After four years at Buffalo State College (2014-18), where she was a dominant player, Erin Gehen didn’t play anywhere during the 2018-19 season. She left BSC as the program’s all-time leader in games played (103), points (95), goals (54), assists (41), and shorthanded goals (7).
Gehen, who was a team captain as a senior, will be entering her third season as a volunteer assistant coach at Elmira College (2018-19-present), but she was missing the competition and camaraderie of being a part of a team. So when there was an opportunity to join the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts, the West Seneca, New York native felt like it was an opportunity she could not pass up.
This past season Gehen finished tied for fourth on the Beauts in points (16), third in goals (7), fifth in shots on goal (48), and tied for third in assists (9). That is, to quote Larry David, ‘pretty, pretty, prettay good’ for any player, let alone a first-year player that hadn’t played competitively for a full year.
As we found out, Gehen is a passionate player, which along with her superb skill set, are some of the reasons that Buffalo was happy to welcome her back for a second campaign in Beauts Blue.
We spoke with the recently-turned 24-year-old this past week via phone to get her thoughts on her rookie season, playing for her hometown team, and getting ready for the upcoming season in the middle of a pandemic.
Season In Review
The Hockey Writers: Looking back at your rookie season (7g-9a-16p), how would you assess it?
Erin Gehen: I think it was a good rookie season. Aside from the points, I had a lot of fun and experienced a lot of things that I didn’t get to experience at the D-III level. I played with a lot of talent and that was something that I had never done before, so it was a good season for me and I had a lot of fun.
THW: As a rookie, whatever expectations you had coming into the league, did your experience in the NWHL surpass them?
EG: Absolutely. You hear all of the negativity and that kind of talk coming out in the media from the players that were boycotting. But the league completely exceeded my expectations. We were well taken care of every single day honestly. My staff in Buffalo was unbelievable, always there for us, and anything that we needed we were given. I would say it definitely exceeded my expectations.
THW: Watching you play, it seemed that your confidence grew with more ice-time (coinciding with Brooke Stacey leaving the team due to her pregnancy) as the season went on. Is that accurate?
EG: I don’t know if it was so much from when Brooke stepped away from the team. I think that as I started to get more minutes, you’re right, I started to gain more confidence. Playing with a player like Brooke, who was my linemate for a little while there before she stepped away, it helped boost my confidence and showed me what I was capable of. She is such a great player.
Never Forget Your First One
THW: I’m pretty sure I was there and we talked about it after the game in Connecticut, but what do you remember about your first NWHL goal (which happened to be the game-winning goal that afternoon)?
EG: It was just such a relief to get that first one. It’s always a relief at any level to get that first one and I feel like it took me a little bit longer than it has in my past seasons. But this is the highest level you can play at. I figured it would take me a little bit of time, but it was honestly just such a relief to get that first one out of the way. It’s a weight lifted off of your shoulders and you can breathe again haha!
THW: Was possibly playing in the NWHL on your mind at all near end of college?
EG: I think after my senior year I thought I was done with hockey and honestly I was ready to start my life, get a job, and was thinking about going back to school – which I did end up doing. That was my main focus and when this opportunity arose the following year it was a no-brainer for me. I missed it so much.
THW: What did you miss the most?
EG: I think just competing every day. You compete, literally every day in the sport – when you’re at practice, whether it’s a mental game, or in actual games on the weekends – it’s just a constant competition and friendly competition amongst your teammates. I just missed that camaraderie and competition – everything that comes with being on an ice hockey team.
Home Sweet Home
THW: In college, for those that don’t know, you were kind of a big deal to put it lightly. A big-time scoring star. What can you tell us about your career at Buffalo State?
EG: Going into college I didn’t really know what to expect. At that time that was the highest caliber of play that I was getting involved in and I had an awesome coach (Candice Moxley) for my first three years. She really helped me to grow and to develop into the player that I am today. She taught me a lot of skills and strategies that I never thought of before I got to Buff State. I think I was very well-coached and that helped me to grow into the player that I am.
THW: Being a native of New York State, it has to be pretty awesome to play for your hometown team as a pro, right?
EG: That’s honestly the best part of being on the Buffalo Beauts – every single game I have my entire family, all of my siblings – which I have a lot of – and my parents in the stands for every game. That’s just the best part for me. I have four siblings on my mom’s side and two on my dad’s side so there’s a lot of them. We’re the Brady Bunch!
THW: There have been a lot of changes in Buffalo (new GM, players) this offseason, what are your thoughts on all that has transpired?
EG: Our new GM, Nate Oliver, has always been great for us. I’m going to miss Mandy Cronin (now GM of the Toronto Six). She did a great job and always have a soft spot for her because she brought me onto this team. Nate does a great job, and already he’s been communicating awesome with us. Anything we need he is there for us.
We’re so lucky to have Nate and it was really good news when we heard that he got promoted to GM of the Beauts. He deserves it. Half of our team is Canadian and the other half is American, so being as we all can’t be together in person right now – he has organized regular Zoom meetings for us and doing a great job with that.
Staff-wise, I’m very happy we have the same staff as last season. Coach Pete (Perram) and Coach Rhea (Coad) have been great to me; they’re both extremely knowledgable and I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can from them again.
I’m super excited to get a chance to play with the new girls on our team. All of these girls coming in from DI (schools) – just looking them up they seem awesome. I’ve been communicating with them in the off-season and they seem like great people, so I’m looking forward to playing with them.
THW: What’s the outlook for yourself and the team this upcoming season after a disappointing end to last season?
EG: I think we just have to get back to work. It was a disappointing end but we had such great chemistry and a team full of great people. I’m really looking forward to having those relationships again with my teammates and the staff – and getting some wins under our belt. I plan on winning the Isobel Cup this year with my team. We want to bring it back to Buffalo.
THW: How have you been training/getting ready for the upcoming season in a world that is a bit different since the last time we saw you on the ice?
EG: Right now there is a lot of training at the track for me. A lot of outside training, a lot of sprints as I try to get in as much training as I can. Some shooting and stickhandling outside, anything that I can do (to get ready). I am looking forward to getting back in a gym finally on Monday (Aug. 24) to get some heavy lifts in, some actual hockey lifts, and getting stronger.
THW: Are you someone that took up rollerblading when rinks weren’t available because of the pandemic?
EG: I’m actually an extremely terrible rollerblader. So no (laughs). It is not something that I love, but I run a lot and I think that makes up for it.
Ultimate Team Player
THW: I wanted to read you something that your GM told me about a month ago about you:
‘Erin really cares, and no one is harder on themselves after a Beauts loss than her. That’s something that has always impressed me about her. When we got slayed in Minnesota last season there were too many people laughing and joking around after the game. Erin was pissed, and she took it very much to heart. I like that in her. She also definitely has that offensive flair that we like to see.’
THW: What are your thoughts after hearing that?
EG: That’s awesome. Nate is so nice and a great guy. I think that he is absolutely right – I do take it personally when we lose and I’m extremely competitive. I want us to play to our potential every single game and I think there were a few games that we didn’t get to that, to our max. There were a few games that I was disappointed in myself, not just my teammates, and the outcomes of games. Minnesota was definitely one of them. I hate losing more than anything, and when we lose like that I definitely take it to heart and it’s personal.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.