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Trio of Whale players host Summer Skills clinics for girls

Shannon Doyle works with a group of campers.
Jess Starr

Earlier this week, three players from the Connecticut Whale held the first of many Summer Skills clinics at the former home of the Whale - Terry Conners Rink in Stamford, Connecticut. The hour-long session on the ice with 22 girls (including four goaltenders) was fast-paced but well-organized and surely memorable for all of the attendees.

Aiding the young, upcoming generation of hockey players was defender Shannon Doyle, goalie Brooke Wolejko, and forward Sarah Hughson - so right off the bat, the trio had every angle covered at the on-ice sessions.

“We’ve got all of the positions covered. It’s always fun to be on the ice with a younger crew,” said Hughson after the hour-long session. “It’s all fun and that’s what it is supposed to be about.”

Hughson has been coaching girls hockey for the past two seasons and will continue to do so this upcoming season alongside Doyle at the Greenwich Country Day School.

To start the session off, Wolejko worked with the four goalies at one end of the ice, while Hughson and Doyle gave some pointers and ran some drills that focused on skating without the puck, turning, and edge work. Once pucks got involved, Hughson and Doyle took a group of girls to opposite ends of the ice to work on stick-handling, while Wolejko worked with another group at center ice on moving with the puck in close quarters.

“It’s awesome that we can cover so much ground for these sessions, we only have an hour to work with,” Wolejko said. “But I feel like we’re able to get a lot done in that hour. It’s fun to work with the goalies, and actually I was able to run a player station out there too! That was my first time and I was a little nervous, but we got through it.”

“You killed it!” shouted Doyle from beside us.

“It’s a little bit of an adjustment skating out there without any pads on,” added the netminder. “I was wearing my goalie skates too, so that’s why when I was demoing the tight circles around the cones I told them that they can go tighter around them than I can.”

While chatting with the trio after the session ended, nearly every young player - and their parents - made it a point to stop by and say thank you to the three women for their time and the session. Many of them have worked with the players before, especially Doyle who has begun to leave her footprint on the landscape of girls hockey in Connecticut over the past five years.

“Being able to say a girl’s name while she is doing the drill enhances the experience,” said the Whale captain. “I know you, you know me. So they trust you a little more and enjoy it a little more, too. They all work so hard, and they love being coached by Sarah and Brooke. Seeing someone who plays the position they play, it makes for a nice experience overall.”

The trio is friends off the ice, and now will also be coaching at GCDS together. So it was only natural for Doyle to invite her pals to help out with something that she has done solo for a few years now.

“We’re going to try to do one in August, and we already have one set up for September before tryouts and all of that stuff starts up again,” explained Doyle who will be doing a similar one with boys later this week. “Getting ice is sometimes tricky.”

She also revealed that Terry Conners Rink just reopened four days prior to the session and they were allowed a maximum of 25 skaters on the ice (22 kids, three pros).

“Now that the rinks are opening up again it’s nice that the kids have some time to skate with us,” added Wolejko.