keeps me competitive and aggressive,” Spillane said.

She continued, “He has been my biggest supporter since day one. He always pushed me on days when I wasn’t really feeling into it and when I had a bad game he would tell me the good things I was doing. He’s always been a positive influence in my hockey career.”

As a freshman, Spillane jumped right into the varsity lineup, which head coach Margie Burke said is in and of itself not unique, but Spillane immediately became one of the team’s “impact players” and that is not always the case for a young player.

“Playing that role is difficult and she handled it well,” said Burke. “I’ve had a lot of freshmen on the varsity team, it happens a lot in girls’ hockey…but she jumped right in and lived up to the expectations right away.”

In fact, Burke recalled that she could see right away that Spillane had what it took to play at the next level. She was named the team’s Rookie of the Year in her first season and was the team’s MVP for the next two seasons. All three years, she was named a SEMGHL (Southeastern Mass. Girl’ Hockey League) All-Star.

“Club sports are fun but you’re not practicing with them as much,” said Spillane, “it’s not as close-knit of a team. Playing with the same girls every day at a fast pace was what really prepared me for college.”

After her junior year at Franklin, where she was also a standout in field hockey and lacrosse, Spillane made the decision to transfer and re-classify at Tabor Academy. Spillane admitted that it was a “difficult” decision to make the move.

“It was really tough to leave those relationships you’ve built over the past 17 years to start somewhere new for two years,” she said. “I kind of realized that, if I wanted to be playing competitive college hockey, I probably need the extra year of development and it made more sense to establish myself for two years rather than going for just one.”

Even without a fourth season, Spillane is fifth in program history with 71 goals and fourth all-time with 129 points.

“It was always just the goal my whole life that I wanted to play college hockey,” said Spillane. “I don’t know that I had a moment where I thought that I could do this, but just that humbling moment when coaches started reaching out that I was like, wow I think I made it.”

She instantly loved St. Anselm after visiting the campus in Manchester, N.H. and it has turned out to be the right move. Spillane has played all but two games in her three-plus years with the Hawks and was second in her freshman class, scoring 13 points.

Two years ago, she was joined at St. Anselm by her brother. Ryan spent a post-graduate year at Kent Hill School and is now a sophomore forward for the Hawks. When asked about sharing her experiences with Ryan, Kaitlyn admitted, “He’s a very talented hockey player and smart kid, so I like to think I help him out but he also helps me out a lot.”

With two Spillanes playing at St. Anselm it has also been convenient for her parents, who can now make the trip to Manchester and catch two games.

“When I transferred to Tabor,” Kaitlyn said, “I wasn’t able to catch as many of my brother’s games, but it’s really convenient to just walk down from my dorm and watch his games every weekend. It’s convenient for [my parents] for the first time in our careers. One rink, two games.”

This winter, the Hockomock welcomed girls’ hockey to the league for the first time. Spillane praised the move as a sign that the sport continues to grow in the area.

“I think it speaks volumes to how much the sport is growing for women and the bright future that they have ahead,” Spillane explained. “I think it’s just one of the small steps towards growing everywhere.”

Franklin is a program on the rise with Burke welcoming enough players this winter to have a full JV schedule. She said that having players like Spillane and current assistant coach Rachel Porter, who holds the career scoring mark at Salve Regina, inspire the current crop of players.

“They show up for the alumni game and everyone is like she’s the one at St. Anselm or she’s the one at Umass Boston or St. Mike’s or Salve,” Burke said. “It’s exciting for the kids to know that people have moved on and it’s good for the program. There’s a spot for someone who wants to play in college.”

Spillane, who was named a New England Women’s Hockey Alliance (NEWHA) Player of the Week after a six-point weekend earlier this season, is focused on bringing more success to St. Anselm this season, particularly winning another New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Open title in February.

“Eyes on the prize, we’re hoping that we can win the Open championship again this year,” Spillane said. The Hawks beat Holy Cross in overtime to win a record seventh title last year. “We had a really successful end of the season last year (14 wins in a row) and we’re hoping to have a repeat this year.”

Spillane did not set personal goals for this season. She said, “I’m more of an overall record kind of person, so if the team is winning, I’m winning.”