This 2018-2019 hockey season, the Harwood Union girls’ hockey team will be collaborating with Northfield High School to form a new team that organizers hope will maintain both teams until both have the numbers to host separate programs.
Practices and games will be held at the Ice Center of Washington West in Waterbury. Northfield players will travel to Waterbury and the team will be known as the Harwood-Northfield ice hockey team.
“It gives us a chance to keep the program alive,” said returning head coach Mike Vasseur as he enthused about the coming season.
Girls’ hockey programs have seen a decline in numbers that varies depending on odd years. Feeder programs and U12 to U16 programs allow girls to get accustomed to the program; while numbers vary in season, some programs have to combine teams at a lower age or play with boys’ teams. Competing high schools allow students to transfer and play for their teams, which also takes away from the feeder program that Harwood youth hockey builds.
“When you look at Harwood youth hockey, there’s not a lot of girls’ teams. There’s not a volume of girls coming up, there’s two or three here and there. There’s not a lot of U12 or U14 girls’ teams anymore,” commented Vasseur, reflecting on the Harwood youth programs. He was also a coach of U-program teams before accepting the role of varsity coach.
Vasseur will continue as the head coach for the shared team with assistant Scott Hunter. Together the pair has made two trips to the championship round of playoffs, first in the 2011 season for a runner up and then winning their first Division II title in 2013 for the first title win in program history.
Vasseur is expecting eight to nine girls returning to the team this season for Harwood and roughly 10 coming over from the Northfield/Randolph mix of students.
“This could be a really interesting season. Northfield was in the middle of the pack for DI last season. It’ll be the first time in a long time we will have a roster of many kids, potentially 20 to 21 kids. I’m looking forward to this because it offers kids the opportunity to still play. Kids wouldn’t have the option to play without a team. It’s saving the girls’ ice hockey program,” Vasseur added.