By Melissa Quinn
Michaela Mulokey heads into the girls locker room alone. Right before the Bishop Ireton senior laces up her skates, she gets into the zone, ticking off the opposing team’s weaknesses and remembering the fundamentals of goalkeeping.
She’s not surrounded by a gaggle of girls shrieking and laughing like she normally is before a soccer or lacrosse game. Instead, Mulokey dresses alone, stretches alone, and walks past rows of lockers and wood benches alone.
But once she walks past the women’s locker room sign and into the chilly arena, she’s suddenly surrounded by boys. And as the lone female on Bishop Ireton’s varsity boys hockey team, she doesn’t mind it — not one bit.
Mulokey is the third woman to play on the team during coach Anthony Di Carlo’s eight-year tenure. While the 17-year-old typically sticks to soccer and lacrosse, the team had a need and Molokey knew she had to fill it.
After losing their goalkeeper following the 2012 season, the Cardinals (2-2-1) found themselves in desperate need of a warm body out on the ice. It took some convincing of her parents — they feared Mulokey would get injured and hurt her chances of playing collegiate soccer — but they finally came around.
“I’m in,” she said. “I decided I would be the person the team needed.”
Though the teen never played hockey before, she was familiar with the game and a fan of the sport — a dedicated Penguins fan in a Capitals-dominated region.
And, as goalie for the school’s soccer and lacrosse teams, Mulokey was used to things flying at her face.
“If I can deal with someone throwing and kicking a ball at me, I can deal with someone shooting a puck at me,” she said.
It didn’t take long before she padded up and headed onto the ice. Though standing up in the heavy pads, she admitted, has been the biggest challenge.
While hockey garners the reputation as an intense sport, going up against the boys on opposing teams doesn’t phase Mulokey one bit.
“I’m not going to back off just because they expect me to,” she said. “Teams have left their skates and tackled me and tried to pin me down but I’ll give it right back. I think of it like any other person coming at me, trying to prevent me from doing my job.”
It’s that take-on-anything attitude that has Mulokey in good graces with her teammates, despite the gender difference.
“The team rallies around her,” Di Carlo said. “When the team needs her to step up, she’s done it. She’s been a blessing for the team, and you can’t ask for more.”
Her teammates give her “mad props” for stepping up to fill their empty goal, and when they get out on the ice, Mulokey knows they are there to protect her — a comforting notion for her parents.
“Goaltenders are a different breed,” Di Carlo said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl, boy, purple, green, yellow, red, if you skate on your head. Nothing matters, she’s definitely part of the team.”
Though the list of Bishop Ireton female hockey players is short, Mulokey hopes her presence in the rink encourages other high school girls to pursue the sport.
“I hope that they don’t let the fact that it says mens varsity on our website hold them back,” she said. “I hope in the future my example for them encourages them to try out for the team.”
And while Mulokey may walk back into an empty women’s locker room after the games, her teammates make sure she is never alone.