|Freshman Rebecca O’Quinn of Arlington has impressed Holy Cross coach Peter Van Buskirk. “She has the skill set, the skating ability, and an awareness of the ice,’’ he said.|
For friends, rivalry is on ice
Aside from playing on rival ECAC women’s college hockey teams, Holy Cross freshman Rebecca O’Quinn and New England College junior assistant captain Rachel White share much in common.
Both were team captains at Arlington High, where their teammates included O’Quinn’s sister Katy; they were coached by their fathers, Kevin O’Quinn and George White, in the Arlington youth hockey program; and both served as volunteer coaches this season with the program’s U-10 girls’ team.
After their college games, O’Quinn and White update each other by phone and e-mail on the outcome and their performances
“We compete in the same league but we remain friends and our families are close,’’ said O’Quinn, who has a goal and 10 assists playing in all 22 Crusaders games this season.
The Crusaders sit atop the ECAC East standings at 14-1-2, and are 17-3-2 overall going into this weekend’s key games at Plymouth State and Southern Maine.
“When Rachel and my sister went off to college it was hard because we were teammates in high school,’’ added O’Quinn, a member of the Globe Super Team last season after she helped power Arlington to the state semifinals. “Now it’s a bit weird to be playing against Rachel, but at the same time, it’s also neat because we grew up as teammates. My high school coach, Jeff Mead, prepared me well for the college game, and putting on the purple jersey like my dad did at Holy Cross makes it even more special.’’
With a team-leading 17 points, White has spearheaded a late-season surge by New England College, in Henniker, N.H. The Pilgrims were 5-1-2 in their last eight games, 8-7-2 in league play and 10-10-3 overall.
“My dad always keeps it positive for me. I see him in the stands or down by the glass and appreciate his support,’’ said White, who has 52 points in 68 college games. “He’s definitely made me a better player. I miss Arlington, for sure, but playing here has been awesome and our line has been clicking lately.’’
New England College’s first-year head coach, Sis Paulsen, calls White “the leader of the pack. She has a lot of jump in her step, shoots the puck hard and she’s been a big part of how we’ve played recently.’’ The Pilgrims play home games this weekend against UMass Boston and Manhattanville.
O’Quinn, meanwhile, has exceeded the expectations of Holy Cross coach Peter Van Buskirk, a Hudson High Hall of Famer in his 10th season guiding the women’s program.
“Becca has been everything I envisioned and more,’’ said Van Buskirk, named earlier this month as recipient of the John “Snooks’’ Kelley Founders Award for his contribution to the sport. “She has the skill set, the skating ability and an awareness of the ice.’’
When New England College visited Holy Cross on Jan. 29, three carloads of Arlington U-10 team players, coached by Rich Laurendeau, showed up at the Hart Center in their maroon-and-white team jerseys to cheer on O’Quinn and White. They met with both players after the game (a 4-1 Holy Cross victory) for a group picture.
“We checked out Rachel and Becca’s schedules and asked our team if they’d like to see them play and the response was great,’’ said Laurendeau, a football captain and classmate of George White at Matignon High in Cambridge.
It was also a memorable evening for their fathers - White, a star forward at Matignon and the University of New Hampshire who signed with the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League, and his good friend O’Quinn, a defenseman at Arlington High who played in the first varsity hockey game at the Hart Center as a Holy Cross freshman in 1975.
They stood side by side, cheering heartily no matter which daughter had the puck.
“It’s nice to see that Becca is a role model for the girls who came out of the same program she did,’’ said O’Quinn, a captain on the Arlington High hockey team coached by Eddie Burns and a member of the ’73 squad that advanced to the state finals. His other two daughters, Sarah, a Holy Cross grad, and Katy, a junior at UMass Amherst, were also team captains at Arlington High. Katy and Rebecca O’Quinn and Rachel White were linemates in high school during the 2006-07 season.
“When Becca came home for Christmas break, it was like old times,’’ said her dad, finance director for a company in Manchester, N.H. “We went for a family skate on Spy Pond.’’
George White, who played a couple of seasons in the American Hockey League, arranged his schedule with the Harvard University police force so he could work the overnight shift and be able to coach his son, Jeff, and daughters Nichole and Rachel at their youth practices. Jeff works at the Arlington Sports Center, while Nichole recently graduated from nursing school.
A cocaptain for coach Marty Pierce at Matignon, George White played on a state championship team in high school and in the NCAA’s Division 1 Final Four at UNH. He completed his college education - paid in part by the Calgary organization - after retiring from the pro game at age 26.
“It just a great feeling to watch Becca and Rachel to be involved in college sports and a tribute to the youth program in Arlington, which has grown over the years,’’ said White.
“Rachel and I share a passion for the game. She never took her skills for granted and has always worked hard and that can only help her later in life.’’
Marvin Pave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org