All along, Katy Massey wanted to play ice hockey at the University of Maine. She wanted it so much, she was planning to go to the school without a promise that she would even get a chance to try out.
Originally, there were no openings on the roster. But in July before her freshman year at Maine, Massey got a call from Maine women’s ice hockey coach Maria Lewis to come sit down for a meeting.
“I saw a kid that had a passion for UMaine,” Lewis said, “and a kid that bled blue before she even showed up. You could see it in her eyes.”
“She just wanted to get to know me in case anything did happen,” Massey said. “Then probably a couple weeks later, she called me and offered me a chance to try out.”
Massey, a Waterville Senior High School graduate, made the team and played in every game last season. Now a sophomore, she’s playing center on a regular shift and has two goals and three assists in 13 games.
Looking back, Massey said she might have transferred if she had not made the team. But just playing hockey wasn’t the main thing.
“I did sort of have opportunities to play at the Division III level at different schools,” she said. “But it didn’t mean what it would mean to me to play here.”
Massey played on the boys team at Waterville, and the Purple Panthers won the Class A state title in 2009 and lost in the 2010 final. She got a lot of attention because of that and is quick to say that no one on the team treated her any differently. While she said her teammates treated her well, it was awkward for her out of necessity because she had to dress alone, while the rest of the team was in the locker room, getting pumped up for the game.
“I would sit by myself the whole time,” she said. “Now, there’s a whole team-bonding atmosphere that I never had with the guys team. I’m not really the odd man out like I was before.”
Lewis said there were advantages and disdvantages to Massey’s high school team. Clearly, Lewis knew Massey could keep her head up and take a hit. But the quality of opponents she faced wasn’t as high as Maine’s other recruits.
“To be honest with you, the high school boys level in Maine — this is just a higher level,” Lewis said. “The level that she was at, I think at the time she was more suited for Division III. Her ice time was very, very minimal last year. She was adjusting to the level of play here.”
“When I first came here, the pace was a lot faster,” Massey said. “I played with boys, and they could skate fast, but they couldn’t really make the plays and the movement that they could here. I get hit harder than I did in high school — in practice, definitely. It’s definitely very physical.”
Massey stands 5 foot 1, but Lewis has her playing center right now because of Massey’s speed and tenacity.
“It’s a very, very difficult position to play on this team,” Lewis said. “It’s coming. She’s getting better and better and obviously we hope she continues to improve.”
Lewis adds that Massey is playing with more confidence now than she has in her entire time at Maine. She also wants Massey to take that a step further. With how hard Massey has worked to get where she is, Lewis thinks Massey should speak up more and take on more of a leadership role.
“I think she has every right to be more vocal and I think her teammates would respond to her and respect what she has to say,” Lewis said. “Her determination, her work ethic and her drive have allowed her to overcome some pretty good odds against her. It usually doesn’t work out that way, so she’s an amazing success story.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243