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Kid sister follows sibling's star path

Updated 2:11 pm, Tuesday, December 3, 2013
  • Kate Paliotta, center, scored 22 goals for the GFA field hockey team this season. Photo: Contributed Photo / Westport News Contributed

    Kate Paliotta, center, scored 22 goals for the GFA field hockey team this season.

    Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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Greens Farms Academy freshman Kate Paliotta's earliest memories include standing in front of a goal as her older brothers, Michael and Dan fired objects at her. It was then when Paliotta realized hockey was the sport she wanted to play.

"We were out in the driveway, I was dressed up as goalie, even though I never played goalie," Paliotta recalled. "For me I guess, watching my brothers play, it was always like `I wish I was able to do that, I wish I was able to play just like them.' And that is when it hit me that I needed to play this sport."

Paliotta, 14, hit the ice at age four and soon found herself putting pucks in the back of the net against boys her own age. She moved to the Mid Fairfield U12 girls' team at 11, and now is one of the nation's top female players in her age group.

She has already played in a tournament in Europe in which she was named MVP.

Michael, now a junior at the University of Vermont after being drafted by the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks in the 2011 Entry Draft, had a major influence on Kate's development, their mother says.

"I think that Michael played a huge role in her development in ice hockey because his approval meant a lot to her," Trish Paliotta said. "They follow each other's games, and I think he was a huge role model."

Michael played for the US National U17 team and was part of the gold medal-winning squad at the 2011 U18 World Junior Championships.

"For Kate, who wants to play for national team, she can see that path," Trish says. "She thinks about the natural trajectory. He has definitely been a key component."

Also a field hockey and lacrosse standout -- Kate had quite the role model to look up to on the ice. Michael reached the national circuit before committing to a Division I program.

"I looked up to (Michael) a lot," Kate said. "We would always be in the driveway practicing drills and he would always be trying to convince me to stay on top on my game. He taught me to stay devoted to the game, even if you have three games on the weekend you have to be committed to the team."

Kate competed in a tournament -- U-15 World Selects Invite -- in Sweden over the summer. Playing for the East Coast Selects against teams from Russia, Finland and Sweden, she scored 11 points -- five goals and six assists -- in leading the East Coast Selects to the final. She took home Player of the Tournament honors.

"It was an amazing experience, learning the different cultures as well as getting to know the other teams," Kate said. "The hockey was a lot of fun; it was a high tempo, and the games were really intense."

Kate plays her club hockey for the Mid Fairfield Stars -- the same organization in which Michael honed his skills. Competing at U-14 last season, she helped lead the Stars to the quarterfinals of Tier I Nationals.

"She is one of the best players in the United States at her age level," Mid Fairfield coach Ryan Equale said. "When someone closes their eyes and thinks what a great athlete looks like, that's Kate. She is focused, driven and motivated."

Kate can find the back of the cage off the ice just as much as on it. Paliotta began playing field hockey in sixth grade and just finished an outstanding first season with the varsity team. The forward scored 22 goals -- 41 percent of GFA's output -- in helping the team to a 13-4 record and an appearance in the NEPSAC tournament.

"I knew about her coming up, I didn't really get to see her a lot, even in preseason she missed a week," Dragons field hockey coach Sarah Ostermeuller said. "In that second week, you realized how comfortable she was with her stick work. She scored our only goal in a scrimmage and then scored three goals in our first game. Then we realized this is something."

A scouting report on Kate's field hockey skills reflects her abilities on the ice.

"She has really quick stick skills, so she'll do a really quick jab," Ostermeuller said. "Her slap shot is just amazing with the power that she can get behind it. There are definitely ice hockey moves that translate well to the field."

Without a women's professional ice hockey league, Kate remains focused on her major goals: reaching the National Developmental Camps, which take place in Minnesota in July, and representing her country down the road.

"The girl's game is a little different because Division I (college) hockey is like their NHL," Equale said. "She's great on the ice, she's great in other sports, I don't see a ceiling for her. Every time I see her she's consistently one of the better players on the ice, and that's a good sign."

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