New England is at the forefront of developing woman hockey players, and two of the best are right here in Bedford.
Elise Lyons, grade 11, and her sister Monique, grade 8, daughters of Pat Lyons and Therese Franks, played wing on the first line of the co-state champion Cougars of Austin Preparatory School in Reading. The team was two days away from a showdown at TD Garden with Woburn for the MIAA title when the Covid-19 threat took over, truncating the tournament.
Elise said she made the transition from figure skating to hockey in fifth grade, influenced by her father and older brothers. Her formative years were on the ice at the Valley Sports arena in West Concord.
“I always watched my siblings play, and since I was a baby I was on the rink,” Monique said. “I put on skates and I wouldn’t take them off.”
“The girls played together on an eight-and-under team,” Franks said. As her children grew up, hockey was “a constant. My husband would go with one, I would go with one, my aunt was with a child, their grandmother — I had to make sure there was a family member with each kid, for injury reasons and support.”
When Elise began her varsity career at AP as a freshman, her sister was on the other wing as a sixth-grader. That’s unusually young for that level of play, but Monique recalled,
“Everyone welcomed me. Actually, it was not as scary as I thought it would be.” Two years later, she was named all-scholastic by both The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald after scoring 42 goals and adding 22 assists in 2019-2020.
As Austin Prep Cougars, “We had a ton of 6 am practices – and we had to be on the ice at 5:30,” Elyse recounted. “That means we wake up at 4 and drive to Stoneham and then go to school.”
Monique is also a skater in The Wizards independent club program based at The Edge on Hartwell Road. Franks said the team, part of the New England Girls Hockey League, was scheduled to compete in a national tournament in Minnesota this month. “Everything got wiped out,” she said, including the state tourney at The Edge.
Elyse said her greatest role model has been her father. “He reminds me of myself because he is such a hard worker, and everything he does he sacrifices for our family. He is also my number one fan and when I see him in the stands it makes me work harder.” She added she values his advice about hockey or the rest of the world.
Monique said she considers her AP coach, Stephanie Wood, who starred at Northeastern University, as an inspiration. She also mentioned math teacher Meghan Chapman, “who always comes to my games and supports me and lifts me up.”
The girls compete at a high level over the summer – and they hope to continue this year. Elyse is a member of Coach Wood’s Islanders independent program, based at Merrimack College. She is undecided about college hockey, but pointed out that the suspension of all team sports makes it impossible to get scouted in live-action
Monique is a member of the East Coast Selects Girls Hockey program, which includes more than 15 teams across North America and Europe. “We travel the world – we’ve gone to Europe, everywhere,” she said.
Meanwhile, the moratorium on sports has been “devastating,” Elyse said. “Being on the ice is like letting your anxiety and emotions out, and we were skating every day.” In the spring Elyse is on the track team at AP, but that has been delayed as well, of course. Monique agreed with her sister: “Hockey is a place to get away. It brings me a lot of joy.”