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Big Red women hockey players mentor local girls

Members of the women's ice hockey team
Lindsay France/University Photography
Members of the women's ice hockey team are paired with their "little sisters" in the Cub Club, Nov. 23 at Lynah Rink.
Catherine White '12 and Sierra Stallmann
Lindsay France/University Photography
Catherine White '12 and Sierra Stallmann sport matching numbers on their jerseys.

Like "Big Sister" programs, the Cub Club in Ithaca pairs young girls with young adult women to give the younger girls role models for success. But the Cub Club, which kicked off its 2010 season with a pairing-off ceremony at Lynah Rink Nov. 23 by matching 20 members of Cornell's women's ice hockey team with 33 Cub Club girls of the Tompkins Girls Hockey Association, brings together whole families -- mothers, fathers and even grandparents of the big and little sisters.

The new relationships begin with pizza, bowling and movie nights. The two teams also have joint practice sessions. The little sisters go to the Cornell women's hockey home games for free and to many of their away games as well; two of them serve as stick girls during the national anthem and two more don a "little bear" mascot costume to skate between periods. At the end of the games, the little sisters briefly meet with their big sisters in the locker room, to which little sisters bring cookies or brownies.

Oftentimes relationships between the big sisters' and little sisters' families develop.

Take the McQueen family, for example. Molly McQueen is an 8-year-old who began playing ice hockey when she was 4. Soon after she started playing, she was paired with Kelly McGinty, then a first-year student and Cornell team member. The pairing lasted through four years, until McGinty graduated last spring.

Dec. 4 women's ice hockey game to benefit United Way

Proceeds from the women's ice hockey game against Clarkson, Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. at Lynah Rink, will be donated to the United Way of Tompkins County. Special ticket prices: $6 general admission; $5 senior citizens; $4 CU staff/faculty; children 12 and under free.

"At first Kelly would come over for dinner, but as we got to know her, our relationship grew," said McQueen's mother, Kathey. "Her family would stay with us when they came down to watch a game; Kelly would stay with us over the summer. We know her whole family now."

This year Molly McQueen is paired with defense player and sophomore Lauriane Rougeau. Asked about her own hockey aspirations, Molly McQueen said, "I want to be defense ... you just want to be the [team] number they are." She has decorated her entire bedroom in Cornell hockey memorabilia.

The Stallmann family has similarly enjoyed a close relationship with Catherine White '12, 2009-10 ECAC Hockey Women's Player of the Year and big sister for the past three years to Sierra Stallmann. "I want to be a center like Catherine," Stallmann said. "I'm proud of her; she goes with the flow and lets everybody feel like they belong."

Molly McQueen
Lindsay France/University Photography
Molly McQueen gets ready to hit the ice.

"Sierra and the other girls are really fortunate to have such great role models," said Stallmann's mother, Christine, director of Cornell's Environmental Health and Safety office. "As a parent, it is wonderful to see the bond of our young girls with the women who play for Cornell. Not only have we met great women players, we have bonded with their parents ... Sierra is just as excited to see Catherine's parents and her grandfather as she is to see Catherine."

The benefits go both ways, said White's mother, Melynda, especially when the college students first come to Cornell, helping them to make connections in the community and on a social basis.

White's grandfather, Ron, said, "It's a super project," noting that the little sisters' enthusiasm is "incredible."

Said Catherine White: "Whenever we get the chance to talk to the little sisters, they are always glowing with excitement to see us, and that alone is truly rewarding. I enjoy the kids, and it makes me really happy any time I have the chance to put a smile on their faces."

The Cornell team is ranked No. 2 in the nation, unbeaten in ECAC Hockey play at 6-0 and 8-1 overall on the year.

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Joe Schwartz