By Kate Robinson, published in Dartmouth Week
The Bishop Stang High School girls’ ice hockey team differs from the boys’ team in more than a few ways — but one major distinction is that more than half of the girls hail from outside the Catholic high school on Slocum Road.
And two of them are from Stang rival school Dartmouth High.
The girls’ team is a co-op comprised of students from six high schools: Bishop Stang, Dartmouth, Somerset Berkley Regional, New Bedford, Joseph Case in Swansea, and Coyle and Cassidy in Taunton.
But their cohesion rivals that of single-school teams, as attested by their 6-2-1 season record and their dedication running drills with Head Coach Bill Theodore during a recent practice at Hetland Arena in New Bedford.
Many on the team knew each other from playing in youth hockey leagues before high school, so playing together is no problem for them — even if they wear another school’s colors.
“I really like the variety of all the different schools coming together,” said co-captain Jocelyn Silva of Somerset. “And how well we work together, it amazes me as I get older.”
“We’re all from different schools, but we’re all really close,” agreed co-captain and junior at New Bedford High Madison Andre. “It makes it better. I feel like if we were all from the same school, there’d be too much chaos and drama seeing each other every hour of the day. It’s a nice break.”
Co-captain Skylar Samanica of New Bedford, who attends Bishop Stang, added that the team feels like a family.
“No matter what’s going on in your outside life, when you walk into the locker room, it’s almost like all your troubles go away because you’re surrounded by your family,” she said. “And you know that every single one of those girls has your back.”
The coaches are also a family — in a literal as well as figurative sense, as assistant coaches include Theodore’s wife Julie Devine-Theodore, their daughter Megan, and (formerly) son Corey.
Theodore, who lives in Dartmouth, has been with the Bishop Stang team since its second year in 2014.
He noted that Corey used to play hockey for Dartmouth High. “It was a big thing, you know, the switchover from Dartmouth to Stang,” he said with a smile, adding that they’re all just here for love of the sport.
“Even though [the girls] go to different schools, they buy the Stang bags, they wear the clothing,” he noted. “Which really touches me, because it shows that they’re proud to be here.”
“They have fun together,” he added, saying that he has fun coaching too. “If I didn’t, I would quit, believe me. I told my boss I’m here until I stop having fun.”
Theodore said that the main challenge for the sport is lack of interest, which is why many high schools have combined teams. But, he said, “I think it’s getting better.”
“My goal is just to advance girls’ hockey,” he added. “We want as many kids to play high school hockey as we can get.”
That’s partly why the girls got the team to form a co-op with Somerset Berkley just three years after the program’s inception, in the 2015-16 season.
And so far, it’s worked well.
Dartmouth High sophomore Liv Fryer said that she doesn’t get much flak for wearing a Stang jersey at school — even though the schools are cross-town rivals.
“I’d only get looks, but usually not,” she laughed. “People are more curious. Like, when they see my name on it, they [ask]. A lot of people don’t know there’s a co-op.”
But, she added, she doesn’t usually go to the big Dartmouth-Bishop Stang boys’ hockey game.
“I stay away from that,” she said with a smile.