Cougars skate towards a new season

Chatham men’s and women’s ice hockey teams approach winter season

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The women’s ice hockey team celebrating a goal during the 2021-22 season. Photo Credit: Chatham Athletics

Josie Barton

The Cougars are transitioning from the field to the ice as both the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams prepare for their respective seasons to begin.

The women’s ice hockey team ended its 2021-22 season with a 12-8-0 record in its United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC). As the first collegiate varsity women’s ice hockey program in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the team is taking steps in a new era – building the program from the ground up and making their way to the top of the UCHC.

Michael O’Grady, Chatham women’s ice hockey head coach, is ecstatic about the growth he has seen after joining the program in 2019. Leading by example, O’Grady’s coaching philosophy encompasses passion and consistency.

“I want to develop a program that helps develop the whole human – student, athlete and human being,” O’Grady said. “We value respect, hard work and accountability.”

With a finite number of local teams, the coaching staff approaches the recruiting process with creativity. 

Ushering players from areas around Pittsburgh and New York, Colorado, California, Alaska and Canada, the team flourishes in diversity, culture and experience.

“You get to make friends that will be there for you all over the world,” O’Grady said.

Men’s ice hockey

After a successful 2021-22 season, ending with a 7-7-4 season record in the UCHC, the men’s ice hockey coach Michael Gershon holds great expectations in his third season of coaching the team.

“We need to beat the teams that are below us, compete with the teams that are above us and do it consistently,” Gershon said.

Gershon focuses on using the natural talent of each player on the ice by giving them the freedom to make individual decisions. With an ever-evolving program and a diverse group, the team’s game routine has changed significantly throughout the years.

The men’s ice hockey team’s bench celebrating after a goal scored in the 2021-22 season. Photo Credit: Chatham Athletics

“We want them to be predictable to our own team and unpredictable to the opponent,” Gershon said. “You can’t score without the puck and you can’t get scored on if you have the puck.”

Holding the fourth spot in the UCHC preseason poll ranking, the highest in program history, the team looks to build on their semifinal spot from last year. Gershon expects great opportunities and a solid team structure this season.

“We’re constantly playing meaningful games in our tournament and our league,” Gershon said. “At the end of the day, it’s the guys on the ice.”

Gershon is committed to his players’ development on and off the ice and his passion for the sport. The team’s alumni support and praise reflects their long-term goal to stay relevant and committed to a strong future alumni.

“We hope they come in as young men and leave as young adults,” Gershon said.

After successful seasons from both the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams, O’Grady and Gershon hold high expectations for the Cougars. Both teams maintain an ever-increasing GPA, and according to Gershon, the men’s team held the top male sport GPA at Chatham for three consecutive years. 

Both teams highlight the importance of involving themselves in the Pittsburgh area through local volunteer work at the Hunt Armory Ice Rink as well as work with the Pittsburgh Penguins. O’Grady and Gershon hope the Cougars will continue to work together to further develop the program.

“That is an awesome thing to see: Our players giving back to the community and helping diversify the game of hockey,” O’Grady said.

Looking ahead

With a goal to win its conference, O’Grady looks forward to the upcoming competition. The women’s team’s next game will take place on Nov. 5 against Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. Ranked the sixth team in the country, the Golden Flyers hold a high standing after knocking the Cougars out of the playoffs for two consecutive years.

The men’s team will face off against King’s College in its first conference game on Nov. 4 in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. After beating the Lions twice in the 2021-22 season, Gershon expects a battle – but nothing the Cougars can’t face.