Girls hockey: New WHS coach Pete Maxfield ready for the challenge

After coaching the Joel Barlow boys hockey team for nine years, Pete Maxfield decided it was time to “take a break” after the 2013-14 season.

It didn’t last long. Maxfield was back the following season, this time coaching the Masuk-Barlow co-op girls hockey team.

“Hockey is one of those sports — it gets into your blood,” said Maxfield, who was recently named the new head coach of the Wilton-Norwalk girls hockey team.

“It was very exciting for me when I saw the opening for the job. It was a good fit for me.”

Maxfield, a Wilton resident the past six years, replaces Melissa Hawkins, who stepped down in March after two years as head coach.

He brings a wealth of coaching experience, on the youth and high school levels.

A 1990 graduate of Barlow, where he played four years on the hockey team and was a team captain his senior year, Maxfield returned to his alma mater in 2004 as an assistant coach, and then as head coach from 2005 through 2014.

The Barlow program had hit rock bottom at the time, with three coaches in five years and a record of 1-91-2.

“The program was really struggling when I took over. They had one win the prior five years. My first year we went 6-12-1 and by my fourth year we won the South-West Conference Division II conference championship,” he said. “We had some good young talent so by the time the fourth year come around, it all came together.”

The conference title was only the second in Barlow history, and its first in 12 years.

That 14-8 season was the best of Maxfield’s nine seasons (during which his assistant was former Wilton High boys coach Charlie Blanchard). The Falcons qualified for the Division III state playoffs in six of his final seven seasons.

Maxfield’s biggest source of pride is the fact that Barlow won the conference Sportsmanship Award in five of his nine seasons as coach.

“When I took it over, we were on probation,” he said.

He felt it was time to take a break after the 2013-14 season, so Maxfield stepped down from the Barlow job. It didn’t last young. Barlow had three girls who expressed interested in playing hockey, so Maxfield reached out to Masuk boys hockey coach Andy Townsend — who also coached a girls hockey club team at the school — about forming a co-op team.

As things turned out, Masuk needed players and the Masuk-Barlow coop was formed, with Maxfield and Townsend coaching the team last winter.

It was Maxfield’s first time coaching girls, and it was a great experience.

“That was part of the reason why, when I heard the Wilton job opened, I became interested,” he said. “I had a lot of fun coaching the girls. It was very different from coaching the boys, and I really enjoyed it.”

Another plus was that Maxfield knew WHS director of athletics Chris McDougal from when McDougal was the athletic director at Brookfield.

Maxfield also works with the Connecticut RiverHawks of the Greater Bridgeport Youth program in the fall, coaching U16 and U18 players to prepare them for high school.

He is anxious to get going at Wilton, and has met with about a dozen of the players already.

“They definitely seem like a committed group of girls,” he said. “It seems like a good core of girls coming back, obviously with (all-FCIAC goalie) Brooke Jonsson in goal. It seems like a good group going forward. They seem very eager about this season.”

The Warriors graduated seven seniors, but should return 16 players next season. Maxfield hopes to again have a JV team to develop players, and also is looking to get more girls into the program in future years.

“I would encourage any player who wants to try out hockey to go out and try it,” he said. “I had players at Barlow who started out as house players and by the time they were junior or seniors they were contributors.”

Notes: Hawkins stepped down as head coach in March to focus her efforts on being director of the new Connecticut Oilers women’s hockey program.

In her first season, 2013-14, she guided Wilton-Norwalk to its second FCIAC playoff berth in program history, and 9-9-1 record. It was the second-most wins in a season for Wilton in the seven-year history of the program.

The team lost its top line and top defenseman and struggled through a 3-16-1 season this past year.

Maxfield lives in Wilton with his wife Courtney and their four-year old son Cameron.