- Special Sections
NORTH SMITHFIELD â Kayla Kiernan has built up an impressive resume during her fantastic high school hockey career at North Smithfield High.
A state champion and the stateâs goal-scoring leader as a freshman. A First-Team All-State pick as a junior, a Second-Team All-Stater as a sophomore. A three-time First-Team All-Division selection. And the list goes on.
And just when you thought she couldnât top what sheâs done, Kiernan has an golden opportunity to tack on two more marvelous feats to her resume -- the stateâs all-time goal-scoring leader and first-ever 100-goal scorer.
The senior center, who owns 94 career goals, is just two away from tying the record set by Mary Rogers, a 2007 graduate of the Lincoln School who was a two-time All-State pick for the former Lincoln School/Providence Country Day co-op team.
Kiernan will get two cracks at the record and possibly the century milestone this weekend. The Northmen battle the Toll Gate/Warwick Vets co-op squad on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Thayer Arena and the Cranston co-op team the next night at 6:30 p.m. in the friendly confines of the Rhode Island Sports Center.
âIâm pretty excited,â Kiernan added before her teamâs Wednesday afternoon scrimmage against Franklin High at the Route 146 rink. âNo oneâs ever done it before, but Iâm not going to focus on that. Iâm just going to focus on trying to help my team win the game.â
The Northmen, who are 2-7 with four straight defeats against the iron of the league, could sure use a win or two this weekend because theyâre currently in a heated battle with the Warwick (3-2) and Cranston (2-5) squads for the fifth and sixth places in the standings.
And Kiernan has had a long history of tormenting both teams offensively, so while notching two goals over the weekend shouldnât be much of a problem for her, finishing the weekend with six goals (including her 100th) wouldnât be unrealistic.
âIâm not going to worry about it too much or stress out about it,â remarked Kiernan. âI really havenât talked about it. All I want to do is to see our team win both of our games. We had a lot of rough games at the beginning of the season, but weâre looking to turn things around.â
While Kiernan has made plenty of headlines with her goal-scoring prowess, they only tell part of her story, said N.S. coach Bill Nangle, who recognized his senior center for her strong work ethic, willingness to put her team ahead of her accomplishments, and true love for the game.
âIâm very proud of her,â he admitted. âShe lives for hockey. She has a lot of passion for this game and it shows. Sheâs one kid that Iâve enjoyed coaching because sheâs worked very hard since her freshman year and she never stops. Practice, games, itâs all the same for her. Itâs all about playing as well as you can play.â
Kiernan has played as well as she could in a superb career that started in the Edgewood Hockey Association and also currently has her playing a leading role on the Edgewood Lady Hawksâ Under-19 team that recently claimed the Polar Bearsâ regional tournament in Connecticut.
Kiernan made a spectacular splash as a freshman for the Northmen, netting a state-best 30 goals and adding six more in the postseason to help her team defeat La Salle Academy in three action-packed games and win the Division II state title, the programâs only championship.
As a sophomore, she scored 24 goals and added 16 assists during the regular season and added four goals in the postseason to help the Northmen return to the Division II finals, but fall to the Rams in back-to-back games.
Last winter, Kiernan earned a spot on the All-State team by netting the third-most regular-season goals (16) and points (28) in the state. She also had four more scores in the playoffs, but their Division II title run also ended in two games in the finals at the hands of the Rams.
Right now, she has scored 10 of her teamâs 23 goals and is currently second in the state in goals and tied for sixth in scoring (13 points), and while that is an alarmingly-low total after nine games, Nangle knows the reason why.
âMost teams are double-teaming her,â he reported. âWeâre going to do some things in the second half (of the season) to try to free her up a little bit more, but right now, theyâre double-teaming her because they know sheâs a threat.â
But despite all the double-teaming and harassing defenses by her opponents, Kiernan, whose two brothers played for the Northmenâs boysâ squad, Joshua (a 2005 graduate) and Seamus (â07), finds herself on the brink of breaking a prestigious record.
âI knew I was close to it,â said Kiernan. âI talked to my dad and my brothers about it over the summer and I told them, âIâm going to be there, Iâm going to get 100 goals,â but I didnât think I was that close until (Nangle) sent me an e-mail telling me I was almost there.â
Once this season is over, Kiernan wonât be putting her skates away. She will
join her Lady Hawks teammates on a trip to California to play in the Under-19 nationals, the first Rhode Island team to ever appear in this tournament.
After that, she plans to return to summer hockey and continue her search for a college where she hopes to continue her career.
âI plan on playing D-III,â she said, noting that UMass-Boston tops her wish list. âIâm just going to feel it out and see if I like it. And if everything goes well, and in two years, I feel like I can go up and play D-II, weâll see what happens.â
âSheâs matured a lot in four years,â said Nangle. âSheâs a young lady whoâs got the whole future in front of her and I think sheâs going to be pleased with what she can do with it.â