By Jim Sullivan
---- — For Masconomet girls hockey coach Nicole Twomey ice time has always been a family affair, and that’s a good thing for her since she’s starting her first season as a varsity coach just three months after giving birth.
“The timing, let’s just say, was not perfect,” said Twomey. “But, as in all things in life, timing isn’t great all the time. So, what are you going to do? This is what I’ve been waiting for, for a really long time. So, I couldn’t pass the opportunity up.”
Hockey has been Twomey’s life blood since she was 5 years old. Her father and four younger brothers played. She followed suit, playing defense for four years at the University of New Hampshire.
“I’ve never really had to describe why I love hockey because I’ve grown up with it, and I’ve always loved it,” said Twomey. “It’s just an amazing sport. It’s second nature to me and my family.”
Twomey has also been coaching for a good number of years, heading the Newburyport boys junior varsity squad for four years, and functioning as the Masco girls assistant coach under head coach Andrew Boepple last year. But when Boepple moved on to be the assistant coach for the Chieftains’ boys, opportunity came calling for Twomey.
“I’ve been waiting for it since I’ve started coaching hockey,” Twomey says of her big break. “Andrew spoke to me in the spring, and that he was applying for the position and he suggested that I put in for the girls’ job. Meanwhile, I was three months pregnant. So, I was thinking; ‘Hmm, this timing isn’t great.’”
Good timing or not, Twomey jumped at the chance and did as much preparation as she could in the summer while her baby bump grew.
“I honestly know for a fact that I would not be able to take on this job if it weren’t for my husband, (Matt),” says Twomey. “He stepped up. He knows that his role (changes) and is elevated in the hockey season as I have commitments to the team. I couldn’t have done both the preparation and even the past week and a half of the preseason without him. In season, on the home front, the dynamic changes. And if you don’t have the support of your spouse, good luck to you.”
Assisting the Twomeys in all the preparations was their 5-year-old son Colin, who has an understanding of his mother’s role beyond his years.
“Colin has been such a rock star, he’s such a trooper. (He) is also a hockey player himself, so we’ve spend essentially September through March in the rink,” explains Twomey. “He’s just born into it. He’s been the best older brother ,and he’s been supportive of a not-so-awake mommy.”
Baby Owen arrived in September and 5 a.m. practices began for Twomey in late November.
“It would be a much different story if I didn’t have them on board,” Twomey says of Matt and Colin. “The lack of sleep is, I don’t even think there is a word to describe it how awful the lack of sleep is.”
The Masco team, a co-op between Masco, Newburyport, North Andover, Georgetown, Hamilton-Wenham and now Triton should enjoy running four lines with all of the new players this year as opposed to two lines like last year.
“This is a huge change for this program,” says Twomey. “We’re light years ahead of where we were last season. We finally have the flexibility to run a consistent third line this year. And that fourth line is available at any time. This is a much more competitive team than last year. But we can’t be a bunch of prima donnas. We haven’t won anything yet. So we need to remember that.”
Senior forward Kendra Dow has played under Twomey before with Newburyport JV and is delighted to have last year’s assistant coach in the lead role this season, even with the lack of sleep.
“She’s the best coach I’ve ever had,” says Dow. “She was in the assistant role last year, and it was very similar to having two coaches. Our previous coach was very quiet, he didn’t want to hurt our feelings. But she knew what she was doing and really led us in our power play and knowing what to do on the ice. So it’s much of the same.”
Coach: Nicole Twomey (1st year)
Last year’s record: 9-7-4
Key returning athletes: Alex Jones, sr.; Kendra Dow, sr.; Nancy Palermo, sr.; Dana Valletti, so.; Jensena Moner, so.
Newcomers: 13 incoming freshmen including Kylie Currier, Katie Terban, Meghan Hubbard, Alex Casale and Sydney Sheerin.
Strengths: Attitude and work ethic
Concerns: Youth/inexperience in varsity games.
Coach’s outlook: “The team’s positive attitudes, dedication, work ethic and leadership from veterans need to be top priorities for this team this season.”
First game: Dec. 12 at Cambridge