Female goalie powers Massapequa HS hockey team
The first thing you notice is the voice. The goalie of Massapequa's high school hockey team loves to talk, barking out directions to defensemen as the play unfolds around them. The voice is loud, authoritative and, well, surprisingly high-pitched.
"That's the only thing that gives it away," team captain Brett Ansbacher said. "There's no way you would know our goalie is a girl until you hear her on the ice."
That's right, the goalie is a girl. One of the top goalies in the Nassau County league is a ponytailed, pearl-earring-wearing dynamo of athleticism named Dana DeMartino.
Over the years, a half-dozen or so females have played boys high school hockey on Long Island, but no girl has played as significant a role as the 5-2 DeMartino.
Last season, her first as a starter, DeMartino helped lead Massapequa to a New York AAU Large School state title. This season, the 17-year-old compiled a 12-5-1 record as her team reached the title series but fell to East Williston-Jericho.
"Dana is a fierce competitor," said former Islander Pat LaFontaine, who coached DeMartino on the Long Island Royals youth team. "She has never been afraid to go in there with the boys. She looked at it as a challenge. She loves to play."
DeMartino said she has loved to play since she was 4 years old when her father, John, who briefly played minor league hockey and now works as an engineer and private goaltending coach, brought her on the ice and started firing pucks at her.
"My dad is my inspiration," she said. "I wanted to be like him. So I got him to buy me some pads, and that was it. "
Though DeMartino has played on girls teams -- she also plays for a girls youth hockey team in New Jersey -- she has spent most of her career playing with boys. What she lacks in size -- she is often a full foot shorter than the opposing male goalie -- she makes up for in technique, Massapequa assistant coach Tom Kiernan said.
"She's almost always in the right place," Kiernan said. "When you're smaller and you don't take up a lot of space, you have to do things to make up for it. She's very agile, very competitive and very technically strong."
DeMartino has caught the eye of several college women's hockey coaches, though she might take a postgraduate year at a prep school with a strong girls program. Her goal is to play for a Division I women's team.
Coach Tony DeMayo says he has never seen a girl play a more important role on a boys team in his 31 years of coaching. Still, he admits he was "a little nervous" when he first named DeMartino the team's starter.
"She proved herself, especially at the end of last year," DeMayo said. "Last year there were a couple of the kids on the team when we were struggling who decided maybe they just didn't like the idea of playing with a girl . . . I just told them to shut up. We can't win without her."
DeMartino's biggest challenges are the logistics off the ice. At Bethpage Community Park ice rink, where her team plays most of its games, she has a separate locker room where she can get dressed before joining the team in its locker room for the pregame talk. On the road, however, she sometimes has to dress in the public restroom or a closet-sized office.
She also has to meticulously remove any makeup before the game, because she likes to take off her helmet and squirt water over her head between periods and "eyeliner tastes terrible."
For the most part this season, no one on the ice thinks twice about playing against a girl.
Goals-allowed average: 1.43
Elsewhere: The other female goalie in the league is Rachel Havrylkoff, 15, a sophomore who plays for Great Neck-Sewanhaka and attends New Hyde Park HS.