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Pope Francis women’s hockey strengthens its roots with a solid second season | local sports

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Most coaches prefer athletes to play for what’s on the front of a jersey, not the back. That’s not quite true for Pope Francis’ women’s hockey coach, Chris Connors.

“It says family on the back of the jerseys and they optimize the meaning,” Connors said of reflecting on Pope Francis’ second season of women’s hockey. “We loved being at the rink and the team loved being together.


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“At less than 28 hours, I already miss going to the rink and coaching them.”

Every story has an end and the Cardinals were defeated 2-1 by Notre Dame Academy on March 8 in the MIAA Division I State Tournament. With that in mind, this edition of Pope Francis on hockey had many remarkable chapters.

The Cardinals won 10 games by at least three goals and were defeated in just four of the final 17 games of the season, finishing the year with a 13-8-1 record.

Four locals, Kellie Harrington, Mia Alfonso and Lauren Crocker of Pittsfield High School, as well as Madeline Rawling of Taconic, were all on the ground floor as only Western Massachusetts’ second co-op women’s hockey team worked to bolster its roots.

Crocker was a standout player for the Cardinals with a team-high 12 goals and was second on the team with 10 assists, three behind Morgan Peritz senior for the team-high.

Crocker’s senior year began with a hat trick against East Bridgewater on December 11, a 7-0 win for the Cardinals. She then scored two more goals against East Bridgewater on January 25 and another pair at Stoneham on February 24.

Alfonso, also a senior, scored a hat-trick against Longmeadow on January 13 and scored eight goals during the year. Harrington, who has two goals and eight assists, and Rawling can return to the squad next season.


Pittsfield Foursome dedicated to Pope Francis' women's hockey program in its second season

With the foundation of an inaugural season of Pope Francis women’s hockey set in stone, a handful of local student-athletes are helping the Cardinals build a brighter future in the program’s second season.

“The dedication they had to the program, the work ethic, it was second to none,” Connors said of the Berkshire County skaters who traveled to Springfield virtually every day. “It struck a chord the other night, we didn’t get back to Pope Francis until midnight – they must have been home around 1am.

“These four girls were so important to putting our program on the map and it doesn’t even touch on their work ethic.”

The Cardinals entered the DI tournament as the 14th seed with a regular season record of 12-7-1. Pope Francis won a thriller 5-4 against No.19 Quincy in the round of 16, before falling in the round of 16.

Connors said the program first caught on with skaters in the inaugural season and the Cardinals are now flying with a tailwind due to progress made in year two.

“We started to hear a buzz last year at the end of our season,” Connors said of the campaign that ended with a 4-6-1 record. “We had eight players signed up after last season, even this year we’re hearing the buzz at youth level.

“Our state tournament game, at least a dozen college girls are looking to come and play hockey for our program.”

Connors, who coached boys and girls in hockey for 16 years, was convinced it was one of his favorite things to do while leading a team.

“It was a special group for me,” Connors said. “I can say in good grace that they were the ultimate favorite team I ever coached.”

If you look closely at the Cardinal red uniforms, Pittsfield’s purple and Taconic’s green and gold have only amplified what he stands for.

“They helped shape the culture and set the foundation for future success,” Connors said. “For seniors, Mia and Lauren, I will miss them both very much.”