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A League of Their Own

Montclair’s women’s hockey inspires the next generation of girls on ice

Posted in: Athletics, Homepage News, University

Sabrina Robinson and Sheyla Gomez pose for the camera
Teammates Sheyla Gomez, left, and Sabrina Robinson are among the Red Hawks inspiring girls to pick up hockey sticks.

Sheyla Gomez laced up skates just three times growing up before deciding to join the Red Hawks women’s ice hockey team. Invited by a classmate, she hadn’t known that women could even play. “The adrenaline – that’s what helped me,” she said of her first practice at the Montclair State University Ice Arena. Learning to skate and showing skill with her stick, she’s now a team leader and role model inspiring young girls determined to break the ice ceiling.

Montclair’s hockey players are among the athletes that the New Jersey Devils turn to for the team’s learn-to-play clinics, including World Girls Hockey Weekend in October and Hispanic Heritage Night in November. Women’s ice hockey has seen fast growth in the United States, with the Devils committed to championing an inclusive sport on the rink.

“A big part of what we do is philanthropic,” says Robert Martinez ’02, ’20 MS, assistant director of Campus Recreation and general manager of the club ice hockey program. “Whenever we do the clinics to get young girls into playing, our women’s team is all for it.”

At Prudential Center in Newark, girls peppered the Montclair athletes with questions. “What’s it like playing? Is your coach nice? What’s it like to be in college?” Sabrina Robinson, a junior Exercise Science major, says, “It’s good that they’re asking questions and seeing college players who inspire them to keep playing, to know it’s a possibility for them when they get older.”

Gomez, a senior Business Administration major, adds, “We asked one girl what position she played. She wants to be a goalie, and I told her we have an extra spot, join us. She got so excited.”

Montclair and St. Joseph’s University players on ice
Women hockey players battle for the puck during recent club play between Montclair and St. Joseph’s University at the Montclair State University Ice Arena.

Scenes like this have played out ever since the U.S. women’s national ice hockey team won gold at the 2018 Olympics, sparking enthusiasm for the sport. It was the same year Montclair’s club team won the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference and made their first American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II national tournament appearance. Alexandra Tepper who played on the 2018 team now coaches the Red Hawks, one of just two club teams at the collegiate level in New Jersey. (Only Princeton has NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey.)

“It’s incredible being part of women’s hockey,” Gomez says, “especially now when it’s rising up in the world.” Adds Robinson, “For our team, half of it’s sport and half of it’s team camaraderie because we are super close. It’s like the Mighty Ducks. We all started off a little shaky, but we’re all under-dogging together. We’ve become closer as a team.”

What’s next? In the spring, Gomez and Robinson will trade their skates for cleats as they take the field for Montclair’s women’s club baseball. Last spring, the team competed in the first-ever women’s college club championship. On the diamond, as on the ice, they’ll be leading growing movements to inspire girls to pursue their sports passions at the collegiate level.

“I love the community we are creating,” Gomez says.

Photo Gallery

photo of Shelya Gomez
Shelya Gomez had skated just a few times before joining the women’s hockey team.
Sabrina Robinson and Sheyla Gomez speaking with team members
On a recent Friday night, as the Red Hawks competed against St. Joseph’s University, Sabrina Robinson and Sheyla Gomez join the team huddle.
hockey players on ice
Players square off at Montclair State University Ice Arena.
Kaitlyn Dean on the ice
Kaitlyn Dean controls the puck as Montclair notches a win over St. Joseph’s University.
group photo of Montclair State University Women's Ice Hockey Team in locker room
Go team!

Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren. Photos by University Photographer Mike Peters.