Former New Hampshire superstar Kelly Paton to build on growing legacy of Western Mustangs

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.

Simply the best: Kelly Campbell enjoys Golden Path trophy with Western Mustangs

A pair of back-to-back shutouts at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport nationals would prove to be the coming out party for Western Mustangs goaltender Kelly Campbell. Leading the program (known traditionally for its dominance in men’s football) to its first-ever Canadian Interuniversity Sport national title in women’s ice hockey, Campbell joins the likes of former Mustangs rugby player Barbara Mervin as female sporting heroes in Western lore.

Adding to her sterling hockey legacy is the fact that said shutouts came against the top ranked teams in CIS play, the Montreal Carabins and the McGill Martlets. While the opportunity to stifle the Carabins in the semi-finals (by a 2-0 score) was a significant accomplishment, her 38 save performance in a 5-0 blanking of the Martlets was quite possibly the biggest upset in CIS national championship history.

Despite a first period against the Martlets that saw the Mustangs outshot by a 17-4 margin, Campbell was nothing short of solid between the pipes. Her performance allowed the Mustangs confidence to believe that a win was possible. By the final buzzer, a 5-0 final cemented Campbell’s legacy as the finest goalie to suit up for the program. Overall, it was part of a superb body of work in the playoffs that consisted of 93 saves and only one goal allowed three games. As a side note, the one goal was allowed in a 3-1 win against Les Aigles Bleues de Moncton.

A jubilant Campbell celebrates after a 5-0 shutout win clinches the Golden Path Trophy for the Mustangs (Photo credit: Ted Rhodes)

A jubilant Campbell celebrates after a 5-0 shutout win clinches the Golden Path Trophy for the Mustangs (Photo credit: Ted Rhodes)

Based in London, Ontario, the Mustangs presence in Southwestern Ontario makes it one of the most impressive regions for university hockey in Canada. The region boasts the likes of traditional powerhouse Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (where NCAA alum Laura McIntosh serves as a coach), the Waterloo Warriors (featuring elite goalie Rebecca Bouwhuis), the Guelph Gryphons (where Amanda Parkins stars) and the Windsor Lancers right down Highway 401.

The ability for the Mustangs to emerge as OUA champions (and eventual CIS champions) against such talent is testament to the quality of their players and coaching. Of note, no goaltender may be of such elite quality as Campbell, whose numbers placed her in the CIS Top 10 in seven different goaltending categories.

Campbell’s championship season would open with a 4-3 win against rival Waterloo on October 11. One week later, she would begin a nine-game win streak, which would snapped in a hard-fought loss against Queen’s University on November 30. During the streak, Campebll’s finest performance was a 48-save effort on November 1 against rival Laurier.

Campbell (far left) was named to the 2015 CIS First-Team All-Stars. (Image obtained from: http://en.cis-sic.ca/championships/wice/2015/releases/awards)

Campbell (far left) was named to the 2015 CIS First-Team All-Stars. (Image obtained from: http://en.cis-sic.ca/championships/wice/2015/releases/awards)

Ending the regular season with a 3-0 shutout against UOIT, Campbell’s stats reveal her true value to the Mustangs. A deeper look indicates that when registering at least 20 saves in a game, Campbell’s efforts resulted in a 12-3-0 mark. In games where she allowed one goal or less, the Mustangs registered 13 wins compared to only two losses.

In the aftermath of a remarkable run to the national title, Campbell was honored as the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player, complemented by CIS Female Athlete of the Week Honors and CIS First-Team All-Canadian honors. If the CIS had a goaltender of the year award, there is no question that honor would have also gone to Campbell.