Blazing trails is nothing new for Erin Hamlen, who was named the first-ever head coach of the Merrimack College women’s ice hockey program last month.
After a prolific career as a goaltender at the University of New Hampshire from 1989-93, where she was named the ECAC’s top goaltender in all four of her seasons, Hamlen went on to star on the United States national team from 1992-2001.
Between Team USA stints, she became the first woman to compete on a men’s professional team, appearing in 13 games in the ECHL, CHL and COHL, posting a 5-3 record.
Hamlen’s run as a goalie at UNH coincided with a time period that helped pioneer the movement for women’s hockey to be included in the Olympics (it was added in 1992).
Her next challenge is formulating the path for Merrimack’s program, which will debut in either 2014-15 or 2015-16, a decision Hamlen and the college administration hopes to have finalized soon.
“I’m anxious when it comes to recruiting,” she said. “Players are committing so early, some in their sophomore year now; we’ll establish a timeline that we feel works best for us and hopefully we’ll know soon. We’re discussing it now and trying to determine what makes the most sense for us.”
Players that commit to playing at Merrimack will be under the tutelage of one of USA Hockey’s top goaltenders the past two decades, who has a proven track record of developing players. Hamlen was the goaltender for the World Championship teams from 1992-01, winning five silver medals in the five tournaments she took part in, as well as being named the Outstanding Goaltender for the tournament in 1994. At UNH, where she served as an assistant coach for 10 years, Hamlen coached six goalies to Hockey East’s Goaltender of the Year honor, along with one All-American (Jen Huggon).