Coach of Monsignor Martin Association Girls Hockey Team Looks to Grow Sport
Chris Malicki finds himself in a familiar role – behind the bench of the Monsignor Martin Association girls hockey team. After taking a brief hiatus to focus on coaching his daughter Riley – a sophomore at St. Mary’s High School – on her travel team, Malicki was asked back to coach the Monsignor Martin team after the former coach stepped down nine days before the season opener.
Malicki knew he would already be around for practices and games because his daughter was on the team, so it seemed like the perfect time for another go around. Malicki does admit he was slightly apprehensive about taking the role, as having a daughter on the team can add an interesting dynamic: “I coached my older daughter on the Monsignor Martin team my first go around, and now I’ve got Riley,” Malicki said. “You definitely tend to be tougher on your own kids as a coach, but Riley handles it really well. She’s a trooper.”
Malicki has some high expectations for the Monsignor Martin team in the league this year, and the team is off to a 3-0 start. Coach really only set one, simple goal for his team at the beginning of the year: “Be better hockey players at the end of the season than you were at the beginning.” Malicki also noticed two main themes in the league this year that seem different than years past- parity and the quality of goaltending: “There is a tremendous amount of parity in the league this year, where the top four teams are all outstanding, and on any given day, any one of us could win the whole thing,” Malicki said. “Each team also has really good goaltenders, so any goalie could steal a game or two for a team, and we have two great goalies ourselves, so that’s exciting,” he added.
With 30 years of hockey experience, playing for St. Francis High School, University at Buffalo, and at the Juniors level, Malicki is really enjoying being a part of the team: “There is obviously a learning curve of them getting to know me and my coaching style, but they have adapted really well. I have loved getting to know the upperclassmen who I just knew from afar, and it’s just been awesome,” he said.
St. Mary’s Head of School Kevin Kelleher knows how valuable a good women’s hockey program can be for each school in the Monsignor Martin: “We are thrilled to have three student athletes participate in women’s hockey and to have a Lancer parent behind the bench; to have such strong ties to the league is tremendous,” Kelleher said. “We know interest in girls hockey is on the rise, and we support that at St. Mary’s, so have a connection to the league ‘in-house’ is paramount.”
Girls hockey in Western New York may be a small community, but it is tight knit and on the rise. Many of the girls on the team already know each other, playing eight months of the year on travel teams, either with or against each other. There seems to be a growing interest for girls hockey in the area, thanks to the increased exposure from the National Women’s Hockey League’s Buffalo Beauts and the success of the Women’s National Team. Malicki has observed a steady progression: “When I coached the first time around, there was only one girl from St. Mary’s on the team, and now there are three [Riley Malicki, Claire Rahuba, and Caleigh Pfalzer], so you can definitely see growth there.”
Malicki urges each school that is a part of the league to promote these hockey players as you would all other student athletes: “We’re proud to represent St. Mary’s, and each school needs to step up and publicize our league because these girls are amazing, and other girls are really starting to look for schools offering hockey,” Malicki stated. “It’s a sport here to stay.”