Meghan Croyle (l) of East Catholic High School and Mary McKiernan of Glastonbury High School each made all-state as the Storm girls' ice hockey team won 14 games during the 2021-2022 season.
The Storm girls’ ice hockey team made the state semifinal for the first time since 2017, winning a total of 14 games this winter.
Head coach Frank Usseglio has been coaching the co-op team—consisting of players from Glastonbury, East Catholic, South Windsor, Rockville, and Tolland— since it first started as a club sport a dozen years ago.
The 2021-2022 season was the team’s 10th as an official varsity sport.
Usseglio said this winter’s squad was a good blend of senior leadership and youthful talent, adding, “We had a very successful season. We made it to the state semifinals, which is indicative with how well we did. The girls battled really hard.”
The Storm won 12 regular season games in the regular season, including a pair of out-of-state games, before defeating Trumbull-St. Joseph in the opening round and Stamford-Staples-Westhill in the quarterfinals of the state tourney.
Their season came to an end following a loss to the eventual-state champion Rams of New Canaan in the semifinals.
“I thought we played [New Canaan] tough. They were an undefeated team and it was a big hill to climb but that doesn’t diminish the success that we had during the season,” added Usseglio.
The semifinal loss was the last for seven seniors, who will exit the program after four years of excellence.
Prior to the seniors arriving, the team was coming off a 3-19 season. Over the past four years, the group helped the Storm make the postseason and win at least one tourney game in all four seasons.
Seniors Meghan Croyle (East Catholic) and Mary McKiernan (Glastonbury) made all-state this season.
Croyle ended her career as the program's second leading goal scorer, finishing her high school career with 106 points, including 40 points (23 goals / 17 assists) this winter.
“I don’t think we have had a player that is more driven than her,” Usseglio said of Croyle. “Obviously she is a tremendous hockey player, but in addition she is a really special person. She chose to spend all of her energy making this team better. Players like that are hard to find and hard to replace.”
McKiernan, a defender, earned all-state recognition for the second consecutive year.
Out of necessity, Usseglio played McKiernan on offense for parts of the season and the adaptable McKiernan thrived on both ends.
“Mary is an extremely selfless player. She is a great person and great leader” said Usseglio. “She has been one of our top defenders for four years and she ended up with 12 goals in her senior season. She is such a clutch player, most of her goals came in the last five minutes of games and many were involved in game-winning or tying goals.”
Croyle, McKiernan, and senior goal Maren Riley (East Catholic) made all-conference. The three will be departing the program, along with Molly Edgington, Olivia Lonski, Kate Fradin, and Anna Pasterick.
The seven left an impression on Usseglio, who said, “It was a special group of seniors and a special year. We’re awfully proud of them.”
“They are highly skilled players and they are all really special kids that have strong character,” added Usseglio. “We had a strong locker room and in hockey or any team sport the locker room is very important. They were a cohesive group that incorporated everyone from the freshmen to their peer seniors.”
Usseglio added that he had several younger players stepped up this winter, including Glastonbury High sophomore Maddie Archambault.
“She was a defender last year and due to our depth she didn’t get a lot of playing time. This year she came in and her skill set translated to playing forward,” Usseglio said of Archambault, who finished with a dozen points. “She played a majority of her time on the first line and she was a good defender. She was a key component to the line, both offensively and defensively.”
Along with helping build the Storm from the ground up, Usseglio has also been on the forefront of the development of girls’ ice hockey in the state.
The sport began to take off around the turn of the century when a handful of teams were established in 2001.
The co-op of East Catholic-Glastonbury-South Windsor were partially responsible for taking the sport to the next level when they were named co-champions after battling to a 2-2 double-overtime tie with Simsbury in the 2015 title game.
Because the game ended in a tie, crowning two champions, the game received national media attention.
Following the game and because of the growing popularity of the sport, the Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association (CHSGHA) was formed and the teams were split into two conferences.
The following season, the first official CHSGHA state tournament was held and over the next two years the league grew from eight teams to a dozen. There are currently 21 teams that compete in the CHSGHA.
“It’s incredible how much deeper and more competitive that Connecticut girls ice hockey is now. It’s awesome,” said Usseglio. “Every game is a fight and it’s because the talent level and depth is so much more substantial than it used to be.
Usseglio added, “It has really taken off and we’re proud of where the sport has gone.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin