With little over a year remaining before the on-ice return of UNB’s women’s varsity hockey team, the process of assembling both the team’s staff and roster began in earnest over the summer.
The university kickstarted the process on June 12 with the announcement that Sarah Hilworth had been hired as the team’s head coach and would be tasked with building the team in time for the 2018-19 season; the announcement came after the New Brunswick Labour and Employment board’s March 2, 2016 ruling that UNB must reinstate its women’s varsity hockey team—which had been downgraded to club status in 2008.
Hilworth is no stranger to the challenges that come with building a team from scratch, having spent the previous two years building the Olds College Broncos while serving as head coach.
Prior to her stint at Olds College, Hilworth spent two seasons as the assistant coach of the University of Alberta Pandas, where she added the 2015 Canada West championship to her list of accomplishments.
In an interview with The Brunswickan, Hilworth stated that it was UNB’s history of success in athletics as well as the opportunity to lead a program from year one that attracted her to the job.
“I am very proud to lead this team back into the AUS and U-Sport, and we will create a team that the community is proud of as well,” she added.
Hilworth’s first order of business after being named head coach was adding Pamela Pachal and Brittany Esposito to her staff as assistant coaches.
Pachal’s experience includes winning an NCAA championship as a player for the University of Minnesota-Duluth; she also played in the National Women’s Hockey League and won a silver medal at the 2008 Senior Women’s National Championship as a member of the Etobicoke Dolphins.
Esposito also brings a wealth of high-level playing experience at the collegiate and pro levels; she spent five years at Northeastern University, where she racked up 109 points over 136 career games and was named a Hockey East second team all-star in her final season.
“Pamela and Brittany both bring experiences in their careers that our student-athletes will look up to as role models,” said Hilworth. “We are lucky to have people who jumped out of their seats from day one—who want to make a difference in our student-athletes’ lives.”
In addition to her solidifying her coaching staff, Hilworth has already begun adding players to her roster for the 2018-19 season. On Aug. 10 it was announced that Hilworth had landed her first recruit in forward Paige Grenier.
Hilworth lauded Grenier’s hard work and leadership as emblematic of the type of student-athlete she is looking to add.
“We are very fortunate to bring in a leader from day one who will set the tone and be a difference maker in the classroom and on the ice.”
UNB has since announced the recruitment of Alayna Wagstaff of Olds, Alberta and Tamina Kehler, of Chilliwack, British Columbia. Like Grenier, Wagstaff and Kehler are both forwards entering their grade 12 year and will join the team for the Varsity Reds for the 2018-19 season.