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Pioneer Woman Coach the 'Real Deal' Behind Montville High Boys Hockey Bench

Kinnelon resident, the first female to coach a boys team in the state, sparks resurgent season for Mustangs.

Meg Hishmeh behind the bench during a game. / Photo courtesy of Stu Zlotnik
Meg Hishmeh behind the bench during a game. / Photo courtesy of Stu Zlotnik
Written By Susan Marinello

The state's first woman to coach a boys ice hockey team has ignited Montville High's resurgent season and has the Mustangs primed for a playoff run.

The Mustangs advanced to the Haas Cup semifinals with a 4-3 victory over Jefferson Friday at Mennen Arena. Vinnie Arlotta led the way with two goals while Connor Devereuz and James Reynolds each netted one. Josh Beron made 19 saves to help Montville advance to the semifinals Wednesday against Mount Olive at 4:15 p.m. at Mennen Arena.

Montville has unofficially received the No. 16 seed for the upcoming Public B state tournament. The seeds will be finalized Wednesday afternoon.

The Mustangs, led by first-year coach Meg Hishmeh, have not seen a winning season since 2008-09. The team sits at 19-1-2 after going just 4-17-1 last year.

According to NHL.com, Hishmeh "is the first female to take the position as head coach of a men’s team in the state."

"I just love coaching hockey," Hishmeh told Patch earlier this season. "I never wanted to establish any firsts. I love the game and this has been an amazing experience for me from Day 1."

When coming on board in June, Hishmeh’s goal was to develop the team’s skills and focus to achieve the ultimate goals of winning the Haas Cup and earning a spot in the NJSIAA Public B tournament.

With Hishmeh at the helm, wins are up and penalty minutes have been significantly reduced from last season.

“She tells them, ‘I’ll bench you.’ and she does,” said hockey parent, Lauren Trionfo. “They know she’s serious. It’s a great lesson. Their behavior on the ice is amazing.”

“She knows her stuff,” assistant coach Chris Trzepinska said. “She’s ref-fed in the Olympics. She’s probably the No. 1 reason this team has turned around.”

Skeptical at first about a woman coach, the boys are enjoying their winning season and have become enthusiastic about Hishmeh’s leadership.

“This girl coach comes in, takes a team with a terrible record, and turns it around,” said Beron, the team's junior goaltender. “She’s the real deal. She knows what she’s doing.”

Hishmeh, a Kinnelon resident, has been playing ice hockey since she was a 6-year-old in Gross Point, Mich. In high school, she found herself sidelined because girls were not allowed to travel on boys’ teams.

As a sophomore, she was part of a new high school girls ice hockey team. From there, she became a center at the University of Vermont where she led the team in both goals and penalty minutes. It was that experience that Hishmeh attributes her emphasis on eliminating penalty minutes.

Hishmeh has been coaching hockey for 20 years since she graduated college. She has also spent 17 years as an official and served as a linesman at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Hishmeh still referees Big North games and for the Bridgewater-based Skyland Conference. Additionally, she coaches all three of her sons and coached the Princeton Day girls team for four years.

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