3 Northwood alums return for NWHL season in Lake Placid
LAKE PLACID — The 1980 Rink in the Herb Brooks Arena is home ice for three Northwood School alumni who returned this past week to play professional hockey in the National Women’s Hockey League “bubble” season.
“If you had told me when I was going to high school there that, OK, another 20 to 25 years from now, you’ll be back here playing professional hockey in this place where you are skating right now … It’s definitely a dream come true,” said Brooke White-Lancette, of the Minnesota Whitecaps, who graduated from Northwood in 1998.
White-Lancette and 2015 graduates Cailey Hutchison and Alyson Matteau spoke with the Lake Placid News on Monday, Jan. 18, five days before their first games at the Olympic Center. Six teams will be vying for the Isobel Cup: Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps and Toronto Six. Hutchison is on the Riveters, and Matteau is on the Beauts.
Teams will play each other once between Jan. 23 and Jan. 30 before going into a regular season round-robin schedule Jan. 31, Feb. 2 and Feb. 3. The semifinals will be held on Thursday, Feb. 4, and the finals will be on Friday, Feb. 5. The shortened season was necessary due to the coronavirus pandemic in which no spectators are allowed in the arena.
Brooke White-Lancette, 41, grew up in California and began playing hockey when she was 8 years old.
“That’s late in Minnesota terms,” she said. “I have kids, and they were born and raised in Minnesota and they were on skates when they were like 2.”
White-Lancette, a forward, is a founding member of the Minnesota Whitecaps. This is her 17th season with the team.
When she attended Northwood School, White-Lancette had to play on the junior varsity and varsity boys teams; there wasn’t a girls hockey team until the 1999-2000 season. She also played on the all-girls community team, the Lake Placid Rockets, coached by Larry Barney.
“That was the first time I played girls hockey,” she said, “because coming from California, I played guys hockey growing up all the way through.”
Coming back to Lake Placid with the Whitecaps is like coming full circle for White-Lancette. Not only did she play high school and community hockey here, this is where her dreams of making the U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team were nurtured.
In 1998 at Nagano, Japan, women’s ice hockey was added to the program of the Olympic Winter Games. Development camps for the Olympic teams were held in Lake Placid in the 1990s, and that’s where White-Lancette met Whitecaps defender Winny Brodt Brown when she was 14.
“It’s so great to see how far the sport has evolved and now giving all the young girls something to look forward to,” she said, “after they’re done playing college hockey that there’s a place for them to maybe continue their playing hockey.”
After graduating from Northwood, White-Lancette played at Northeastern University from 1998 to 2003. During that time, she took a year off from college to take part in the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team residency in Lake Placid during the winter of 2000-2001. She played in the 2001 World Championships and pre-Olympic Tour and participated in several development camps for the national program.
White-Lancette attributes her longevity in hockey to staying healthy through diet and exercise, lots of skating and lots of hockey.
“I’ve probably been on my skates more than I’ve been in shoes,” she said.
White-Lancette is a seasoned veteran, and she enjoys playing a leadership role on the Whitecaps.
“I am known for bringing the energy and getting the girls ready to go,” she said. “I love being a mentor and a role model for the girls.”
Her biggest piece of advice for the younger generation?
“Just enjoy what you’re doing. Have fun. And if you’re having fun, you’ll keep playing.”
Cailey Hutchison, 23, grew up in Hicksville, Long Island, and began playing hockey when she was 8 years old, making the transition from figure skating. Her two brothers played hockey, and that influenced her decision to switch sports.
“It was pretty inevitable for me to play,” she said.
Hutchison is a forward on the Metropolitan Riveters, based in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey. This is her second season the team. During her first season, she scored three goals and eight assists in 24 games, earning her a spot at the All-Star Game in Boston.
When she attended Northwood School, Hutchison played on the girls hockey team, practicing and playing home games at the Olympic Center.
“When I was a freshman at Northwood, until my senior year, my goal was to play at a Division I school and make a USA world championship team or an Olympic team,” she said. “So toward the end of my Northwood career, I started learning about different opportunities to play professional.”
Hutchison said her experience at Northwood shaped her as a person and as a hockey player.
“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without it,” she said. “I learned so much about myself. I knew before going to Northwood I loved hockey, but Northwood helped me find my purpose, what I wanted to do with hockey, and led me to achieve my goals playing Division I and now playing professionally, playing at one of the highest levels I could possibly play in.”
In the fall of 2015, Hutchison began playing hockey for the University of Maine, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in child development. She is currently earning a nursing degree at Stony Brook University and coaches youth hockey for the Wade Warriors.
“That’s one of the biggest things I want to do as a professional hockey player is to inspire others and other female athletes to keep going, so this is really the opportunity to do it,” she said. “And it’s even more special doing it in my special place, Lake Placid.”
At the University of Maine, Hutchison played with fellow Northwood graduate and teammate Alyson Matteau. They were college roommates. So coming back to Lake Placid for this year’s NWHL season is a reunion of sorts.
“We’re both super competitive, so I think even being such close friends, it’s going to be really intense,” Hutchison said. “But it’s going to be so good to see her. With everything with COVID, I haven’t seen her since we graduated from Maine.”
Hutchison and Matteau competed against each other for the first time as professional hockey players on Wednesday, Jan. 27 when the Riveters played the Beauts.
Alyson Matteau, 23, grew up in Montreal, Quebec, and began playing hockey when she was 5 or 6 years old. She grew up in a hockey family. Her father, Stephane Matteau, played more than 800 regular season games over 13 seasons in the National Hockey League, and he was a member of the New York Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup championship team.
“I definitely have an amazing support group and a few knowledgeable people around me,” she said. “Growing up, I always just wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps.”
Her brother Stefan currently plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL.
Matteau plays defense with the Buffalo Beauts. This is her first season with the team after taking a year off from hockey after graduating from the University of Maine with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Matteau spent her junior and senior years of high school playing for Northwood, which was key preparation for a hockey career as a Black Bear and a Beaut.
“It definitely opened up my options of looking into colleges in the U.S., so I was able to continue my growth in hockey,” she said. “And it was good to be on the ice every day, as opposed to when I was back home, it was only once or twice a week. So that was a really big difference in my development.”
Matteau is the No. 2 all-time leading scorer among defenders in Black Bears history. She scored 16 goals and added 45 assists for 61 points over 136 games. She also won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2015 IIHF U-18 World Championships, played three consecutive years for Team Quebec’s U-18 squad and won gold in her final year at the Canada Winter Games.
Given the pandemic, Matteau said it’s “quite amazing” that she gets to return to Lake Placid to play professional hockey and be reunited with her former Huskey and Black Bear teammate, Hutchison.
“Just to be able to share the ice with her again, it’s going to be a pretty unbelievable experience,” she said.
It’s no surprise that the two biggest hockey influences in her life are her father and brother, “because those are the people I was around most and they taught me everything I know, and they helped me and supported me throughout my career,” she said.
The biggest lesson she learned from her father?
“Be coachable. That was a big thing my dad would always teach me when I was little. Be good at being coached and have fun.”