Kilbourne-Hill steps down

LAKE PLACID – Andrea Kilbourne-Hill has played a monumental role in helping build a strong girls hockey program at the Northwood School. This weekend, the 2002 Olympic silver medalist hopes to end her coaching run at the Lake Placid prep school on a winning note.

After spending eight seasons behind the bench leading the Huskies, Kilbourne-Hill is stepping down from her post. Kilbourne-Hill said she has been weighing the decision for awhile, and decided the time was right to hand over the reins with the program in good hands. A second girls hockey team was added to Huskies athletics, and Kilbourne-Hill said she’s leaving the program on a firm footing.

“I guess it’s been a long process leading up to this point,” Kilbourne-Hill said on Wednesday. “I’m confident that I’m kind of handing off the baby to someone responsible.”

A mother of two young children, 7-year-old Stephanie and 5-year-old Thomas, Kilbourne-Hill wants to spend more time with her family, which she has had a tough time doing as the head coach of a hockey team that’s on the road just about every weekend during long seasons that stretch from mid October to the middle of March.

“Stepping down at some point has been in the back of my mind as my kids got older,” she said. “You’re on the road every weekend. You’re spending 30 nights or more in hotel rooms; that’s a lot of time away. I thought it would get easier as my children got older, but it’s quite the opposite. They are starting to do more things, they’re getting involved in more activities, and I want to be there to share that with them. The constant traveling around the North Country and Canada – I won’t miss that.”

Kilbourne-Hill said she notified Mike Maher, who is in his first year as headmaster at Northwood, of her decision to leave the girls hockey program.

“Having Mike Maher as the headmaster actually played a role in this decision,” Kilbourne-Hill said. “He’s really moving the school in the right direction, both in terms of academics and athletics, and he’s made it a priority for women’s hockey to grow.”

While Kilbourne-Hill has been away, her husband Dan has been the mainstay on the home front. And for all purposes, this will be the final weekend she’s on the road as the Huskies round out their 2015-16 schedule with four games in Quebec at the inaugural Stanstead College Tournament.

A prep school known for turning out great hockey talent on the men’s side, including numerous graduates who went on to careers in the National Hockey League, Northwood added a girls program in 2000 with Perry Babcock as its head coach.

Kilbourne-Hill said things really took off a couple years later under the leadership of Tom Broderick. During her eight seasons, Kilbourne-Hill has coached 370 games while compiling a 160-172-38 record.

Northwood’s top girls squad led by Kilbourne-Hill this season is the Blue Team, which heads into its final weekend of play with a 17-26-2 mark. The new squad – the White Team – has been led by Lucy Schoedel, who will take over the entire program beginning next season. Schoedel spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach at Brown University, SUNY Buffalo and Wesleyan University. She also has been a goaltending coach with the United States Women’s U-18 National Team.

Kilbourne-Hill, who lives in Saranac Lake, said she will now be able to devote more time to continuing her passion of tutoring elementary-school-age children. She described leading practices as the part she will miss the most upon leaving Northwood.

“There’s only so much you can teach during games,” she said. “I’ll miss the practices the most. I think that’s where my strongest skill of developing young players lies.”

Another aspect of coaching at the prep school level Kilbourne-Hill said she will not miss is how competitive that world has become. During her run at Northwood, she said that the competitive level has been upped so much, that it’s almost taking away from what hockey should be all about.

“I think all sports are getting so competitive at a younger and younger age, and I’m a really competitive person. I’m even super competitive at cards. ” she said. “The culture of sports, that level of intensity, I don’t think that’s always a great thing. Kids are often pursuing a sport in order to get a DI scholarship. I think we have it a little backwards. When it comes to hockey, young athletes should be playing for the love of the game.”

During her eight years, Kilbourne-Hill believes her most important accomplishment has been helping build the girls’ enrollment numbers at Northwood, and she said that figure isn’t quite where it should be but heading in the right direction.

“Northwood has traditionally been a boys-dominated school,” she said. “I’m happy to see the increased presence of girls on campus. We’ve empowered them. It’s not 50-50 yet, but we’re getting there.”