Boston College, in case you haven’t heard, is a Jesuit school.
BC students are encouraged to be “men and women for others,” an attitude reflected in the dozens of service opportunities and clubs available for students on and off campus and through the PULSE program. BC students spend hundreds of hours over the course of their college careers volunteering.
Caitrin Lonergan is one of those students. Long before she arrived at BC, she sought out volunteer opportunities. She and her younger brother Ryan established a coat drive at their church, collecting more than 30 coats to distribute to homeless shelters. During her senior year of high school, Lonergan traveled to New Orleans to help the city continue to rebuild a decade after Hurricane Katrina. It doesn’t matter the cause, either—she’s volunteered for a variety of charities: Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, the Boston Police Department Community Service Program, the Boys and Girls Club of New Hampshire, and Special Olympics of Massachusetts, to name only a few. And just this past summer, she taught more than 300 kids ranging in age from 5 to 16 at camps.
Lonergan’s busy schedule would be hectic for any student to handle, but she’s got a couple of extra responsibilities on top of that. She’s a world-class ice hockey player—a three-time member of the U-18 and U-22 United States women’s national team and one of the brightest stars on BC women’s hockey.
It’s not surprising to hear that Lonergan approaches hockey with the same perspective that she brings to service work. Her focus is constantly on the other—in this case, the team. She doesn’t dwell on her own personal records or accomplishments. For Lonergan, nothing is sweeter than team-wide success. And with Lonergan, team-wide success is never far for the Eagles.
"I didn't want to wear figure skates." Caitrin Lonergan
Barely one minute into the first period, Lonergan found herself with the puck around center ice. She controlled the puck, skated through two UConn defenders, and faced a one-on-one with Huskie netminder Annie Belanger. Lonergan skated right as she approached the goal, but deftly flicked the puck past Belanger into the left side of the net for the goal, even while off-balance.
“I think she showcased in that one [play] how good she can be,” BC head coach Katie Crowley said.
It may have just been one play, but it was typical of Lonergan’s efforts throughout her entire freshman campaign. Over the course of the season, Lonergan broke through for 15 goals and 18 assists. Her 33-point season total was bested by just two teammates—Andie Anastos and Makenna Newkirk—and tied by fellow freshman Delaney Belinskas. Together, Lonergan and Belinskas tied for second in scoring by freshmen nation wide.
And if that wasn’t enough, Lonergan was recognized by both USCHO.com and Hockey East for her accomplishments during her introductory campaign. During the season, she was a four-time Hockey East Rookie of the Week and a three-time Hockey East Rookie of the Month. After the season ended, Lonergan was named to the USCHO.com all-rookie team and a unanimous choice for the Hockey East all-rookie team.
Given how much Lonergan impacted the team during her freshman year, it might be surprising to find out that she almost didn’t come to BC at all. Instead, she very nearly went to a crosstown rival—Harvard University. In fact, during her freshman year of high school, she actually committed to Harvard.
But as Lonergan went through high school, developed as a player, and matured as a person, she began to realize that Harvard probably wasn’t the best fit for her. As she reconsidered her commitment, she thought back to the school that had also pursued her during her early years in high school.
“I decided that for the type of person I was growing into, BC was a better fit,” Lonergan said.
Needless to say, Harvard’s loss was BC’s gain—but before she could commit to Harvard, or BC, or anywhere else, Lonergan had to fall in love with hockey. And the Roslindale, Mass. native always knew hockey was in her blood. Her father had played hockey growing up, and when she began to express interest in skating, he gave her a choice.
“I didn’t want to wear figure skates,” Lonergan said.
Hockey it was, then.
Attracted by competition and teamwork, she started playing around the age of 4 and never looked back. Lonergan played in Hyde Park before moving on to the exclusive Assabet Valley girls’ hockey program when she was 12. At that point, Lonergan realized that she was right up there with the best of the best. She knew that if she could stay on track within the Assabet system, she could play Division I hockey—her goal since she was 8 years old.
Sure enough, Lonergan developed into an elite player in the Assabet system. She never lost sight of her goals—to become a DI college player and to represent the United States as a member of the national team. But in the meantime, she worked hard every time she stepped onto the ice. In addition to playing for Assabet, Lonergan spent her junior and senior years of high school playing for Noble and Greenough School. Tom Resor, head coach of Nobles girls’ hockey, remembers the first time he ever watched Lonergan play.
“My first impression of her was that she was one of the fastest skaters I had ever seen,” he said. “It turns out she was sick that day and not even playing at her best.”
Lonergan quickly made her mark as a major threat for Nobles. During her two years, Nobles posted a perfect 24-0-0 record in the highly competitive Independent School League. She also recorded 125 points through 59 games, acting as a leader despite joining Nobles for only her junior and senior seasons.
Soon enough, her dream of representing the United States on the U-18 national team came to fruition. Lonergan went through the arduous process of selection for the U-18 team and, unsurprisingly, made the final cut. As a member of the U-18 team, Lonergan medaled twice for the United States. After defeating Hungary in her first year on the team, the Americans lost to Canada, earning a silver medal. Next year, the United States exacted revenge by defeating Canada in overtime to win the gold medal.
She again represented the U.S. on the U-22 select team in 2016. For Lonergan, 18 years old and, at that point, not yet out of high school, it was jarring to suddenly go up against college-aged players and compete at a significantly higher level than before—but she loved the challenge.
Playing for the United States also led, in part, to Lonergan’s decision to flip from Harvard to BC. BC associate head coach Courtney Kennedy coaches for the U-18 team, and Lonergan liked and respected her style. She’d also grown up idolizing Crowley, a three-time Olympian, who’d been her favorite player when she was young. For his part, Resor thought BC was the right choice for Lonergan, and thought her playing style would lend itself well to BC’s style. He knew she could make an impact as soon as she arrived on campus—and sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
In the end, the choice was easy: BC was just the right fit.
“My first impression of her was that she was one of the fastest skaters I had ever seen. It turns out she was sick that day and not even playing at her best.” Tom Resor
n March 19, the Eagles lost to Wisconsin in the Frozen Four semifinals. Their season was over.
Lonergan’s focus immediately turned to improving and preparing for next year—a move that didn’t surprise anyone who knew her.
“While she has a lot of natural ability, she has never shied away from working to get better and asking how she can continue to improve,” Resor said.
Lonergan developed her offseason plan and laid out goals for herself. She knew that she wanted to continue developing her game and practicing on the ice, but also wanted to work to get stronger and faster. This meant that she would put greater focus on her off-ice work throughout the offseason. In June, Lonergan went with some of her old Nobles teammates to Stadium Performance, a strength and conditioning center in Dedham, Mass., to watch their workouts.
Across the room, Stadium Performance founder and owner Joe Caligiuri saw high school athletes whisper and look at Lonergan. After he confessed that he didn’t know who she was, the girls told him that she was the future of U.S. women’s hockey.
Caligiuri got to know Lonergan soon enough. She started training with him, working to address back problems that had been plaguing her for a couple of years. From their first meeting, Lonergan was eager to discuss how she could overcome her back problems and develop as a stronger athlete. It quickly became apparent that Caligiuri was working with a dedicated, motivated athlete who would not take no for an answer.
“I knew I had a real gem on my hands when I discussed how I could help her,” he said. “I told her it would be the most difficult process of her life thus far. She said, ‘Sounds perfect. I’m in.’”
Lonergan worked to get more explosive and faster. She also focused on developing her arms, gaining muscle and pushing herself to the limit. But as she worked, Caligiuri helped her understand her limits and how to fix little habits that, unchecked, would lead to wear and tear down the road. Over the course of the summer, Lonergan made huge strides towards accomplishing her goals—a fact that became apparent during Stadium Performance’s “Hell Week.”
During that week, Lonergan excelled at the series of challenges and tests placed in her way. Four times, she finished first in a 400-yard run. She came in first place in the 3×300 yard sprints. And, according to Caligiuri, she “crushed” the Manchester United conditioning test.
It was then that Caligiuri saw Lonergan start to become more and more confident in the improvements she’d made during the summer. She knew that she could take her work from the offseason and bring it to the ice for her sophomore year. She could use it to achieve her number one goal for the season.
“Caitrin was on a mission to lead Boston College to a national championship,” Caligiuri said.
onergan isn’t shy about expressing her desire for a national championship—but she isn’t satisfied with the prospect of winning just one.
“I want to win a national title,” she said. “I want to do it this year, I want to do it next year, and I want to do it my senior year.”
The Eagles certainly have the talent to get there. Lonergan, often praised for her speed on the ice, has also demonstrated a talent for turning just about any play dangerous. Lonergan herself thinks that her quickness and decision-making are the strongest aspects of her game.
Resor, on the other hand, goes a step further. While acknowledging that her speed is a huge aspect of her talent, he thinks that her decision-making is really what sets her apart.
“She has a knack for making plays that lead to scoring opportunities,” he said. “She can turn what seems to be a harmless play into a goal as quickly as any other player I have coached.”
Crowley relies on Lonergan’s speed and decision-making, but thinks that her sophomore can make an even bigger impact this season. Crowley stopped short of directly comparing her to departed superstar Alex Carpenter, but suggested that Lonergan has the ability to be a major catalyst on the team this season. Part of it may be that Lonergan will know exactly what to expect after a year of college hockey under her belt already. Part of it, however, is getting Lonergan to shoot more.
Crowley believes Lonergan can make a huge jump this season. Lonergan tallied 33 points during her freshman campaign, but her coach thinks she has the ability to record up to 60 points this year. Lonergan knows, according to Crowley, that she will be on the ice a lot this year. The Eagles are counting on her to act as an offensive kickstarter.
“She has that ‘it’ factor,” Crowley said.
For her part, Lonergan just can’t wait for her sophomore season to start. She wants to win the Hockey East title again, and she’s looking forward to playing Boston University and Northeastern. After a summer of incredibly hard work and focus, it’s finally time to show her improvement off. And Lonergan has another goal, too—she hopes her accomplishments for the Eagles will lead to another stint wearing red, white, and blue.
And nobody that knows her doubts that Lonergan will do everything in her power to accomplish her goals.
“I agree with those high school girls,” Caligiuri said. “Caitrin is the future of women’s hockey in this country.”
Featured Images by Josh Mentzer and Celine Lim / Heights Photo Contributors