WIH: Three Colonels awarded, including Coach of the Year

Three members of the women’s ice hockey team were recognized with awards after their second best season in Wilkes history.

The Colonels’ best season was in 2019-20 as they went 5-17-1. Under new head coach Dave LaBaff, Wilkes went 4-19-2. 

LaBaff was awarded with the 2022-23 Coach of the Year honor after completing his first season with the Navy and Gold. LaBaff swiftly improved the team after they came off of a 3-19 season in 2021-22 and an 0-9 season in 2020-21. 

LaBaff brought a new selection of assistant coaches along with him in an attempt to turn the program around, which is proving to be successful. He was joined by Caty Flagg and Hannah Brady.

“While it is an incredible honor to be recognized by my peers, to me this award is a testament to my assistants, Flagg and Brady, who worked tirelessly to give our team an amazing experience this season and a chance to win every single game,” said LaBaff. “Without them, the program would not have grown in all of the amazing ways it did.”

The skaters bought into LaBaff’s efforts and philosophy, which ended with two Colonels receiving awards. 

Senior Abigail (Abbey) Barceless received the First-Team All-Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) honor as well as being named the MAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year (POTY). 

“I cried when I heard I was Co-Defensive POTY because it’s not something that I ever considered myself for or thought about while playing this season,” said Barceless. “Every game, I worked hard for my team because I know they are working hard for me and as much as it’s an honor to be recognized by other coaches in the conference, my individual successes would not be obtainable without the other five girls on the ice with me each shift.”

Barceless topped off her MAC awards with a United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC) Honorable Mention accolade. 

“Hearing about the UCHC Honorable Mention also was something that I hadn’t really thought about,” said Barceless. “The UCHC has a lot of good teams with standout players and to see my name on a list with some of them was a surreal moment. But again, when I look back on the season, I think about how great our team did, and how we all gave each other the confidence, love, and support to shine, so it’s because of them this is even possible.”

Barceless ended the season with five goals, five assists, 10 points and 37 blocks. 

The second Colonel to receive a MAC award was junior Bella Kaczorowski. She was honored with a Second-Team All-MAC selection after finishing her first year as a Wilkes attendee. 

“I am very grateful to be a part of an amazing team with a great coaching staff,” said Kaczoroski via the Wilkes women’s ice hockey Instagram page. “My teammates and coaches have played pivotal roles in pushing me this season. Thank you to my teammates for welcoming me with open arms at the start of the year and I could not imagine playing with anyone else. This group of girls is truly special.”

Kaczoroski finished the season with nine goals, five assists, 14 points, 16 blocks and 139 face-off wins. 

“I could not be more proud of Abbey and Bella,” said LaBaff. “They worked so hard to earn the recognition they got, but their first thoughts were always to say that ‘without the team they would not have been possible’. They have helped create a daily standard of excellence for our program and I am excited for them to be mentors for our incoming players next season.” 

The Colonels will return next season in hopes to continue off of their momentum from this past year. LaBaff will return with Flag and Brady as they proceed to turn the program around and make a run in the UCHC. 

LaBaff coaching his team to victory amid a timeout against the Knights. Baylee Guedes
Barceless (4) and Kaczoroski (9) skating on the ice together this season. Photos are from Nov. 4. during Wilkes’ 2-1 win over Neumann University. Baylee Guedes