During a recent evening practice, some of the roughly 40 skaters dashed up and down the ice, while others looked just a few steps up from crate-skating.
One of those was Meredith Van Antwerp, 15, a sophomore on the practice squad.
Joining the JV team was her first experience on skates, she said.
“I found out they didn’t have enough people and I wanted to try something new,” she said. “I love it. I’m a lot better than when I first started. I couldn’t even skate.”
Keady said the improvement has been dramatic.
“We have some pretty athletic kids here,” she said as she surveyed the ice, watching the JV players of varying levels skate past.
Every time someone fell — and it seemed to happen a lot — the players would all bang their sticks on the ice as encouragement for their teammate to get back up and keep going.
“I get jacked up when they fall,” Keady said, smiling. “They have to learn, if they fall, they’ll be fine. Once you’re comfortable with falling, you are less tentative about bending your knees and going lower.”
Keady said the teammates and coaching staff — including JV head coach Ed Oteri — have been “so supportive of each other.”
Parents have been supportive, too.
Andrew Goldberg, whose 16-year-old daughter, Devon, is a first-time skater, said the whole program deserves credit for a job well-done.
“You don’t typically try to outfit a hockey team from foot to head,” said Goldberg, who was dropping his daughter off at the rink for practice. “They had so many extra players, but they outfitted all of them.”
He said that was one of the reasons his daughter decided to play. That, and the fact that there wouldn’t be any cuts, at least not this year.
“They’re all pumped and they’re adventurous,” he said of the newcomers on the JV team. “It’s been completely mind-boggling.”