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The wait is almost over; Merrimack College’s second Division I program, women’s ice hockey, will debut in just about one month when the Warriors take the ice at Lawler Rink for an exhibition game against the Whitby Wolves (Sept. 25). The program will officially begin Division I play on Oct. 2 against St. Cloud State at Lawler Rink.

For the four roster members that arrived on campus last season, the wait’s been a long one. It’s been even longer for the coaching staff — head coach Erin Hamlen as well as assistants Brent Hill and Kacey Bellamy — who have spent almost three years building the program’s foundation; Hamlen was hired as the first head coach in January of 2013.

“It’s very exciting,” said Bellamy, who was interviewed as part of a story for USA Hockey on the U.S. National Program’s annual Festival in Lake Placid. “We’ve had the ability to recruit for more than two years. It started with Erin and Brent and they brought me on board, so they had that whole year during the Olympics to recruit. Right after Sochi, Erin brought me in and it’s been great learning from the two of them.”

The recruiting has been the busiest part of their schedules the last few seasons.

“Merrimack didn’t have to bring in a second assistant but they did,” Bellamy said. “I was able to spend this past year learning the ropes recruiting. It was an adjustment, but I think I needed this year before the girls came on campus. Now with a full team here, we’ll have a lot of coaching to do on the ice and it’s going to be very exciting.

“Recruiting has been a lot of fun, and we’re obviously going to continue to do that, but it will be good to be playing games and working on on-ice stuff too. A lot of the girls are excited to start something that’s our own here. We’ll be starting all of our own traditions and we have a brand new locker room. It’s Hockey East, we want to get it started.”

The Warriors will play seven of their first nine games at home, including a pair of games with St. Cloud, Hockey East games with Maine, New Hampshire and Northeastern, as well as a pair of games against Colgate.

Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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