Kean graduate named head coach in Westfield
By Alex Wisniewski| Published May 6, 2017
Matthew Gualtieri, a graduate of Kean University, has been named head coach of the first-ever girls’ ice hockey team of Westfield High School.
Gualtieri, who has been coaching hockey for twenty-two years, was selected for the coaching job in the Spring of 2016. The team finished their first season with a 3-11-1 record.
Gualtieri attended Kean from 1995-1998 and again from 2001-2005. He received a degree in adult fitness as well as a teaching certification in physical education.
He was an assistant coach for the Westfield High School Boys Hockey team from 1996-1998, and head coach of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School team from 2006-2013.
Gualtieri played for Kean’s now-defunct club hockey team from 1996-1998. In addition to the Westfield team Gualtieri also coaches for the New Jersey Youth Devils and the Union Thunder youth hockey clubs.
As a newly-minted team with many first-time players, Gualtieri was not expecting a winning record, instead he focused on improving the quality and ability of each player. “I’m not really judging so much by wins and losses” said Gualtieri, “I’ve seen a few of the girls after the season and how much better they’ve looked versus when I saw them during the season so I think it was good to see how much they’ve progressed in terms of skills individually.”
The team considers their first season a success and are pleased with Gualtieri’s coaching ability.
“When we started, some people could barely skate and had never touched a puck in their lives” said freshman player Maddie Katz, “I think that the fact that a lot of girls were able to keep up in the game and even score was a huge improvement.”
The success of the Westfield team has spurred other schools such as Randolph and Chatham/Madison to establish their own girls’ hockey programs.“Several public schools are starting to transition into this ‘new’ sport and it is really great to see the influx of girl ice hockey players” said Westfield team captain Ally Hornstein, a junior, “It is a little crazy to think that we had something to do with that.”
The Westfield team is both a reflection of and motivator for the growing interest in Girls’ Ice Hockey in New Jersey.
“I think it has developed [girls’ ice hockey]” said Freshman player Maddie McDevitt, “we’re raising awareness for newer, younger girls to start playing and so there’s a lot of talk about it.”
Gualtieri and his team are now eagerly looking forward to next season. They hope to continue improving their players and raising interest in girls’ ice hockey.
“I think if we establish a good program and create a culture within that’s going to help us win” said Gualtieri, “we’re on our way towards that.”