Over the last four seasons, the Western Mustangs women’s ice hockey program rose to unprecedented heights. From the emergence of Kelly Campbell and Katelyn Gosling as All-Canadian superstars, to an OUA conference title and the Golden Path Trophy in 2015, both program firsts, such a performance helped extend Western University’s athletic reputation far beyond its dominant football presence. In the last two seasons, the Mustangs won an astounding 60 games, compared to just 17 losses and 10 ties.
As the program continues to grow, its transition has included a new head coach for the 2016-17 season. Having served this past season as an associate coach with the Mustangs, Kelly Paton rises to a new role as head coach. Adding to this momentum is the fact that she will be joining Shaun Reagan of the Waterloo Warriors as members of Rachel Flanagan’s coaching staff for the 2017 Winter Universiade. This adds to Paton’s already impressive international experience, which included a role on the coaching staff of the Canadian U18 national team for the 2014-15 campaign.
One of the greatest players to have donned the New Hampshire Wildcats jersey, Paton was not only a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in her senior season, she would forego an opportunity to be part of Hockey Canada’s Under-22 player camp in order to be part of history. Of note, she would play at Fenway Park against Northeastern in the first outdoor women’s game in NCAA history.
In four sensational seasons with the Wildcats, Paton helped keep the club in contention for the national championship, amassing an astounding 162 points on the strength of 100 assists. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, she currently sits 11th all-time in program scoring. As a senior, Paton was one of three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. This was part of a season that saw Paton earn New England Player of the Year honors, a nod to the First-Team All-Americans and a share of the Hockey East Player of the Year Award.
Before Paton returned home to southwestern Ontario to lay down her roots, she would extend her playing career to the professional ranks, competing for the famed ZSC Lions in Switzerland, capturing a league title in 2010-11, an accomplishment that Paton hopes to duplicate as a coach at the OUA level with the Mustangs next season.
Paton’s coaching experience also includes a stint as an assistant coach with the Mercyhurst Lakers in 2011-12, where she was joined by former player Delaney Collins, also serving on the coaching staff. The two were surrounded by one of the greatest collections of talent in NCAA history. The roster was highlighted by the presence of Christine Bestland, Bailey and Shelby Bram, conference MVP Kelley Steadman, Jess Jones, and Hillary Pattenden, who would break the NCAA record for most goaltending wins in a career. Although the Lakers were defeated by the Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA tournament, it was a memorable season for Paton, which saw her gain a Masters of Science in Exercise Science
Bringing a wealth of knowledge to the Mustangs, which shall be crucial in maintaining its status as a national power, Paton inherits the position from David Barrett. Having served as head coach for two seasons, he is moving on in order to focus on his career at the Ivey Business School. As a side note, he shall remain available as an advisor. Undoubtedly, Paton’s sterling career should pay positive dividends with the Mustangs, allowing the program an edge in the ultra-competitive realm of recruiting, while bringing out the best in her players.
Prior to the Mustangs, Paton had a strong hockey presence in southwestern Ontario as both a player and coach. Raised in Woodstock, Ontario, she served as bench boss with the Provincial Women’s Hockey League’s London Devilettes from 2013-15. Amassing 10 wins and 28 points during the 2013-14 campaign, the Devilettes made a huge jump in the standings the following season. Under Paton’s tutelage, the club improved by 11 points, accumulating 16 wins, finishing 11th overall in the league standings. Of note, she had also played for the Devilettes before joining the University of New Hampshire’s team in 2006. Along with Paton, some of the notable alums include Amanda Shaw, Carolyne Prevost, Meghan Hunter, Hokey Langan and Amanda Mazzotta.
During her time coaching the Devilettes, there was a series of unique connections with Mazzotta. Not only did Mazzotta serve as the goaltending coach with the Devilettes program (which features numerous age groups), she spent one season in the same capacity with the Mustangs. The two would also work together with Hockey Canada’s national U18 team for the 2014-15 season. Paton served as a strength and conditioning coach while Mazzotta worked with the goaltenders.
Coincidentally, the pre-competition camp for the 2015 IIHF U18 Worlds was actually held in London, only serving to strengthen their local hockey legacies. The efforts of Paton and Mazzotta helped Canada gain a silver medal at the Worlds.
Paton inherits a team that had a strong showing in 2015-16, ranking fifth in the OUA in goals scored (61) and shots on net (681). In addition, the Mustangs would also rank third in PPG (17), first in power play opportunities (109) and second in penalty kill (90.6).
As the club featured 8 freshmen (five Devilettes on roster) on the roster, they shall be counted upon to play a bigger role for Paton next season. Among them will be April Clark, who played for Paton on the Devilettes. Another young player that will be expected to deliver is Anthea Lasis, who is poised to be the anchor on the Mustangs blueline unit.
Perhaps Paton’s biggest challenge shall be finding a goaltender. With the recent graduation of Kelly Campbell, one of the most accomplished in OUA history, she was a key factor in the Mustangs dominance as a top defensive unit. Even if the Mustangs struggle in her absence for the 2016-17 season, Paton should manage to recruit another top prospect to stand between the pipes in the following season.
Undoubtedly, there will be no shortage of leaders for Paton as she molds the new generation of Mustangs. Tia Kipfer, who once played for the NCAA’s Robert Morris Colonials will be entering her fourth season. Another pair of former NCAA players, Lyndsay Kirkham and Kendra Broad, both formerly with the Lindenwood Lady Lions shall be just as important. Having both reached double digits in points, Broad would tie with Katelyn Gosling for second in team scoring, trailing leader Brittany Clapham by one point, all positive signs for a future where Paton works towards maintaining the Mustangs status as a powerhouse in OUA women’s hockey.