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Kelly Dyer and a distinguished career between the pipes (Part One)

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Among one of the goaltending greats from New England, the legacy of Kelly Dyer remains one of awe and admiration. Starting in the famed Assabet Valley program, followed by an empowering place on the boys varsity hockey team at Acton-Boxborough (Massachusetts) High School, Dyer gained superstar standing at the university level. A stellar four year run saw Dyer as a key contributor towards establishing the Northeastern Huskies as an elite program Such an incredible number of achievements comprised only the first half in a fascinating hockey odyssey.

Followed by the privilege of wearing the Stars and Stripes at three IIHF Women’s World Championships (1990, 1992, 1994), Dyer enjoyed a podium finish each time. Additionally, she joined fellow goaltenders Manon Rheaume and Erin Whitten in breaking the glass ceiling, all part of the historic chapter defined by playing professional men’s ice hockey. The highlight in Dyer’s pro sojourn involved a pair of Sunshine League titles. Undeniably, Dyer was among an exceptional generation that set the foundation for today’s players, instilling the belief that greater heights were within reach.

Recently, Dyer added another special accolade to her distinguished career. Joined by her teammates from the undefeated 1987-88 Huskies, the team gained the honored recognition of induction into the Northeastern Athletics Hall of Fame. Allowing a new generation of hockey enthusiasts to appreciate the ground breaking legacy established by such an exceptional team, the induction ceremony and team reunion provided plenty of emotion for a proud Dyer. Additionally, she helped organize commemorative jackets for the team, testament to her dedication. Featuring the school colors with Northeastern and the Husky logo visible on the front, the wording “Hall of Fame” is prevalent on the sleeve, resulting in a treasured keepsake.

“It was just really cool. It was 35 years since that season. There are a couple that I have remained close too but there were also a couple that I have not seen since. I was flooded with memories. Remembering the little things, it was quite a trip. Big flashes of memories.”

Growing up as a three sport star, equally proficient in lacrosse and soccer, one of the most unique elements saw her serve in the capacity of backup goaltender to Tom Barrasso with the Acton-Boxborough (High School) Colonials. Not only did Barrasso make the jump to the NHL from high school, winning the Calder and Vezina Trophies in 1984 with the Buffalo Sabres, he shared another unique trait with Dyer.

Akin to Dyer, Barrasso has also worn the Stars and Stripes. Competing for the US at the 1984 and 1987 Canada Cups, he also appeared at the 1986 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Moscow. Holding the NHL record for most playoff wins by an American goaltender, the pinnacle of his career intersected with women’s ice hockey.

Belonging to the Class of 2023 inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, one of the honored members included Caroline Ouellette, the tenth woman in the Hall. Adding to the unique connection involved a sense of full circle as the induction ceremonies for the 87-88 Huskies and Barrasso took place during the same weekend. As a side note, both Dyer and Barrasso hold standing as members of the Acton Boxborough Colonial Club.

“When it comes to Tommy, it is neat how he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame during the same weekend that we were inducted into the Northeastern Hall of Fame. His induction also involved Team Canada star Caroline Ouellette, a tremendous player. Looking back, it’s funny how Tommy and his dad, Tom Sr., were not initially thrilled to have a girl backup. Today, he was inducted as part of a group including a successful and talented female.”

During the epic 87-88 season, Dyer posted a remarkable 20-0-1 mark, including three shutouts. Backup goaltender Sue Guay proved highly effective, contributing six wins when called upon. Among the pillars of such a legendary team, capable of constantly instilling the belief in her teammates that winning was always within reach, the display of perseverance and reliability encompassed a continued commitment to keep building on success.

“It is a team that was quite remarkable. Being undefeated raised the stakes high. Playing Brown, we were down by a goal heading into the third. The feeling was that we needed to pick it up and keep things going. We had to intensify and keep raising our game to a new level. It was great to have the undefeated regular season and check that off, but it was not the only goal. We wanted to get that same success through the playoffs.

We clicked early through the championship game (versus Providence). Donnie (Rosa)’s hat trick in the first period certainly gave us a spread, and it felt like we were getting this done. Cardinale also scored a lot of goals throughout the season and it was great to have such contributions. With Donnie on the defense, we clicked from day one. The puck rebounding off my stick, and I can remember tape to tape. She had a higher level of awareness.”

On a team filled with so much star power, the glue that held everything together was head coach Don MacLeod. Balancing a full-time career while serving in the capacity of bench boss, his work ethic certainly set the example for the players, transforming the Huskies into one of the nation’s finest programs.

As the decade of the 1980s progressed, the Huskies not only established a dynasty in Beanpot play, a place was earned in the conversation for the ECAC championship. Recounting the recruitment of Dyer, it marked a key acquisition for MacLeod, allowing the Huskies an opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of the University of New Hampshire (UNH).

“The first time I saw her play was at Assabet Valley Arena. I heard about her in advance. As she played at Acton-Boxborough behind Tom Barrasso, she obviously was very good. 

Once I saw her play, I was very impressed. She was 5’11”, which was very tall at the time for a women’s ice hockey goalie. Some of the other schools that recruited her were schools that we had not beaten yet. Among them was our biggest competition, UNH. They had been the number one team for several years.

Kelly definitely earned her scholarship. She was the best goalie that I ever coached. A very good student, she had courage, not afraid to play hurt. Her uniform was always spotless, equipment top notch. Between talent, skill and energy, she had it all.”

A highly influential mentor for so many of his players, believing in their talent, MacLeod first earned induction into the Huskies Hall of Fame in 2013. Testament to his tremendous work ethic was the fact that he recruited every member of the 87-88 team. As MacLeod and Dyer, among other Huskies, remain residents of Massachusetts, the mutual respect has only strengthened with the passage of time. Although he remains “Coach”, Dyer is proud to call him friend.

“I see Coach MacLeod quite a bit. I am not far from Northeastern and go to a good amount of games. Typically, I see Coach 3-4 times a year. He had us for lunch at his yacht club. At times, he may have been strict or stern, but he came across as completely dedicated and hardworking.

He not only worked at Federal Express full time, but he also did the recruiting and scouting for the Huskies. He did everything. We also had Kevin Moran as an assistant coach. He worked as a school teacher full time.

At the time, Northeastern was on the cutting edge. Along with UNH and Providence, they were the first schools offering women’s ice hockey scholarships. It just took a bit of time for the coaching salaries and the full-time roles to catch up.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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