When she stepped foot on the ice for the final time during the 2014-15 CWHL season, Megan Myers was holding the Clarkson Cup high above her head. It was quite the feat for Myers. Only 23 at the time, she was the lone player to have cracked the Blades lineup out of an NCAA Division III program, having skated the year prior as an alternate captain with Utica College. Yet, here she was, celebrating with the likes of Olympic-calibre talents Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, Monique Lamoureux, Meghan Duggan, Tara Watchorn and Genevieve Lacasse.
Come the 2015-16 season, though, Boston’s fortunes had changed significantly. The emergence of the rival NWHL, which brought with it the addition of a second women’s pro team in Boston, the Pride, stripped the Blades of much of their past talent. Gone were Decker, Knight, Lamoureux and Duggan. In fact, gone was most of the roster. Only four skaters — Myers, Watchorn, Dru Burns and Ashley Cotterll — returned.
The turnover was significant, but the impact of the loss of talent was even more so. In the three seasons since the NWHL’s emergence, no team has been hamstrung quite like the Blades, who have won just four games in the past three seasons, including a pair of one-win seasons.
“For competitive women’s hockey players, and we’re some of the most competitive athletes, to go on a one-win season is difficult,” Myers said. “That puts a lot of pressure on everyone, puts pressure on the organization to provide wins and keep us running here in Massachusetts and the United States. It was tough. Our team culture was on and off. It put a lot of pressure on individual players and changed a lot of attitudes, but I think our team culture is on the up and up now.”
In part to thank for that, Myers said, is the move to Worcester, Mass. In the time since the NWHL’s Pride arrived and, in a sense, split the fanbase in Boston, the Blades had struggled to find their place within the city. They also struggled to maintain any semblance of continuity. The team has changed buildings, changed practice rinks, changed coaches and changed GMs. The change in locale, though, is one that Myers can get behind and believes can propel the team forward.
“Moving to Worcester this year and finally finding a home that shows us off, supports us and is excited to have us means the world to us,” Myers said. “We’ve finally found our niche and this has been the definition of a fresh start, which I don’t think is a bad thing. With the record we’ve had in the past few years, we needed a fresh start, we needed to rebuild, we needed to start new and Worcester is a great opportunity for us in central Massachusetts…You can already tell that the city is behind us, and it’s important for us to feel like we’re wanted.”
The Blades also added a bushel of talented players through the draft this season that Myers believes can start to turn things around for a franchise that had an almost mind-blowing minus-79 goal differential in 28 games last season. The addition of first-overall pick Lauren Williams, a skilled blueliner out of University of Wisconsin, as well as Morgan Turner, Meghan Turner and goaltender Jessica Convery, who posted a .920 save percentage and made the 11th-most saves in the nation across 32 games with unranked University of Minnesota-Duluth last season, sees the Blades bring aboard one of their more talented crops of prospects in some time.
“I think our coaching staff and GM, Derek Alfalma, has really upgraded our program since the start, and we can already see it in our practices and how organized things are,” Myers said. “Having the support and the guidance through Derek and (coach) Paul Kennedy, we’re excited and we can only see up. Yes, we’ve had difficult seasons, but I think with a really great culture and awesome staff, we’re going in a good direction. I haven’t felt this much positivity around our group in a long time.”
Myers would know, too. This season will be her fifth, making her the longest tenured Blades player. Over that time, she’s gone from the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed rookie forward who rarely saw the ice to the team’s captain. And like the team around her, Myers acknowledges that she’s seen some notable changes across her time in Boston.
“I went from a quiet locker room person to a very loud and vocal locker room person,” Myers said. “I changed my game on the ice to be a more physical presence. I like to stand out and help any way I can to help our team succeed. It’s been a pretty cool transition in my life to go from the Division III player to now being the longest tenured player. I love leading this team. It has changed my life in a bunch of ways. But I think that and the girls we’ve had here with the Blades have really helped transform me as a person.”
As someone who has helped develop her on and off the ice the most, Myers cites Watchorn by name. Watchorn didn’t jump ship to the NWHL, she didn’t groan about the tough seasons or pout about the sometimes less-than-ideal rinks the Blades were playing in. As an Olympian, Watchorn could have gone anywhere, but she stayed true to the CWHL squad, even through some abysmal years. It’s the lessons learned from Watchorn that Myers now brings to her role as a leader for the Blades — she wore the ‘C’ last season — and what she also brings to her other line of work with Leicester-based Becker College’s Div. III program, where she steps off the ice and behind the bench as an assistant coach.
“I want them to be really great hockey players, I want them to do well in school,” Myers said of the players she coaches. “But ultimately I want them to be awesome people. I want them to leave Becker College being a better person. The Blades have made me a better person, so I’m trying to translate that in the best way that I can.”