NORTH SMITHFIELD — Kayla Kiernan has built up an impressive resume during her fantastic high school hockey career at North Smithfield High.
A state champion and the state’s 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 couldn’t top what she’s done, Kiernan has an golden opportunity to tack on two more marvelous feats to her resume -- the state’s 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.
“I’m pretty excited,” Kiernan added before her team’s Wednesday afternoon scrimmage against Franklin High at the Route 146 rink. “No one’s ever done it before, but I’m not going to focus on that. I’m just going to focus on trying to help my team win the game.”
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 they’re 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 shouldn’t be much of a problem for her, finishing the weekend with six goals (including her 100th) wouldn’t be unrealistic.
“I’m not going to worry about it too much or stress out about it,” remarked Kiernan. “I really haven’t 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 we’re looking to turn things around.”
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.
“I’m very proud of her,” he admitted. “She lives for hockey. She has a lot of passion for this game and it shows. She’s one kid that I’ve enjoyed coaching because she’s worked very hard since her freshman year and she never stops. Practice, games, it’s all the same for her. It’s all about playing as well as you can play.”
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 Hawks’ Under-19 team that recently claimed the Polar Bears’ 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 program’s 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 team’s 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.
“Most teams are double-teaming her,” he reported. “We’re 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, they’re double-teaming her because they know she’s a threat.”
But despite all the double-teaming and harassing defenses by her opponents, Kiernan, whose two brothers played for the Northmen’s boys’ squad, Joshua (a 2005 graduate) and Seamus (’07), finds herself on the brink of breaking a prestigious record.
“I knew I was close to it,” said Kiernan. “I talked to my dad and my brothers about it over the summer and I told them, ‘I’m going to be there, I’m going to get 100 goals,’ but I didn’t think I was that close until (Nangle) sent me an e-mail telling me I was almost there.”
Once this season is over, Kiernan won’t 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.
“I plan on playing D-III,” she said, noting that UMass-Boston tops her wish list. “I’m 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, we’ll see what happens.”
“She’s matured a lot in four years,” said Nangle. “She’s a young lady who’s got the whole future in front of her and I think she’s going to be pleased with what she can do with it.”