West Haven / Sacred Heart Academy girls hockey coach Erin Blake has seen her share of solid players in her coaching career. What she had not seen entering this season was a 100-point scorer in her program.
Blake can now cross that off the list. With a goal 8 minutes, 8 seconds into the middle period of last Tuesday’s 6-2 win against Hamden, junior Taylor Nowak recorded her 100th career point for the Westie Sharks, becoming the first player in the history of the program to do so.
“We knew she was special as a freshman,” Blake said of Nowak. “We saw her work ethic. The way she plays is the way she practices. She is one of the most unselfish players. Her line (Jianna Cohrs and Megan Froehlich) has really worked well this season. It is a tribute to how hard the line works in practice.”
What is most amazing about the milestone is Nowak is just a junior. Not only does the multi-talented center have a handful of games to add to the list this season, she will have a full senior year to increase a total which will be very hard to catapult in the future.
If you one would ask Nowak, her humble demeanor would lead you to believe she had no idea she was approaching the mark. And you would be right.
Blake informed Nowak the milestone was approaching and not surprising to Blake, Nowak had no idea she was that close.
“She works hard and is so deserving,” Blake said of Nowak. “She had no idea she was close to one hundred. I told her when she was at 94. What really stands out is she is so humble. I told her it was okay to take some credit for it. She does not like the spotlight. She does not play for her. She is all about the team. Everyone was excited for her when they announced it and I could tell she was like ‘Okay, let’s just play.’ That’s the type of kid she is.”
For Taylor Nowak, success is nothing uncommon as she has played on a pair of national championship teams for the Shoreline Sharks the last two years, is a high honors student, a solid soccer player, and oh by the way, decided to pick up lacrosse as an extra sport to keep active.
What is most impressive about the 16-yaer-old from West Haven is she is still not satisfied. According to Blake, Nowak’s hunger to continually get better every day in the classroom and in athletics is most impressive.
“It’s her hard work,” Blake said when talking about Nowak. “We knew she was going to make an impact as a freshman. We knew she would play a big role. She has good speed on the ice, she sees the ice, and she just make plays.”
For Nowak, success is all relative to the hard work she has put in since playing hockey in the West Haven Youth Hockey league at the age of eight. Nowak then went on to play for Erik Erne and the Ct. Polar Bears for six years where she has taken trips to the state and reginal tournaments, before entering her third year with the Shoreline Sharks.
Nowak fit into the program quite nicely under coach Ed Rodham, as she was part of the title-winning U-14 Tier 2 squad in Michigan, then followed by being part of the championship-winning U-16 Tier 2 program in Marlboro, Massachusetts last season. Nowak was tied for the top spot in goals in the team’s division during the magical run of last season.
“I think my speed is my strength,” Nowak said. “I am able to skate around people. I think the other thing is I try to stay out of the penalty box. I think I have two penalties my whole career. I don’t do the dirty play. I like to draw penalties so we are a man up.”
Nowak, an All-SCC and All-State selection as a high school sophomore, has been a high impact player on the Sharks team as she accumulated 102 points in her first two seasons with the Sharks, with her recording 47 points (26-21) her first year and 55 points (39-16) last season.
The junior has made an impact on the Westie Sharks from the minute she stepped on the ice. Coming up as a highly touted player, Blake and assistant coach Jocey Morrell had big plans for the incoming freshman as the program had taken a turn for the better and was led by another ultra-talented athlete in Gabi Prisco.
“She is definitely a leader on and off the ice,” Morrell said. “She is a presence on the ice and is a go-to person on the power play and penalty kill. She always gives 110 percent no matter what. She understands the game. She is a coach’s dream. Taylor handles pressure very well and does not get nervous. She is someone you want on the ice at all times. She is a team player.”
Playing a year with Prisco taught Nowak plenty about the sport, but also taught her about the game and playing as a team.
“Playing with Gabi was great,” Nowak said. “I was there with her through soccer, hockey and lacrosse. She was always there for me. That was a cool experience.”
All the junior did her first two years was put up 34 points as a freshman, 37 points as a sophomore and 29 thus far as a junior with a handful of games to go.
“Last year, when I came back as a sophomore, I wanted to build upon what I did as a freshman,” Nowak said. “We have goals we want to reach. We set goals and we hope to keep elevating those goals. At first, we wanted to win in the first round of the states, then get to the quarterfinals and semifinals. We are doing it piece by piece. We are trying to go as far as we can go.”
Nowak’s drive is nothing surprising to those who know her. Coming from a talented and driven family, with her younger 14-year-old sister Grace a singer, and soccer and hockey player, Taylor Nowak does not settle for second best. Currently ranked eighth in her class, Nowak is beginning the college process, undecided where to go and on a major, although Pre-Med is one of her top choices.
Blake has no worries about the academic side as she has seen first-hand Nowak’s study habits, including studying while stretching a she prepares to get on the ice, and bringing a portable lamp to study on the bus to and from a game.
“She is an All-Star,” Blake said. “All around, she is the total package. She is tremendous with her academics. She is always looking to be better. She brought a lamp on the bus to study and we were going to Hamden. She is looking at her notes when she is stretching. She is always looking to be better. That says something about the whole package. She is a coach’s dream. She is respectful and a hard worker.”
“I have always been very academically driven,” Nowak said. “I always felt it was going to be my hockey and academics which was going to be how I got to a good college. There is no NHL (National Hockey League) for girls hockey. When school ends, that pretty much is it. That is where academics comes in for me to get a good job.”
Nowak is quick to point out the relationship she has with Blake and Morrell and what the two coaches mean to her.
“They have done so much for me,” Nowak said. “They have worked with me to enhance my ability on the ice. They are always watching out for me.”
With the milestone achieved, Nowak will not take all the credit. She praises her team for all of its hard work and credits her linemates for working so well together.
“We have played on the same line together before,” Nowak said. “That helps us on the ice. I have played with both for several years. We know where we all are on the ice. I know where to look for them as we all do.”
With junior year coming to a close, Nowak is not focused on points. Instead, she, along with the team, is focused on a run for the program’s first state title.
After that, it’s all about her future. Nowak will complete her senior year at West Haven, then look to do some post graduate work, before heading to college.
For Nowak, 100 points is the biggest of deals in terms of the program. Now, the junior wants to reward the program with a state title.