NWHL All-Star Game gives youth a glimpse of future
February 17, 2017 12:00 AM
Team Steadman lines up during the national anthem at the beginning of the National Women's Hockey League All-Star Game Sunday at the UPMC Lemieux Complex in Cranberry.
By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Plenty of local fans got their first up-close look at women’s hockey at the NWHL All-Star Game in Cranberry last weekend.
For a few local players, it may have been a glimpse at their future, too.
A number of girls from the Penguins Elite program — including Gwyneth Phillips, Anjelica Diffendal and Morgan Schauer — got to see and interact with players who play the game professionally this weekend, and savored the experience.
“Obviously you had the young girls that were so excited to be there and see hockey played at that level, and those are kind of their idols, if you will,” said Kathy Pippy, who oversees the Penguins Elite girls program. “And you get to have older girls, even some of them really look up to those older girls in a little different way because they see themselves as potentially having a path to being able to do that in the future.”
Phillips, a sophomore at Shady Side Academy, is already committed to play at Northeastern University in 2019. Last May, Phillips was one of just two goalies her age to be invited to USA Hockey’s national team goalie camp.
She also has a real chance to make the USA Under-18 national team this upcoming year.
Phillips isn’t the only Shady Side Academy student with a chance to play beyond high school, either. Her teammates, junior M.K. Gialames (Mercyhurst) and sophomore Chayla Edwards (Wisconsin), have also committed to Division I programs.
Diffendal is a senior at Montour, and has signed a letter of intent to play for Robert Morris this fall.
Penguins Elite also features players from Northeast Ohio and those enrolled in out of state prep schools heading to Division I programs, including Morgan Schauer (Robert Morris), Lauren Bernard (Clarkson), Kaitlyn O’Donahue (Colgate) and twins Laney and Eleri Mackay (Colgate).
Pippy said seeing professional players who attended their various colleges also gave them a boost of motivation as they finish out their high school careers.
“They can really see that their hard work is paying off and hopefully if they keep working hard they can actually have a future in it,” Pippy said.
There was even an added bonus for the Robert Morris-bound players, as the Colonials’ director of hockey operations, Kelley Steadman, was one of the captains for the All-Star Game. Former Robert Morris goalie Brianne McLaughlin also played in the first half for Team Steadman.
“They’re all really good role models, again, for all the ages of girls from the U-10s up to U-19s,” Pippy said. “I was a little surprised that the older girls were as into it as they were, but they really were. They really see that as something to look up to and, ‘If I keep working hard, I can do this, too.’”
Steadman, too, understood the youth component of the league staging its All-Star Game in Pittsburgh last weekend.
“I think they’ve been kind of the biggest component of this whole weekend,” she said.
“There’s just such a following here with Pens Elite being such a great program, and then all the other youth programs that are around this area. I think they just get excited when they can share that with us that are here living in Pittsburgh. Obviously when we can bring these really talented players here, it’s been great for them.”
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG
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