Image courtesy of Adrian College Athletics

NICOLE GUAGLIARDO: THE WARRIOR

“Now I'm a warrior
Now I've got thicker skin 
I'm a warrior I'm stronger than I've ever been                                                                            And my armor, is made of steel, you can't get in

I'm a warrior”

These lines from “Warrior” by Demi Lovato, reminded some of us of a 21st century version of Shakespeare’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. Several of our Whale have had their forty miles of rough road on their way to the Pod. And one of them is our amazing rookie winger #13 Nicole Guagliardo, a warrioras you’ll see as her story unfolds. Whale fans first met Nicole as a Whale Draft Pick in this year’s awesome Draft Night event. And she was unveiled to us by our very own GamerDoc who in her typically awesome fashion, nailed the pronunciation of Guagliardo! So Draft Night seemed to be a good place to start our conversation with Nicole, and Cetacean Nation asked her what it was like. She told us

“I was excited! Draft night was an exciting night for me! I was up in my Michigan with my friends, and it was the first pick of the Fifth Round, and Connecticut was up. My friends and I were around the computer, anxiously waiting to see if my name was going to get called. And luckily, they called my name! And they pronounced it right, and I was super impressed by that! The second G is silent. She (GamerDoc) said that she practiced it five times, I could tell. And of course, she’s another redhead like me, so I thought that was kind of funny. I thought: Oh, another redhead, perfect! And it was super exciting, and I was just so happy to be officially drafted to the team! “

We wondered when Nicole first got to know about the NWHL and also when did she decide she might want to play there. Her answer reveals how the presence of the NWHL can become a big part of the college hockey experience.

“I first found out about it when it formed back in 2015, and ever since I knew the league was forming, I knew I wanted to be a part of it right away! (Awesome!) Growing up, there was no professional hockey for females, and I always said I was going to be the first female to play in the NHL because there was no NWHL. So as soon as that came out, I was ecstatic about it, and knew right away I wanted to to play in that league one day, that’s what I want to do. I always knew I wanted to play in it. I just love hockey a lot, and I knew that after college, it was going to be upsetting. Like what am I supposed to do, I don’t want to end my career. Basically Olympics is all female players had. So if you didn’t make that, it was like: Uh-huh, beer league it is, I’m going to go play with my Dad! So it was really exciting that there became a league, and I just wanted to be part of it, so I am so glad that I am now.”

As a player, Nicole possess’ both size and speed, and Cetacean Nation wanted to know how she would describe her style of play. She informed us

"I would say that I am a bigger girl, and I’m known for putting up points, goals and assists, either way. I have a hard shot, so it’s typically one of the better shots on the team. I have speed, size, I’m strong on the puck, and don’t get knocked off very much. I’m known for winning battles in the corners and stuff. So a hard shot, pretty good on the power play, and the PK if needed, but I prefer the power play more. I PK’d a lot this year, which is something I haven’t done in past years, but it was nice to penalty kill again. I’m known more for the power play. I can play either side on the wing really, it doesn't matter to me. But I kind of prefer my off side. I like going down the ice and then I can cut in and I’m on my forehand side. When I’m breaking the puck out,bI can kind of stand, I’m a lefty if you think about it, and my body is kind of between the opposing team and the puck. So I could catch it that way, kind of my back’s almost facing the defenseman, and turn. I could do it the other way, but I’d be exposing the puck right to the other team. That’s what I found this year, so I kind of like playing on the off wing. It’s just easier to make plays on the wall, I think. Also, I’m a left handed shot, and those are some of my assets.”

Before we went any further, we wanted to ask how and where Nicole was dealing with dealing with the pandemic, and she explained

 “First of all, it was just awful hearing about our season ending. But after finding that out (I go to school in Adrian, Michigan), that’s where I was at. And within a couple of days everyone just started going home. And at first we thought our school would just be just online for the next two weeks. We’d all go home and come back in two weeks and see each other. Unfortunately we didn’t come back in two weeks. It got extended for the whole year. So unfortunately I didn’t get to say goodbye to a lot of people I’m probably never going to see again. So that was sad, we never really got that closure. So then I was staying at my house, I’m from the suburbs of Chicago, so I was staying home there for over a month. I’m just there with my Mom and my Dad, and my brother lives downtown in Chicago, so he’s not at home anymore. And it kind of got to the point where I needed to get out of the house. I was going crazy not having something to do all day. Of course I had school work, but it was just me and my Mom and Dad, and I was like: Uhh. I’m just always an active person that always likes to be doing something, and so being trapped in the house was just really hard for me.”

Nicole scored 16 goals and added 17 assists and second team ACHA All American honors in her senior campaign at Adrian.

Nicole continued "So I actually have this house in Adrian, Michigan and I pay rent until the lease ends in August. So a couple of the other girls have also been quarantined at home and they haven’t been leaving their house either. So we said: Hey, why don’t we quarantine together in the house we still pay for? So I’ve been here the past couple of weeks, just quarantined with them! It’s been a lot of fun with them, so that’s how I’m dealing with it. There’s more activities to do here, I can play different sports with them, and being there’s no school we can go to the baseball field and play baseball, we can play tennis with each other, or volleyball. We’re rollerblading a lot together, so there’s different things we can do rather than when I’m home alone by myself with my parents working all day. Not a lot I could do.”

The Chicago area has produced a number Whale over the years. We mentioned Nicole Stock and Jordan Brickner and Nicole added Emma Vlasic and Katelyn Russ too. I know Katelynn, I played against her my whole life. She played for Chicago Young Americans and I played for Chicago Mission. i also played against her in high school hockey, I read her article, and I know she was talking about Upper Fox Valley, so. I played against here at Barrington High School too. So I was always enemies or rivals with her, and now we’re teammates, so that should be interesting. And I played against her at Union, of course, too. When I was at Mercyhurst I played against her, and at a Lindenwood as well. I’m hoping Sonjia Shelly signs too, I’m waiting for her. I’m actually friends with her, she also played at Chicago Mission the same time, so I’ve always known her. And I played against her at Saint Lawrence! So I’m hoping she commits, because I want someone I know who I can live with, she laughed. I think Katelynn’s living in Boston because she’s working up there, so that’s not really an option, so I’m hoping Sonjia signs. I don’t know Emma Vlasic, I just recognized the name and looked it up and saw she had played for CYA. I think she was older, so I never played against her but I kind of know of her.” well our former #31 has signed since we chatted, so slight change of plans, as Nicole will now be trying to bury a few in the back of the net against Sojo! 

 As always with our Pod, Cetacean Nation was curious how young Nicole got started in hockey, and she revealed

“I started playing hockey because of my Dad, he played, he’s been playing forever. And I always watched him when I was a kid. I was begging my Mom to let me play when I was three years old. And she was like: No, no, no it’s too dangerous, why don’t you try figure skating? And I was like: No, I want to play hockey! So finally when I was six years old she said: Fine, if you really want to play so bad, I’ll sign you up. So I started off as a goalie, like my Dad, because he was a goalie, I followed in his footsteps. That only lasted a couple of years, and then I was like: Nah, I want to score the goals, it’s more fun! So then I just became a skater, I grew up playing boys hockey because there was no girls hockey. So I played boys hockey up until I was thirteen and that’s when I switched over to girls. Then I was playing AAA and played for Chicago Mission, and graduated from there and went on. At Chicago Mission we were always rated as one of the top teams, either first or second. I feel it we weren’t rated one of those top teams, we were pretty disappointed with ourselves. We won the National Championship in 2015, I actually have a ring for that. We placed in the Nationals every year we got there there except my U14 year.I’ve got two bronze, and a gold, and maybe a silver, I don’t remember, it was so long ago.”

Nicole attended Barrington High School in Barrington, Illinois, Barrington had one of the first girls programs in the state, beginning back in the early 1990’s. We asked Nicole about her days with the Fillies and she filled us in

“We were allowed to play on two teams, which we were thankful for. High school hockey in Illinois, kind of like Katelynn said (in her interview on the site), isn’t very competitive, and like she said too, there were some girls who were just staring playing hockey who were on our teams. So it was just more for fun for me, just to try things that I couldn’t try in a normal game at Mission. Like move’s and different things, and helping other girls out and being like a leader to them, that was fun too. But it was just like extra ice time to have, and it brought me cool memories. We went to the State Championship my last year, and we ended up playing at the United Center, where the Chicago Black Hawks play, so that was cool to play on their ice. And one year I got selected as one of the top three forwards in the league. They pick a team, three forwards, two defensemen, and a goalie, just like the top players in the league. And I got to miss like two days of school for that, and I got to meet all the Black Hawks, have lunch with them, watch their practice, and get a tour of their locker room, all that stuff. So that was really exciting. I think I was on TV with Patrick Kane actually. I was standing right next to him while I was getting my award, so that was cool. So high school hockey brought me some great memories as well as fun. In the championship game, the other team we played had four lines, and we only had two or three of us that were really good I guess, so me and this other girl were double shifting the whole game, and by the third period we were just gassed. Because we were playing every other shift and they had four lines. They had better skill, better depth, so we unfortunately lost that game. We shouldn’t have been doing it the whole game, but oh, well!” 

BITD, Nicole followed in her Dad’s footsteps foe awhile, and spent some time between the pipes as a Little Future Draft Pick! Photo courtesy Manny Guagliardo.

We also asked if Nicole had played any other sports seriously  growing up? She replied

 “No, hockey  was my main thing as soon as high school hit. Of course I played on the sports teams in middle school but I really wouldn’t count that as as anything. I played a year of volleyball and a year of basketball, but nothing serious, and I played baseball growing up until I was nine or ten. But like I said, nothing ever serious. Hockey was my main focus, so it was hockey 24/7 for me. Honestly, even before middle school I knew that. Because even sports that I played in middle school, if I had a hockey game or hockey practice I would miss whatever sport, like the volleyball game. Hockey was more important. I played track and field actually too. I did the 400m, 200m, 100m and the hurdles one time. That was awful, I fell. I tripped over the first hurdle and fell so I never did that one again" she laughed. "And then also the long jump. But then I realized I wasn’t getting 1st all the time and I was like: What the heck, I’m going back to hockey, I wasn’t as fast as I thought I was! So OK, maybe better on the ice:) But I remember I didn’t go to Sectionals which is the biggest thing for that league. Sectionals is a huge event, but I had some hockey tournament, and I was like: I’m not going to Sectionals, hockey is more important to me. Hockey’s always been my #1.”

At the collegiate level, Nicole started down those forty miles of rough road. She played at three colleges, which is unusual, and she has a very interesting story about how that came to be. So we began by asking how she came to chose her first school, Mercyhurst and where things went from there. She disclosed

“Well, I had a few offers from schools, and I felt Mercyhurst was the best fit when I visited there. It was good for the first two years, and I met great people there. I made great friendships, And I still talk to them everyday actually. Unfortunately, the hockey wasn’t very good for me. The coach really didn’t believe in me, and I didn’t get the kind of playing time I wanted. Luckily I went to a different school, as I transferred to Lindenwood, and that coach did believe in me and I did play. I was able to prove my old coach at Mercyhurst wrong, which was one of the best feelings, honestly. Lindenwood is in the same league as a Mercyhurst, so I played against them. And I remember the first game I played against them I scored the first goal and it was bar down! I happened to fall on my knees and I was like sliding into their bench, and I was making direct eye contact with my former coach. Best goal, hands down, in my college career! It was just amazing. I got an assist later on and we beat them 4-1, so that was amazing. But overall, I got the most points on my team, and ended up finishing ninth overall in our league. Only two Mercyhurst players had more points than I did. . And, I was playing on a team that wasn’t as good. We were ranked lower than them, so it was kind of hard to get points. We didn’t have as many skilled players as Mercyhurst. Maybe if I had stayed there I would have gotten more points, but oh, well! she laughed But that was awesome to prove him wrong, that was exciting.”

Nicole continued her saga “But then, I mean, I swear, I’m telling you , I think I’ve had the worst luck that any NCAA athlete has had, with just figuring out schools! Because unfortunately at Lindenwood, our coach got fired, we only won four or five games. I like winning, I hate losing, and the school wasn’t a good fit for me academically. So I saw once the coach left, also some of the other top players started leaving as well. And I was like: Yeah, this is my time, I’m going to leave too. But unfortunately you can only transfer D1 to D1 one time, so I knew I had to make the decision to play DIII. Which didn’t bother me, I’m glad that I came here (Adrian), because I got a chance to win a National Championship here, so that was really exciting. And unfortunately like I said, bad luck again, the season got cut short, and I really think we could have won it. Unfortunate that it did get cut short, but I’m glad that I came here. I’ve met a lot of great people, I had a lot of fun here, and a lot of success. I like Coach Skelly a lot he’s a great coach. He honestly was probably one of the best coaches I ever had. It was nice to end my senior year on a high note, I knew I wouldn’t do that at Lindenwood. Yeah, I’m grateful I did come here.”

And the best certainly came last, as Nicole had a terrific season personally along with the Adrian squad She led the Bulldogs in points with 33 (16 goals and 17 assists), including five power play goals, two empty net goals, and six game winning goals (tied for 1st in DIII). As a result, she was named to the 2019-20 ACHA All-Conference team, and was a second Team All-American to cap off her collegiate career. Her coach at Adrian, Shawn Skelly said at the time

 “I'm so proud of Nicole and her accomplishments this season,".Prior to this season, Nicole set out to become an All-American and with today's acknowledgement, as her coach I'm happy to have helped her achieve such a high accolade. Nicole is someone who has a god given talent and can be a game changer at an instant which was great to have for our program this season. I want to thank Nicole for transferring to Adrian for her last year of college hockey and we were lucky to have her put on a Bulldog Jersey! Thanks Guags and Congrats!!!"

Before wrapping things up with Nicole, we asked her opinion of whether or not the NHL should try to salvage the season, Nicole offered the opinion that

 
"I think it would make sense for them to try and continue the season, because they’re professional hockey. I think it’s different when it’s college hockey or something. But those are professionals getting paid millions. It would bring entertainment to people , with everyone in lockdown it’s hard to find things to do. So as long as they could find a way to play those play-off rounds, it would create a lot of entertainment, because a I think we have to bring normalcy back to people.”

The NHL seems to agree, at least through this week, as along with planning the 2020-2021 season,  they are opening up training camps for 16 teams to decide the Stanley Cup. As for our amazing rookie winger Nicole Guagliardo and the Whale, normalcy will come in mid-November when the NWHL is slated to return for it’s 2020-2021 campaign. “I think it is up and coming and I’m excited, to be part of it” Nicole added. Cetacean Nation thanks Nicole for her candid and entertaining remarks, and we can’t wait to see her in warrior mode, now that she's negotiated that rough road and arrived in Danbury! Fins Up to that!

Nicole had a break out season for Lindenwood her junior year, nearly tripling her point production from her first two collegiate seasons. Photo courtesy Lindenwood Athletics