STAMFORD — The potential is exciting as freshman Meadow Gilchrist of the Stamford-Westhill-Staples girls ice hockey team motors around Terry Conners Rink.
It has been a long and winding journey for Gilchrist to reach this platform of girls high school ice hockey in Connecticut.
But the Westhill High School student is in position to reap the benefits from the continuing growth of this sport.
“It’s been fun playing with these girls,” Gilchrist said. “And it’s a challenge when we face the top teams (New Canaan, Darien, Greenwich) in the FCIAC.”
Gilchrist and Piper Fine are the lone freshmen on the 22-member Stamford-Westhill-Staples Co-op squad.
But that hasn’t stopped Gilchrist from being SWS’ leading scorer this season with 19 goals and 11 assists.
Her dad, Jerry Gilchrist, was a hockey player in his youth. When she was on the ice, Meadow felt she was flying when skating. And shooting the puck was even more fun.
Meadow Gilchrist came up through the Stamford Youth Hockey Association (SYHA) when there were no purely girls ice hockey teams.
Gilchrist displayed enough talent to be part of the SYHA’s Travel teams. She was fortunate to be able to play with his older brother Hunter, currently a member of the Westhill-Stamford Co-op Boys Ice Hockey team.
“It was great then,” Meadow Gilchrist said. “He helps so much now by analyzing what I do. We go out on the ice and try a lot of new skills. He helps me score more goals. Sometimes I can help his game with some advice.”
Playing with the boys gave Meadow the experience of playing in an ultra-physical environment and how to survive — and avoid — collisions.
The most important factor in her development with the SWS squad was when co-head coach John Fay moved her from left wing to center.
“Since she’s a lefty we started Meadow on left wing,” Fay said. “But she has such good hands and puck control that moving her to center was logical. At center, she can find more open ice and lead the offensive charge for us.”
Since Stamford-Westhill-Staples basically plays two forward lines and two defense pairs, Gilchrist gets an abundance of ice time.
Her hockey IQ is so good for her age that SWS uses Gilchrist on the power play and penalty kill, where opportunities for open ice are more abundant.
Gilchrist has embraced the move to center.
“I like the freedom that playing center brings. I watched a lot of video,” Gilchrist said. “It helps with my positioning and shows me things to work on. On faceoffs, I’m getting better reading the opposing center’s intentions.”
Gilchrist will get stronger as she gets older. That should help convert more of the breakaways she creates during games. Right now, she dekes a lot but often winds up too close to the goalie on attempts.
Gilchrist is also working on her hockey Masters’ degree in the offseason. She has spent the last five summers playing for the Ice Cats, which are coached by Darien’s Jamie Tropsa.
“The drills we do are different. It’s lots of skill training and off-ice conditioning,” Gilchrist said. “Playing with many of the Darien and New Canaan girls forces me to skate faster and do more with my stickhandling.”
While she still has chapters of high school hockey history still to write, Meadow Gilchrist has sound plans for her future as well.
“Amanda Kessel is one of my heroes I watch a lot,” Gilchrist said. “To be part of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Hockey program would be really cool. That would be a great accomplishment that will take a lot of hard work. Playing Division I hockey is another dream for me.”