Elena at Connecticut College bottom left) photo Sarah Gordon/The Day) and at Kent School (bottom right) photo courtesy of Kent Athletics

ELENA GUALTIERI: Willing And Able To Assist

Cetacean Nation recently has the opportunity to chat with our newest member of the Pod, forward #18 Elena Gualtieri. And pretty early on, we got a glimpse of her hockey mindset. It came about when we commented on her almost even split of goals and assists while in college. She informed us “So actually it’s kind of funny. Two girls that were getting their calendars and things signed yesterday after the game, they were firing 20, 30 questions at us as they went along the line. And one of the questions was ‘Do you like scoring or do you like assisting?’ I can’t remember who they asked, but she.responded with ‘assists’, she liked having more assists than goals. And the girl was like ‘Who doesn’t like scoring goals?’ :) But it’s not about the scoring of the goals, you’ve got to work together. You know, I think making plays is more important. I mean obviously you need to finish, but I think at least for me, it’s more rewarding.”

Elena comes to the Whale after a great collegiate career up the coast at Connecticut College in New London, and brings a ton of hockey talent with her. And, she brings something else too: a dwarf hamster. In doing some research we found out that Elena is working in the Dean’s office and coaching at her former prep school, Kent. And according to her bio on their website “Ms. Gualtieri lives in the Case Dorm basement with her dwarf hamster.” So obviously, that was the first topic we brought up.Elena  revealed:
"Yes, so we got a hamster in college and I ended up having to take custody of it. There was no one to take care of it. I have a younger brother but he’s not very trustworthy:) So I just brought her with me and all the kid’s here love her, love the fact that I have a hamster. So when I was doing an interview. with Kent News, they threw that in there just for fun.” We inquired as to the the name and size and Elena stated “Cheeks, it’s pretty small .It was kind of meant as just a joke in college, but here I am still with it.”  

Turning back to the Whale, we wondered how Elena became a member of Bray’s Bunch, .and she explained:

"My close friend from Kent, whom I’m currently working with, mentioned something about reaching out to the Whale to see if they needed practice players, We were’t really sure how it worked, we just wanted to skate. We brought it up one night, and our assistant coach knows Bray and we asked if she could see what she thinks, And I guess it just escalated.i went and skated and they said we’d like to see you play at Saint A’s (our 11/15/19 exhibition with Saint Anselm’s) and keep practicing with them so I did. And then after Saint A’s they offered me a contract. It was definitely faster, and I was just happy to be back out there. I like to compete at a high level, so it’s exciting.”

In relatively limited action, Elena registered her first NWHL shot on goal, and was involved in a unique situation, as she served time in Whale Jail for an infraction she did not commit, a bench penalty. She shared with us “That happened in the Saint A’s game as well. I never had to do that before, but I know how it works. So the coach said they want me to go, and I said yeah and I went. . And last game there was a kind of little mix-up with the refs, someone had their knowledge correct, someone didn’t, I’m not sure which one. But I looked at Laura and asked ‘Do you want me to go?, and she was like yeah, But, I go to hop the bench and the ref was like ‘No, no, it has to be someone who was on the ice.’ So I get back on the bench and the two refs were standing there saying different things. So I finally just ended up going, so I guess it didn’t matter.;)

So now Elena is back working at her prep alma mater, we wondered what that was like. She responded:

 “At first I thought it was going to be a little weird, but I think it’s been long enough that it wasn’t as weird as I thought it was going to be. I think the weirdest part was calling my colleagues by their first name. Because obviously when I went here, they were all Mr. and Mrs. and Coach to me. But as far as everything else, I don’t know any of the students here. We have like girlfriends from kids that I went to school with but just recently graduated, but nothing too crazy that would overlap”.

Elena will be coaching soccer and hockey at Kent, and will be involved with the lacrosse program. She told us: “Coaching is a lot of fun. I actually had the head coach of soccer as my coach when I was there. And actually with JV hockey, the head coach is the same coach for soccer. And then for varsity, the two coaches that are here now we’re my coaches when I was here and then another assistant of theirs is actually someone I played with at Kent and stayed in touch with over the course of our college careers.” As far as the lacrosse goes, it was our understanding that her role would be as a timekeeper, which she confirmed “Yes, so that’ll be, depending on their schedule, once or twice a week, whenever they have home games, and I’ll do the clock basically. Just something to keep me busy ai guess, not too crazy a commitments timekeeper.. So the coach is the AD and was my advisor and teacher while I was here, so she threw me in with lacrosse even though I didn’t play lacrosse., it’s kind of similar to hockey in some ways.”

Elena explained how she came to be at Kent presently, saying

“It was kind of like home for me. But I guess when I got to the fall if my senior year in college, my roommates boyfriend actually worked at Loomis (Loomis-Chaffee Prep) , so in the spring of junior year or fall if senior year, whenever he would visita, he would talk about things at Loomis. And one of my close friends at a Kent was working pig at Lent, she graduated the year before me so I talked to her about it a little bit and it sounded like the best of both worlds. It’d be good to get your foot in the door, you never know where it’s going to take you. You might stay, you might move on but I thought it would be a good first start for me. Coaching, doing some office work, maybe teaching in the future. So I  got in touch with some of my old teachers and asked for their advice, opinion and help in the process and they were super supportive.”

And as far as any physical changes to the campus since she was a student there, Elena told us “So actually the most recent building was put up the year before I came in. So six or seven years ago, I actually lived in that dorm. As far as anything else changing, interiors I guess have been updated in some buildings. Nothing crazy, but it is good to see some updates with some of the places that definitely needed a make-over.”

Elena hails from Rome, New York just East of Syracuse in the Central-Leatherstocking Region of the state. Cetacean Nation asked how Elena got her start there in hockey, and she revealed “So, it’s kind of funny. My Mom I guess would give my Dad a hard time. Like ‘ Let her choose what she wants to do’ But my Dad used to play hockey and some of his relatives used to play hockey. So I was on figure skates at first, and there was a game before or after practice, whatever it was, and I asked him what that was and he said it was ice hockey and I said I want to do that, So of course, he was like, Okay! And he got me on skates immediately. So I did both for awhile then ended up choosing hockey. I think I did both until the first or second year of squirts. So I was first put on skates when I was like four. I actually started out as goalie. I did both out and goalie I think I only played forward maybe a little bit of D, but once it was competitive, it was all forward, mostly left wing” 

Elena also spoke of some of her other athletic activities and told us “I did soccer mostly, and that was kind of all year round, like hockey, but just not in the winter, I would play in the spring and summer, but hockey mostly obviously. When I was at Kent I didn’t want to do lacrosse just because of the rules and all of the whistles, I was just really stubborn and was like ‘I won’t be able to do that’ So I ended up doing golf my sophomore year. So when I came into Kent I repeated myself one year. I did golf one year and then after that worked my way into fitness.” We asked if she still made it out on the links and Elena said “For fun occasionally when I have time and a somebody to go with.”

There were several interesting aspects of Elena’s youth hockey career, including winning a Tier II USA Hockey U14 National Championship in 2011 playing for a Rome Grizzlies squad her father Mark coached. Elena was the team’s leading scorer in the tourney, and the exposure helped her with the next step in her hockey and academic career. She explained

“So I was playing in California at Nationals, and it was a Tier II team. My Tier I team had folded the season prior and my Dad just threw a team together in Rome actually. It wasn’t the greatest hockey but we ended up going really far which was totally unexpected with a ream that had never played with each other before. So we went all the way to a Nationals and thee were some prep school coaches there who contacted coach, my Dad and another coach of mine who I used to play for. I played in Syracuse and they introduced us to the idea of prep school so we took a look at New Hampton, Loomis, Hotchkiss and a couple of different schools. I did some visits, and I think when I was playing for Syracuse we would visit Millbrook., and there were a couple of other girls on my Syracuse team who also went on to prep school.

She continued "So when we looked into it, we thought it would be a good idea, but that year some things didn’t work out. And then the following year we were just getting ready for the next year, seeing what players we had on the ice in the spring. And one of my former coaches again was contacted by the head coach at Kent, and it was going to be his first year coaching at Kent. He said ‘ Hey, I need some players. Do you have any girls you can send me their contact info, so he gave him mine a spa I went for a visit, had an interview, and fell in love with the school, and yeah, everything worked out.”

Elena had a great career on the ice for the Kent Lions, including serving as Captain on a couple of championship teams. Not surprisingly, some of her her fondest memories from Kent revolve around those teams. She reflected “I think my senior year we were undefeated heading into the quarter finals, facing Loomis for the third time in the season. We had already beaten them twice and we were like ‘it’s not going to be easy beating a team tor the third time in a season it’s kind of unheard of especially because they were all tight games, evenly matched, they’re our rival. But we came in fired up and we ended up beating them for the third time in the quarterfinals , and then winning in the semi’s and having an undefeated season was pretty special I think.I think we obviously had some pretty big accomplishments for the program, like the first Founders Championship we won was the first ever in Kent girl’s hockey history, and I believe when we won the PKO Tournament , that was the first time ever as well.”

So that was some of Elena’s background when it came time to decide on where to continue her hockey and education, and she revealed how that came to be Connecticut College.

“Fall of senior year I think I was a little late into the process, I was looking at Middlebury and Hamilton, but some places you just feel at home when you’re touring and Hamilton wasn’t the place and I didn’t want to Bree that close to,home, Hamilton is about twenty minutes. I’s been away from home for the past three years and I didn’t want to be too close.. Conn and Middlebury would have been a lot further and I don’t think know, I just ended up going with my gut and chose Conn.”

It turned out to be a great choice for Elena, and she ended up playing on one of the most competitive teams in a very competitive conference. As she explained

“The whole league is competitive even the teams with their credentials of having a won NEPSAC championships in the past. Trinity, Wesleyans, Colby, super competitive, Bowdoin really competitive, so it’s all fast, everyone’s gritty, so no game was ever easy. I was looking at scores this weekend and I think Conn lost to Midd 4-0 on Saturday,and just talking to the girls it sounds like it was a still a super fast game. Sometimes the scores don’t tell the compete and the pace of the games.” 

We mentioned Elena’s relatively even goal to assist ratio, and that came via twenty-nine goals and thirty-one assists with the Camels. As to her favorite memories of those four years, there were not unexpectedly, several. Elena told us this

“I think Fenway (outdoor game at Fenway Park 1/12/17) ) was a pretty cool experience for everyone. But honestly I think I would say, we had some OT wins., and  I had an OT goal last year. But the energy that we had in the locker room before we played Middlebury in the quarter finals was something I had never seen from that team before., and I think that was really special , but there was. an unfortunate end to our season, something that we definitely didn’t deserve, especially the way we played that whole game. But everyone was fired up in practice the whole week leading up to, you know , on the bus, during a meal leading up to the game , between periods, I think that was one of my favorite moments, week, game day, at Conn."

We were curious about some details from that game and Elena elaborated for us:

“I want to say no score in the first period, then we cam out back to back, my line had a goal in the beginning of the second and then we went out for a power play a couple of shifts later and we went up 2-0. And then with under a minute in the third a Middlebury scored, but we were like it’s alright, we’ll be fine it’s just one goal and there’s like 30 seconds left or something like that, but they scored another one fifteen seconds later, and we ended up losing in overtime.. it was a stupid goal, it like trickled up over the goalie’s glove, we all thought it was going to land on top of the net, but it ended up hoping in.Yeah. We had a pretty tough season, we had a hard time getting to that energy for a lot of the season. And the fact that we could get back up to that level going into the playoffs against Midd, we hadn’t had much success in the season, so it was pretty cool. I don’t know, it just didn’t go our way. Kind of unlucky.”

Academically, Elena received her major degree in Psychology from Connecticut College and a minor in Art. We asked about how they came about and she told us

“So I took photography at Kent and I really liked it, it was black & white photography , it was my senior year, I really enjoyed it. So Conn being liberal arts we had to take all these different courses to fulfill seven areas. So I took the Intro class and then I was was able to take the photo classes, so that was my intent to continue with photo. They didn’t have very many options after Photo II. There was print making which was kind of fun, and just the way the classes turned out by the time my senior year came around, what was offered and what wasn’t I was going to do an independent study each semester with my minor adviso, but he ended up retiring. So I was only able to get through one of them, and my senior year spring was kind of tough becausevI was in some drawing classes, they were pretty tough but I was able to,pull it off.But photo was the interest and you know after taking intro class and then the three photo classes, I was pretty close to finishing the minotr so I figured I might as well do it.”

We wondered if she was pursuing her interest in photography and Elena said “Unfortunately not yet, I haven’t been able to find the time but I would like to get my own camera and take advantage of, I think we’re getting the darkroom back at Kent, I think they put it on hold when we were over-enrolled this year, and they turned it into a day room for students. But I heard it’ll be back this year, or maybe next year”

As ro the psych part of her studies Elena acknowledged, “Again it started at Kent. I took AP psych my senior year and really enjoyed it and I saw when I was looking for classes my freshman year psychology had a lab and it counted as a science, and I was like ‘Why not?’ So I  went for it, took the intro, got the lab, and I just kept taking psych classes after that.”

Another cool hockey event occurred while Elena was at Connecticut College, was her involvement with the NA Stars, and playing in the Prague Tournament in the Czech Republic. And her Coach there was our former #31 Keire Goin. Elena recalled

“So, it was my first trip to Europe and it was a really cool experience, it was a tournament team, and Keira coached at Wesleyan so one of our games she must have seen me play. She reached out and asked if I would be interested  in this so I asked my parents and they said they thought it was a pretty cool opportunity and I should do it.I liked having her on the bench. I don’t think there was much room for her to actually coach, I think my year there was her first, and I think she played in the previous years. It must have been new to her but I thought she did a pretty good job.”

Before wrapping things up with Elena, we oasked her as we always do, about the genesis of her uniform number. She said

"Well, I’ve been #15 since as long as I can remember. I don’t know why 15 stuck, my Dad would probably know There was one moment at Kent where I was #18 because #15 was taken. I have a weird thing with numbers, I think might be with a lot of girls. I think I was maybe #21 once for soccer back in public school Not a fan of low numbers, not a fan of super high numbers, I like 12, I like 15, 18, 21, and threes.the options I had (with the Whale) I think were like 13,16, and maybe a number in the twenties, not really a fan of any number in the twenties. Don’t like 13, don’t like anything with the number six in it. So, 18 was perfect.” Cetacean Nation agrees, and we are excited to watch Elena register some more NWHL firsts in the coming games. Thanks to our #18 Elena Gualtieri for her thoughtful and interesting input, and letting the fans get to know her a little better. Fins Up!

Elena on the ice in her first game with the Pod. Photo courtesy of Dan Rice.