D'Aurio goes from player to Milford co-op girls hockey coach

The Milford co-op girls' hockey team is led by assistant captain McKenzie Broderick, captain Rose Linkasamy and assistant captain Justina Holland.

The Milford co-op girls’ hockey team is led by assistant captain McKenzie Broderick, captain Rose Linkasamy and assistant captain Justina Holland.

Law Athletics / Contributed photo

MILFORD - Alexandra D’Aurio has replaced her mentor Kerri Rowland as head coach of the Milford co-op girls’ hockey team. It was based out of Notre Dame High in Fairfield since 2005, when Rowland began the program, before moving to Milford.

“The team means a lot to me. We are playing under a new name and the team has a rich tradition,” said D’Aurio, a West Haven native who played for Rowland at Notre Dame from 2012-16. “It’s important that we keep it going. That’s a big thing for me, and the girls are playing with a lot of heart and for each other.”

Coaching was always a goal for D’Aurio, but she didn’t believe it would happen so soon.

“When I got the call, Kerri had recommended me for the position, but Milford didn’t have a team at the time because of the pandemic,” said D’Aurio, a 2020 Salve Regina University (R.I.) graduate. “School parents pushed for it and I applied from there. I’m so happy to be with my players.”

Milford co-op is made up of players from Foran, Law, Notre Dame, Weston and Pomperaug.

“At our first practice when they all came out you could see how happy they were to be together again and to be back on the ice,” D’Aurio said. “We played a tough West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy team in our opener (a 3-0 loss) and the last goal came on an empty-netter. We have some great talent on the team, and we are looking forward to the season as a whole.”

Versatility was a key to D’Aurio’s scholastic career, where she also starred in lacrosse. The need for flexibility is important to her.

“I started out as a forward and then ended moving to defense. I see that with many of our girls this season,” she said. “They are willing to play the positions they are needed. I played hockey for a year at Salve Regina and then switched over to rugby.”

Maddie David, Justina Holland and center McKenzie Broderick made up the first line in the opener. The second line found Jenna Johnson centering a line with Victoria Ceneri and Sarah Casey.

“Rose Linkasamy is captain and McKenzie and Justina are assistant captains,” D’Auria said. “Rose, Kaylee Pikul, Nicole Toth and Charlotte Dworski lead our defense. Charlotte plays forward but volunteered to play defense and did a great job. Freshman Caroline Saussy rotated in on defense as well. We have an amazing goalie in Bethany Karp, who made 43 in total against West Haven. We have eight seniors, so we have leadership from the upper class.

Emilee Maher and Ally Altschuler are assistant coaches.

D’Aurio said: “They are great people to have brought on the team and I’m happy to have them. I think we complement each other well. We are working hard to get these girls out on the ice playing well. I have to say in first game we only had one penalty and that came in the last period. Moving forward the girls know we are going to be disciplined and we work towards sportsmanship over anything else. That is something we talked about with them, so they have a good understanding on how they are going to present themselves.”

Keeping the program on stable footing is paramount to D’Aurio.

“I was one of those girls who started after my 8th grade year, and I can relate because we have a lot of girls that took up hockey late,” she said. “It is interesting that teams are made up of some who have played youth hockey on boys’ teams and come ready to play and others decide they want to try it late.

“We do have one of the smaller teams (16), but everyone out there is working hard to play,” she added. “It is nice to see that girls’ hockey is a growing sport. It still is an interesting idea to some people, but more and more I see girls playing on those boys’ youth teams.”

D’Aurio believes her hockey life has come full circle.

“It is really good to be back as part of this team,” she said. “Kerri left big shoes to fill. I can never fully take her place but I’m glad I get to continue the team and that she thought of me as the one to do it.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354