Holy Cross women’s hockey coach Katie Lachapelle, a Lewiston native, talks to her team during a game in the 2020-21 season. Mark Seliger/Holy Cross Athletics

Holy Cross Crusaders women’s hockey coach Katie Lachapelle missed the little things taken away by the coronavirus pandemic during the recently completed season.

That includes catching up with players on other teams in Hockey East, such as Lachapelle’s fellow Lewiston natives Lauren DeBlois of Providence College Friars and Bree Bergeron of the Merrimack College Warriors.

“We played Bree early in the year, and after the game I couldn’t even say hi to her, we had to keep separated,” Lachapelle said. “When we played Lauren, it was the same thing. I always like catching up, like last year when we played against Lauren and obviously this year with Lauren and Bree. It’s always nice to say hi, especially since I know Lauren and there’s a connection with my dad and her dad. Bree’s grandfather (Claude Fontaine) was my softball coach and her parents Billy and Crystal were teammates growing up, whether it was softball (with Crystal) or hockey with Billy.”

Lachapelle and Bill Bergeron were members of the 1995 Lewiston Blue Devils boys hockey team that won the Class A state championship.

Bree Bergeron’s grandparents and Lachapelle’s parents have been neighbors for the past five years.

The players, meanwhile, were able to give each other a quick greeting after their teams’ contest this season.

“Against Providence, Lauren’s team, I actually did go give her a quick hug after the game,” Bergeron said. “It was tough because we couldn’t really talk. We had to made sure we didn’t get in trouble. That was tough, I didn’t like that part.”

As has been required of most things during the past year, the three Lewiston natives adapted to the procedures developed to allow their teams opportunities to play a conference schedule this season.

“I think you do get used to getting tested three times a week; I think some of those little things you get used to,” Lachapelle said. “It’s like making your bed in the morning, but for our team, we could not go home for Christmas — us and University of New Hampshire were the only two teams in the league, unfortunately, the way the school worked with the policies and stuff, we weren’t able to go home, so that was very hard on everybody.”

Lachapelle was able to visit her sister in Beverly, Massachusetts, a 66-mile drive from Holy Cross’ Worcester campus, but she had to take precautions, including watching from the front porch of her sister’s house while her nephew opened his Christmas presents.

The Holy Cross, Merrimack and Providence women’s hockey teams didn’t have much interaction with the rest of their respective school’s community.

“We couldn’t really have contact with anyone else outside our team,” DeBlois said. “It was staying in our rooms unless it was getting food or going to the rink; making sure our masks were on when we were outside and properly distancing away from everyone that’s not in our bubble. As the season went on and coming closer to playoffs it got more strict, as you can’t mess up in playoffs.

“I mean it was tough but it needed to be done. Everyone bought into it and it all worked out.”

Bergeron said that being together all the time helped the Warriors become a closer group.

Lewiston native Bree Bergeron recently completed her freshman season at Merrimack College. Jim Stankiewicz/Merrimack Athletics

“Hockey is a sport you are always close with your teammates,” Bergeron said. “This year, you were with your teammates a lot more because they were the only people you could be in contact with. It was a pretty close team, especially the circumstances and we all got to go through them together.”

DeBlois, a defenseman, just finished her second season with the Friars, tallying four goals and three assists in 20 games. Providence lost in the Hockey East championship game to Northeastern and then fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to the eventual national champion, the University of Wisconsin.

DeBlois was named to Hockey East’s Third Team All-Star after being selected for Hockey East’s All-Rookie team for the 2019-20 season.

“I think my confidence grew a lot from last year, coming in and knowing what I needed to do already and know how to do it with our systems,” DeBlois said. “I was going out there and playing, not thinking about everything, like I did last year. I think my confidence improved my game a lot.”

Bergeron played in all 16 games for the Warriors (1-15) and recorded one assist during her freshmen season.

She said that her teammates helped her adjust to the increased speed and physicality of the college game.

“I think confidence was a huge thing for me and battling herder,” Bergeron said. “My teammates really battle for the puck hard. We knock each other on our (behinds), which makes us better players. Confidence is a huge thing, and I was more assertive on the ice.”

KEEPING THINGS FUN

Being a coach, Lachapelle said she had to change things up in practices to keep her players engaged. She also had to give them activities to do during their free time.

Lachapelle made a point of checking in with her players, and the players also checked in with each other to make sure everybody was doing well.

“Maybe as student-athletes they didn’t see it this way, but from a coaching standpoint, and a lot of the coaches I talk to we were making sure everything was fun as it could be, upbeat every day at practice, doing our best to make it a great situation,” Lachapelle said. “I don’t how it was at the other schools, but the only time our players were able to be around each other was at the rink. Basically, from Thanksgiving to February 1, were really the only ones on campus with a couple other teams and couple other students that were here. We have this big indoor turf (facility) and we would book team activity in the turf (facility).”

The Crusaders would have a normal practice in the morning and then go to the turf facility in the afternoon for team activities such as yoga, capture the flag, Nerf gun fights, soccer or setting up projectors to watch movies.

“I definitely think there are things we did this year that we will keep in the future, maybe just the way we ran a practice or trying to put a few more (team activities) like that where they can be together as a team,” Lachapelle said. “It made us all think how we can do things a little differently from here on out.”

Bergeron said the Merrimack freshmen did some activities together, like card games and a lot of spike ball. She also said the coaches and upperclassmen frequently checked in with the rest of the team.

“We have a leadership committee, which is a bunch of upperclassmen girls ,and they would (gather) information how to make the team better and anything they could to help us,” Bergeron said.

LEWISTON CONNECTIONS

DeBlois and Bergeron enjoy battling against each other.

“It’s always fun going up against her. I played against her a couple times in (prep) school,” DeBlois said. “She’s one of my closest friends, it’s always fun. Between whistles we would always skate by each other, give each other a nod. It’s always funny.”

The pair didn’t play together at Lewiston High School, as each only played one season — DeBlois in 2014-15 and Bergeron in 2015-16 — with the Blue Devils before moving on to play at prep schools — DeBlois at the New Hampton School (New Hampton, New Hampshire) and Bergeron at The Loomis Chaffee School (Windsor, Connecticut).

Lewiston native Lauren DeBlois looks to make a play with the puck during the 2019-20 season. Providence College Athletics photo

They enjoyed their time at Lewiston and said that they still feel connected to the program.

“Bree and I, we loved playing for that team,” DeBlois said. “It was a hard choice to leave and go to boarding school because we loved playing for them so much. To this day, there are amazing girl players going through the program, that’s why they are still one of the top (teams) in the state, like we were when Bree and I were on the team. Even in the summer, you see a bunch of girls on the ice for summer skates from Lewiston. … It’s awesome to see.”

While girls hockey wasn’t a MPA-sanctioned sport during Katie Lachapelle’s time at Lewiston, from which she graduated in 1995 before playing at Providence College, Bergeron and DeBlois recognize how much Lachapelle has meant for the generations of girls players that followed her in the past 26 years.

“I know Bree and I, we talk about it all the time, Katie Lachapelle is one of the first girls to play Division I hockey,” DeBlois said. “She’s someone you look up to, and that matters.”


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