LANCASTER, N.Y. (WIVB) — Next season, there will be another new team added to the Western New York girls hockey league. St. Mary’s heard the call from students, alumni, and youth coaches around the area, so in the 2021-22 school year, the Lancers girls hockey team will take the ice for their inaugural season.

“It kind of started with the growth of girls hockey in Western New York and across the Northeast and the country. We had, in our world here being a co-ed school, we had a number of boys playing hockey that had younger sisters and the parents were wondering ‘Hey, we’d like to send them to the same school, is this an opportunity for us?’ so that certainly spurred some of the growth,” St. Mary’s Head of School Kevin Kelleher said. “Then just the numbers of the girls we already had in the building that played hockey that maybe weren’t able to make the Monsignor Martin team whether due to age or talent, so we thought the time was right to start our own program and give it a go.”

“We’ve gone out and we’ve talked to a number of girls, a number of coaches, we offer a specific product here as far as the education is concerned,” St. Mary’s Director of Hockey Mark Dantonio said. “With the boys hockey, I think that is a big interest for these girls and I think the biggest interest is being able to put one sweater on with one team and being able to represent one school is certainly appealing to these girls. They’re excited, we’re excited, and we’re looking forward to getting after it.”

“For a school to care so much about having an option for everybody is a big deal because most schools don’t even have a girls team at all. I think them trying so hard to get this girls team to play is awesome and really welcoming,” St. Mary’s freshman Teddie Osinski said.

An advocate for starting the WNY Girls Hockey Federation back in 2009 and 2010 when she was in high school, St. Mary’s teacher Maeghan Roberts will be on the coaching staff during the Lancers inaugural season. She says she’s proud to be a part of the school for its dedication to supporting girls hockey, and she hopes other schools will follow suit.

“There are avenues there that if people put the energy and dedication and organization behind it that St. Mary’s has done in order to make this happen, the girls are there, the skaters are there, the players are ready to play,” St. Mary’s coach Maeghan Roberts said. “They will come in and kind of blow everybody way and make this league a really dominant hockey league in both Western New York and New York State as a whole.

“I think that setting the precedent of having one high school, one team, one girls team on the ice in the Western New York girls hockey league is huge for the league and really just shows we’re not stopping, we’re not slowing down, we’re going to keep pushing this league forward and continuing to grow it and keep pushing the game forward for the girls.”

St. Mary’s will become the ninth team in the WNY Girls Varsity Hockey Federation, and the first team in the Fed to be comprised of just one school.