Mel McAleer is no stranger to success.
At Whitman-Hanson, as a member of Pembroke/Whitman-Hanson (2013-14) and then Whitman-Hanson/Silver Lake (2014-17), her teams boasted a 53-26-7 record and cracked the Division 2 tournament each season. During that span, McAleer registered 114 goals and 73 assists. Now, she is carrying over that success at Nichols College.
It took McAleer, a Hanson native, all but 6:55 into her first collegiate contest to find twine. At the 13:05 mark of Nichols College women’s ice hockey’s season opener against SUNY Canton on Nov. 3, Kelly Ferreira passed to Jordyn McGuire who fed the puck to McAleer and she skated a few strides and buried a shot far side for a power-play goal, pushing the Bison up 2-0.
“After realizing that we scored, it was the best feeling.” McAleer said. “My coach did let me keep the puck and I gave it to my mom and she put it in her room as display.”
The tally, which turned out to be the game-winner, came 49 seconds after McAleer dished out her first collegiate assist on a goal scored by McKenna Gernander.
Since that first tilt, McAleer has nine goals and 11 assists and had been tabbed Colonial Hockey Conference Rookie of the Week twice.
McAleer’s most recent honor came Feb. 4 after she tallied four points (two goals, two assists) in 5-2 win over Neumann the day prior. Not only was it a career day for the freshman, but it was a record-setting contest for Nichols, as it set a regular-season wins mark with nine.
“I think that was absolutely my fondest moment because we all dialed in,” McAleer said of the game. “We all worked as hard as possible and together we made [women’s ice hockey] history. This year’s team is a team of firsts and it feels good to be a part of something so successful.”
McAleer’s path to the Bison is a unique one. She was actually recruited by former head coach Wil Brown, who stepped down, and was succeeded by former University of Maine women’s ice hockey assistant Mike O’Grady.
“I touched base with Mel when I got the job and she was in and said she was coming, so we kind of just went from there,” O’Grady said.
McAleer said the biggest adjustment from the high school to college level has been the speed of the game.
“Passes are much crisper and come much faster,” she said.
Building on speed
While at Whitman-Hanson, WHSL head coach Kevin Marani always raved about McAleer’s speed, but O’Grady said he’s seen her develop in other facets of the game as well.
“I think the other part that has come along is her ability to see some lanes, [and] not only put the puck in the net, but also give the puck,” O’Grady said. “She’s gotten better with some patience and the speed of the game and just the way things happen and reading lanes and more of some of the intricacies that come into the college level, playing within a system and understanding how to play within a system and how it can continue to help her be successful in putting the puck in the net.
“She’s grown in that way in terms of her hockey IQ has grown a ton, she’s not just playing at the Mass. high school level, where she was able to be really successful but at the same time, she was so skilled that she stood out a lot more where at the college level, you have to buy into the system, which she’s done very well to be successful.”
McAleer said the key to success at the collegiate rank is simply just competing for your teammates.
“Success on the ice at the college level is playing for the girl sitting next to me,” McAleer said. “I work as hard as possible from the minute I lace up my skates.”
McAleer, whose pre-game ritual consists of putting on her headphones and imagining herself making plays from a fan’s perspective, said fully intends to finish out the campaign strong.
“A personal goal I have for myself is my first collegiate hat trick, but my main goal is my team’s success at all costs,” McAleer said. “I hope to get far in playoffs because we are absolutely capable of that.”