Quinnipiac coach, player are world inline champs
Competing in the World Inline Championships for Team USA has provided Quinnipiac hockey player Antoinette Maldonado and her assistant coach, Lisa Giovanelli, a unique opportunity to bond.
Sweating it out in a gym with temperatures approaching 100 degrees hardly seems like an ideal summer vacation, but Lisa Giovanelli wouldn't have it any other way.
For Giovanelli, it doesn't matter what surface (ice or inline), what venue or what capacity she is involved with, hockey is life.
"It's been my passion since I was little," she said. "Playing hockey is just fun for me, it's not really working, it's relaxing."
If she finds hockey relaxing, Giovanelli must have more inner peace than a Tibetan monk.
From August to May, she is an assistant woman's ice hockey coach at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. She is also in charge of recruiting.
When she isn't in practice, in the film room or on the road scouting, Giovanelli can be found in the weight room, training for inline hockey, which she competes in over the summers.
"When I leave the rink and I go workout, that is kind of my escape," she said. "It lets me focus on me for a while and not worry about working. If I sit around too long and not do anything, I get really board."
As a member of the U.S. Women's Inline Hockey Team, she has wreaked havoc on opponents in roller rinks from Pennsylvania to Paris (the site of last year's world championships) and quite a few stops in between. She says that staying involved competitively as an athlete also helps her coach.
"I think it helps me relate to the players better," she said. "As a player, you know what works or what doesn't work. It definitely helps me to see from the players' view. Once you get removed for four or five years, you can forget. So, it keeps me on my toes."
She has competed in the World Inline Skating Women's Hockey Championships four of the past five summers winning a silver medal three times (2002, 2004, 2005).
Last week, inside an incendiary Detroit rink, Giovanelli and 15 teammates defeated the Canadian Women's Inline Team, which hadn't allowed a goal in international play in two years, for the 2006 world championship.
"We all talked about training for that final game against Canada," she said. "It was huge [to win.]"
Among the teammates Giovanelli shared her jubilation with were Joy Woog, her former college ice hockey coach, and Antoinette Maldonado, who currently plays for her at Quinnipiac.
Giovanelli and Maldonado have been competing on inline rinks for almost five years. Maldonado recalls an occasion (before she was recruited by Quinipiac) in which she gave Giovanelli a cheap shot during an inline game and Giovanelli told her if she keeps playing like that "she will never play in college."
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"She is such a great kid," Giovanelli said of Moldonado. "[She] wants to learn more about the game and works hard."
Today the two linemates work well together in competition, where they set one another up for scoring opportunities. They are also close friends outside of the sport, where they are often the butt of each others' practical jokes.
"When the buzzer went off I was looking out for her," Giovanelli said of Moldonado. "It was more fun having her there and having spent so much time with her during the season."
The roots of Giovanelli's hockey career can be traced back to her childhood. She spent much of her youth watching her brother Bruce play ice hockey.
"Growing up, my older brother played," she said. "I followed him through the ranks."
She started playing in a girls' league at the age of 9. A year later, she began playing with boys' teams, which she did until she entered high school.
"I am a very competitive person. I asked my parents if I could try out for the boys' team," she said. "I really didn't think I would make the A Team, but I did, and from there it snowballed into playing with the boys until high school," She said.
In high school, she played for the Connecticut Polar Bears, an amateur women's team. She eventually was recruited to play at Northeastern University.
Giovanelli's tenure at Northeastern was a successful one. As a freshman, she was named MVP of the Beanpot, the tournament that pits four Boston schools -- Harvard, Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern -- against one another. In 2000-2001, a then-senior Giovanelli was elevated to assistant captain and finished second on the team in scoring.
After her senior year, Woog turned Giovanelli on to inline hockey.
"It is a way to continue to compete," she said. "For girls after college, you don't have too many options. For me to stay around and work inline, it was a lot of fun."
After she graduated, Giovanelli took a job in accounting. However, when an assistant coaching position at Quinnipiac opened up, a family friend convinced her to apply for the job, which she eventually got.
"All the coaches support each other," she said. "It is such a tight-knit group of people and a really good atmosphere to be around."
Giovanelli, who is in her mid-20s, will enter her fifth season at Quinnipiac next year. She said she hopes to be a head coach some day.
"Right now, I like where I am at," she said "I like being the recruiting coordinator and traveling, but I would love to be a head coach."
As far as her playing career is concerned, Giovanelli said she hopes to play for as long as possible.
"We have girls on our team who are in their mid-30s," she said. "I would love to keep playing for many years. They have even talked about trying to get inline hockey into the Olympics and that would be awesome."
Brendan Murphy is a college sports intern at ESPN.com. He can be reached at Brendan.R.Murphy.-ND@espn3.com.