#3 Kayla Meneghin during warm-ups prior to the Whale vs Whitecaps at Terry Conners Rink

KAYLA MENEGHIN: THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE

Cetacean Nation first caught up with our hard-working rookie winger #3 Kayla Meneghin, while she was on her way to a recruiting trip for Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, where she had just become the Assistant Coach of the women’s hockey team last offseason. And this year, when we connected with Kayla, she was….on a recruiting trip for St. Anselm’s. The Hawk’s had a very successful season, and we asked Kayla about her first year as a coach in the program. Kayla told us “I couldn’t have started my coaching career with a better program. The girls and Coach (Kirsten) Matthews are amazing and I am learning so much from the both of them. It was great to be on the coaching side of hockey because you see the game differently and realize a couple things that my previous coaches have said that I find myself saying now. I didn’t understand (those things) when I played but now I do. I definitely think having this coaching role has helped me grow into a different player this year as well. I had such a great year and I love where I am now with Saint Anselm. I plan to stay here as long as Kerstin lets me! “

We also asked Kayla about her coaching style, and what influences she’s had in that regard. She reflected on this and said “I guess you can say that I’m more of a laid back coach. I’ve heard from a bunch of the girls at our banquet about my sense of humor so you can definitely say I’m still a jokester like I was as a player. Even though I joke around with them I know that there are times I need to be serious because the girls will feed off of that. I’ve had many different coaches in my career where I have been able to learn different styles of games and systems. Obviously playing at Plattsburgh Coach Kevin (Houle) and Coach Danielle (Blanchard) were my coaches the longest so I’ve played their type of hockey the longest. So it was hard going to Saint Anselm and learning Kerstin’s way of doing things. But now that the year is done I can say that I’m very happy that I’ve had the chance to learn two different types of ways to coach and play the game.”

Kayla brought a relentless, aggressive, two-way style of play that fit in well with the exciting pace of the Whale games this season. She appeared in ten games for the Pod, and recorded a couple of blocked shots and one goal. In Kayla’s first interview, we mentioned she was a native of New Jersey, “ a short drive down Route 21” from the Riveters home ice. The native returned home twice to play in her backyard, and in the November 25th game, Kayla scored her first NWHL goal, assisted fittingly, by our other New Jersey native #16 Hanna Beattie. So Cetacean Nation wondered what some of the adjustments were that Kayla had to make this season, moving into the professional ranks. She replied “ I think the biggest adjustment for me was the speed of the game and learning how to move the puck quicker and making quicker decisions. Whether it was passing, shooting or going to the net. When I go back to thinking about playing in college I realized I had a lot more time to make decisions. Which for me meant I would hold onto the puck longer to either get a shot off or to make a pass. Now that I played with the Whale at a higher speed, I realized that having to make quicker decisions and getting faster would only help better my game and help the team” 

 

Kayla also said her offseason training would be different this year. She explained “I usually worked out and played hockey a couple times a week with one of my best friends Alexa Aramburu who played for the Riveters last season.. But now that I live in New Hampshire, I probably will have a different routine. So my routine will consist of CrossFit, some synthetic training and obviously I’m going to get on the ice as much as possible.” Kayla also added this about her first year with the Pod. “Playing with a team like the Whale, developing chemistry with new teammates I think is my favorite part. Because you get to play with so many different combinations and it’s fun and interesting to see who you can have chemistry with. I think for us, we all came to compete and work hard at practice and that’s what made us better at the end, so it’s great to be in that kind of atmosphere. Without that atmosphere I don’t think I grow as a player and I would like to think I did this year.”  Kayla continued speaking about adjustments and changes.  “Obviously having a coaching job three hours away from our rink was a bit of a challenge. But I was able to manage my time so that I was able to make a practice a week and sometimes I even made it to both practices. Overall, I think my experience and adjusting to the something new has helped me grow as a person and helped me learn from others on the team through their experiences as well.”

Cetacean Nation also wondered what Kayla’s favorite memory or moment was in her inaugural year with the Pod. She replied “I think my favorite memory or moment was in Pittsburg, because that was the first road trip I had gone on with the team. Being that we were away we spent a lot of time together and that’s where I started becoming closer to two of best friends right now (Nina Rodgers and Kim Tiberi). Kim and I actually flew out of Boston and met the team in Pittsburgh. To add to my favorite memory. Kim forgot her skates in Boston that weekend and Hanna, Kim, Nina and I had to walk to a Pure Hockey that was a mile away to get Kim new skates so she could skate!! Kayla also related Another favorite moment of mine is when we would get a group to go bowling after a practice to just hang out. I would say we were a very close group. I’m not sure how close the team has been in the past. But being a rookie the girls who previously played were very welcoming and friendly. We definitely got along well and loved to joke and hang out with each. And when Saint Anselm went down to play Post University we actually went to the same bowling alley for team bonding and the girls had fun.”

We also asked Kayla if she would weigh in on where she see’s her sport, in light of some of the evolving situations this offseason. She opined “I think having one league is an amazing opportunity for women’s hockey players and women in general. I just watched a video of Notre Dame Women’s Basketball coach speaking about empowering women. Muffet McGraw says, “when these girls are coming out, who are they looking up to to tell them that’s not the way it has to be.” I mean you have women all over this league who are trying to make a change so that women in the league don’t have to work 2-4 jobs, and can live off playing a professional sport. It’s great to see that the NHL ( allocating the CWHL portion of their support to the NWHL) is going to step in and I can’t wait to see what else women’s professional hockey has to offer.” -

Cetacean Nation had posted a little about Kayla’s softball days , and we asked her a little more about that. She said “I always loved to play softball, that was the sport I could go to and dive all over the place and let loose because it wasn’t my main sport, so I acted like a goof. I always love to pick up the glove or bat and toss the ball around. So it’s more of an activity for me and if I get the chance or if I have to do, I would go do it.” We then wrapped up our discussion with Kayla, by getting her responses to a few Rapid Fire fun questions:

Favorite Dunkin’ beverage: “I don’t drink a lot of things other than water. But when I do have Dunkin I’ll go for an iced teaunsweetened with lemon!”

Favorite road rink: ”I loved playing in NJ this year just because my first time playing there I had a bunch of family and friends come out and support and I was able to score my first goal there.”

Favorite post game meal: “Spaghetti and meatballs”

Favorite long drive to practice music: “I had to do this a lot this year because my drive was three hours so I had a lot of new music choices this year. But to help I listened to Big Bootie mixes and then I would toss on some top hits.”

Yankees or Mets: “Obviously Yankees!”

We appreciate Kayla sharing her post season thoughts with us, and look forward to the return of the native, #3 Kayla Meneghin for her sophomore season with the Pod. Fins Up!