We recently caught up with our high scoring rookie forwarrd #20 Melissa Sheeran, from Plattsburgh State. In addition to her prolific scoring and numerous awards, her achievement of winning the Laura Hurd Award stands apart. The award is given to the best player in Division III Women’s Hockey. It was named in honor of Laura Hurd, the all-time D-III scoring leader, following her tragic death. When Melissa was honored with this year’s Laura Hurd Award, her Plattsburgh coach Kevin Houle had this to say: "Melissa has become a complete player in her time as a Cardinal, going from a one-dimensional goal scorer to a selfless team player who competes in all three zones. Our team captain and a strong role model for her teammates, she is one of the hardest working players on the team. Melissa is always encouraging and positive; she is not only our best player but is a humble team leader.” And if you look into Melissa’s career a little more closely, you can see why developing her defensive game was just a matter of time. After all, who better than a goaltender, albeit in soccer, to perceive the benefits to a team(and their goalie) of back checking wingers? Melissa has those pitch creds, having been an all-league performer in prep school at Millbrook as a soccer netminder. as well as a hockey forward.
Melissa’s prep school Millbrook, lies over an hour south of Melissa’s home town of Schaghticoke, NY which is located north of Albany. Cetacean Nation asked Melissa about her early hockey career and her years at Millbrook. She told us “ I started playing hockey because my brother did. But then somewhere around 10-12 years old I started becoming more serious about the game and really hoped I’d get the chance to play college hockey. Then my dad came to me one day and said, “if you’re really serious about the sport and you want to play in college I think we need to start looking at prep schools”. At first I really wasn’t too happy about the whole idea of going away, but then my parents suggested we just tour places and if you hate it you don’t have to apply. So I agreed and Millbrook was one of the first schools I had visited and it immediately became my top school. My uncle is the men’s Ice Hockey Coach there so for my parents it was a no brainer as well because I had family so close”
We also asked Melissa to tell us a little bit more about her athletics at Millbrook, and she said
“I played soccer, hockey, and softball all four years at Millbrook. I played catcher and first base in softball, and I played goalie for soccer. I wish I played another sport in college but with hockey being the longest season compared to fall and spring, it would have pretty difficult to do that. I think when you’re young its important to be involved in as many sports as you can. I played hockey all summer long and then I’d get back to Millbrook and soccer season would start, and that was important for me because it allowed me to get away from hockey for a little while, so I could appreciate it more when I got back on the ice. It also helps to not burn out. If I didn’t play anything but hockey my whole life I feel like by my age I’d more than likely be bored with the game or my body would be really broken down.” Melissa earned two New England All-Star hockey berth’s while at Millbrook, and in her senior season she earned Player of the Year honors.
When it came time to choose a college, Plattsburgh was a school Melissa knew something about, including their hockey prowess . So it was s perfect fit, with one possible snag: her soon to be teammate was an arch rival from her prep school days, our current #3 Kayla Meneghin. Melissa told us the interesting story of how that all worked out “ Kayla and I went to rival prep schools. If you know one thing about both of us it’s that neither of us like to lose. Going up against someone that is just as competitive as you and you hate losing is going to create a competitive relationship. I think I didn’t like her because she was really hard for me to play against because she never gave up and neither did I. She did not like me and I did not like her, but we came to find out that you put that compete level on the same line together good things start to happen. She was my roommate my freshman year because we knew each other and didn’t want to be placed with random people. I think once we knew we were going to play together we both just completely let everything that happened in prep school go and she’s been one of my best friends ever since.”
During Melissa’s four years at Plattsburgh, she earned her degree in Fitness & Wellness in the classroom while re-writing the record books on the ice. In 112 games she scored 89 goals and assisted on 97 others, and was a three time first team All-American selection. Melissa also earned numerous conference and tournament awards while playing for the Cardinals and was Plattsburgh’s co-Female Athlete of the Year twice and Conference Player of the Year on two occasions as well. She even was the the subject of articles in a couple of magazines, including Sports Illustrated. We asked Melissa if she had a favorite memory of her days at Plattsburgh. Melissa replied “ I don’t think I can pick a favorite moment from my four years of Plattsburgh State hockey. I was very lucky to be a part of such an amazing hockey program. The Coaches and the Staff at Plattsburgh State were unreal. If I had to choose something it would just be the road trips with the team. I think as a player I took those for granted thinking there was always going to be another one. If you’ve ever played a sport than you know that there is nothing like the feeling of being on the bus with your family for a weekend roadie. I miss that the most and that’s what I look forward to the most playing with the Whale being part of something bigger than myself.” Cetacean Nation also asked Melissa if she had any memories of playing against her Whale teammates in college, and she replied “Yes, I played against every DIII player that is on the Whale. Elmira, Norwich, and Middlebury all those schools. Its kind of weird seeing familiar faces that I’m used to not even being able to talk to in an ice rink, and then now getting to play with them.”
At Plattsburgh, Melissa was a big part of the team’s power play unit, so we wondered if she saw duty on the penalty kill as well. She laughed “ That’s actually a really funny question! The short answer for you is no not really. I was put on the penalty kill my freshman year during practice just doing a run through and I messed up a number of times, and ever since then my coach and I had an understanding that maybe PK wasn’t for me haha, but I was always willing to do it!! “ We also wondered about the hockey culture in Plattsburgh, and if it was similar to where Melissa grew up, a couple hours south. She reflected “ I would say the hockey culture was not super similar I think that the culture changes based on what level you are at. The intensity gets higher and higher as does the commitment to the sport. I think that at Plattsburgh the team culture was unlike any culture I’ve been apart of and I mean that in the best of ways. The commitment that each girl had to the game and to the team was unmatched in all my years of hockey. We were truly a family on and off the ice. There is no greater feeling than going into games knowing that each and every person is willing to put themselves on the line to get the win.” Sounds a lot like the passion that our Whale bring to the ice as well!
Melissa had stated during her senior year, that she was considering coaching after graduation or perhaps playing hockey in Europe. Cetacean Nation asked about that and Melissa revealed “ I thought long and hard about going to Europe to play, but I really wanted to have a job and a stable income right away, and staying in the states gave me that. Once I received word that a job had opened up at The Millbrook school I knew I was going to be in the states, that’s when I decided to become a free agent for the NWHL . Coach Equale reached out to me soon after that!” And the rest as they say, is history, and a happy turn of events for the Pod. Melissa concluded, saying “ I am incredibly humbled at the opportunity to play in the NWHL, and am even more humbled by the opportunity to play for the Connecticut Whale! “ Cetacean Nation thanks our #20 Melissa Sheeran, the Whale’s Upstate Sniper, for her thoughtful and fun replies to our questions. And as we get ready for the season opener this weekend, we are happy to note that Melissa has picked up with the Whale right where she left off at Plattsburgh, scoring one goal and assisting on another in the Whale’s first preseason game. Fins Up to that!