Sam in action vs the Riveters. Photo courtesy BDZ Sports

FROM WHALE TO SHARK, IT'S STILL FINS UP FOR SAM FABER

 

If you are reading this, you may know that our former Captain #28 Samanthav Faber, was one of out most popular Whale, and remains so today. it’s been like that from even before the second game of Season One, when Sam picked up her first NWHL goal and assist. So the outpouring of love and support for Sam when she took a position as the Assitant Coach with Long Island University, was no surprise. Sam transitioned from Connecticut Whale to LIU Shark, and it was still Fins Up from all of the fans in Cetacean Nation! We caught up with Sam recently after a wild first season for the LIU program which saw them capture the New England Women's Hockey Alliance (NEWHA) Conference Championship. More in that in a bit.

But for starters, we asked what point during her career Sam realized that coaching at this level was something she wanted to do? Sam told us

 “In the back of my mind I always wanted to eventually coach at the college level. I loved coaching youth hockey and helping the little ones grow to love the game, but I was ready to take the next step in my career and LIU was the perfect fit for me, I feel truly grateful for my position at LIU.” But it was not all a bed of roses, as the season began with Wisconsin and stayed tough all year. We asked Sam how and when the team started to believe in itself. She responded

 “I can’t put into words how special this season was from beginning to end. I am so proud of the group we had, they had to mature fast because we only had two upperclassmen on the team. Rob Morgan (head coach), just kept saying things like “the storming stage is normal and something all teams go through” and “trust the process” and it really is so true. Playing teams like Wisconsin, UCONN and Yale at the beginning of the year really taught our girls some big lessons quickly, but also made them understand what it takes to get to that level and all the hard work that needs to be put in each day. They started to buy in and of course we had ups and downs, but I think us three coaches would agree that the last three weeks of the season is when they really came together as a group and believed they could do this and I couldn’t be prouder of each and every player on the team for what they accomplished this season, it’s truly remarkable. “

And, as we mentioned, the trial by fire that was the Shark’s season, led to the verdict of champion. And that came as a result of a tough series with Saint Anselm’s, where our #3 Kayla Meneghin coaches. So a clash of Whale.past and present in the NEWHA Championship, what was that like? Sam explained  

“I have definitely had fun going back and forth with Kayla on twitter when it comes to LIU and St. Anslem’s. I met her this summer recruiting and we definitely chat from time to time about the Whale and about coaching. She is a great girl and I am glad we have become friends. I have only known her a short time, but I can tell you that her passion for playing and for coaching is unmatched. She loves hockey and I know she is going to be successful in both her playing career and coaching career. It’s not easy when you have to balance the two and I know Kayla had some tough times with that, because you want to be at every game both playing and coaching, but I just tried to remind her to control what you can control and stay optimistic through the tough times. St. A’s had a great season, and it was a battle right to the end in the final, hats off to Kayla, Kerstin and the whole program, it should be fun next year each time we play them!” 

Sam continued, talking about her collegiates at LIU

“I feel so honored to work alogside Rob Morgan and Nicole Renault (standout defensemen at Syracuse). The three of us didn’t know each other well at the start, but as time went on we realized how much our personalities really balanced each other. I learned a ton from Rob about how to start a new program and the ins and outs of what it takes to be a successful college coach. Rob is more than just a college coach, he truly cares about his players on and off the ice and that shows with how close he is with his family as well. Nicole and I have become not just co-workers, but really great friends. She has a ton of potential, knows the game extremely well, but more importantly she is a great human being and I am lucky to have her in my life. I would like to thank both of them for this year, I respect them both tremendously and hope we can continue to build something special on the island together.”

We also discussed with Sam that several former Whale were coaching in colleges this season. In addition to Sam, Molly Engstrom, Celeste Brown, Jessica Koizumi and Lindsay Berman in particular. Sam stated

"Congratulations to Molly, Lindsay, Celsete and Jess on the start of their successful coaching careers. I know all of them are going to continue to do great things. I do believe more NWHL players will eventually be coaching in college. Like I said above it is extremely hard to play and coach college at the same time because you want to be fully committed and its hard when you can’t be. I see once people retire from playing more will hop over to the coaching world.”

 Coaching styles vary, and we asked Sam to describe her own coaching style. She revealed

 “For me, this being my first year in the college ranks I believe my style will evolve as time goes on and I learn more. I like to think I am a fun coach, however I expect a lot from the players. I want them to know we can have a good time, but working hard is not an option it’s an expectation. I want the players to know that I am someone they can come to if they need anything. Whether it is about hockey or about life, I will be there to support and listen. Bottom line is we are educators and yes I want them to learn more about hockey from me, but I want to help guide them throughout their four years so they have the tools to be successful in life no matter what they chose to do after college.” 

Sam in action vs the Boston Pride. Photo courtesy BDZ Sports

Cetacean Nation figured Sam had a game day routine as a player, and has one now as a coach. We asked her to compare and contrast getting ready to play vs getting ready to coach, and if she still gets that “Game Day” feeling as a coach that she got as a player? Sam replied

 “This is a great question, my routine is much different, but still jammed packed on game days. I never thought I would have that “Butterflies” feeling again like when I was suiting up for a game, but as I coach I definitely did. Especially in the playoffs, I couldn’t sleep, my mind was racing and I woke up feeling like I was about to play, which I thought was a pretty cool feeling. The routine, was obviously making sure the players were ready to go and coaches meetings/prescout video to discuss any tweaks or changes we need to make based on our opponents. “.

We also asked about Sam’s involvement in the recruiting process. She explained.

“The recruiting process is definitely a little different with Covid-19 going on, but we are staying optimistic things will pick back up again this summer. If not, we are in a unique situation where we had a team comprised of mostly freshman, so we are pretty set for the next couple of seasons. Our staff makes sure we stay up to date on our recruiting strategies and we will continue to work through the obstacles we are facing now.” And so we wondered what advice would Sam give to a prep or high school hockey player who wants to try to take her game into the college ranks? “My advice would be to continue to work hard on your game. There are plenty of skills that you can improve on at home or in your driveway, use this time to make your skills better and stay physically fit. Make sure you are staying on coaches radar’s by emailing or sending game videos, so they can watch you play. “.

So how does it look going forward next year for LIU? Sam responded enthusiastically

“It’s looking awesome! The growth of our team over the course of the season and each player individually as well, I expect to see major improvements next year. They know what it takes and what to expect now, but sometimes athletes can get complacent, so our focus is to make sure that doesn’t happen. I also need to mention the kids we have coming in next year will add a lot of depth to our lineup. I see them all making an impact in their freshman seasons and we are very excited to have them representing LIU.”

We also discussed with Sam, the fact we were fortunate enough to be able to interview Marine Devillers,(Scroll down the menu  to her piece “Second Home”) and share some of her amazing story with the fans. And a big part of that story was Sam’s interactions with her “Little Future Draft Picks”. That has been a huge part of the NWHL’s identity., and we asked Sam to comment on that. She observed.

"As a professional athlete it is our jobs to grow our game and be positive role models. To me, with the Devillers family it wasn’t a job to help them or be there for them. They became my family away from home and I feel so grateful for them and I can guarantee you that they will be drafted into the NWHL one day. The women in the NWHL are Professional athletes and they are inspiring and how each of them interacts with the fans on a daily basis is extremely important to the success and growth of our game. These girls now know it’s possible to be a professional hockey player one day, and I remember as I kid, not believing that to be true. With all of the hard work by Dani, Hayley, Anya, all of the players and many more people they continue to make this a reality and I am grateful and proud of everyone in the NWHL.” 

We wondered if the Sharks had similar plans and Sam revealed

"Because we were a new program, we had a lot going on this year so it was tough timing wise to do a lot; however it was a big topic of discussion between our staff in the offseason and next year we will be doing some more things to get the community involved. If all goes well we will also be running an LIU Sharks Summer Camp, so that is in the works! Our team had a good luck charm this year, 11 year old girl named Kayla. Her dad actually brought her to New Hampshire for our semi-final and final game, it was pretty cool to see and awesome for our girls to feel what it means to be inspiring to others. I’ll never forget my first little fan when I was playing at UNH (Morgan White), her sister Taylor Wenczkowski actually graduates from UNH this spring where she had a fabulous career. I still keep in touch with their whole family to this day and it’s an amazing feeling just watching both Morgan and Taylor grow up into great athletes, but even better young women!”

Since Sam was part of the original “expansion” into the existence of the NWHL, we asked her opinion on the move into Toronto, and the future of the sport in general. She gave this thoughtful reply

“The expansion to Toronto is a huge step in the right direction and I am so proud of everyone for sticking to their process and plans and working hard to make it happen. There are a ton of good players out there and it would be nice to have teams in every city like the NHL, but patience is a virtue and good things take time. I just want what’s best for the game and the players because they deserve it and so do all the young girls in the stands aspiring to be just like them one day. “ Sam added “The future is bright for Women’s Hockey and it’s been growing tremendously over the past few years. It’s hard to speak to because of the PWHPA and the NWHL and I have friends in both places. I don’t have all of the information, but the growth of the NWHL is definitely a positive step in the future of the sport and I hope they keep growing. I know the PWHPA believes what they are doing is helping the game, I just don’t have enough information on it to speak to it. I would like to say this though, the women in the NWHL are Professional athletes and to say they aren’t is just straight up wrong” Fins Up to that .

We concluded our interview with Sam by asking:how and where she is dealing with the pandemic? She told us “I have been dealing with the pandemic, just like everyone else, lots of family time and trying to stay optimistic. I have been working from home, so that keeps me busy during the days and I have been doing a ton of cooking at night. I love to cook and learn new techniques, so that’s been fun.” With that we’re headed to the kitchen for a snack, but thank our Captain Fantastc #28 Sam Faber, for her insightful and enlightening content once again. For more on Sam, you can check out her initial interview with us, plus her collaboration with Shannon Doyle in the article Days Of Future Past. Fins Up Fiorever Sam!

Sam’s announcement by LIU Athletics