Sara Earley may be a native of Hutchinson, Minnesota, but she is no stranger to hockey in New Hampshire. After playing six seasons for Hutchinson High in her hometown back in Minnesota, Earley headed east to play Division 1 college hockey at the University of New Hampshire in the fall of 2012. Now, Earley is making her professional debut as a member of the PWHPA’s New Hampshire Regional Training Hub.
Earley, who played at UNH from 2012-16, served as the Wildcats captain in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. As a senior in 2015-16, she scored a career-high 19 points (4 g, 15 a) in 36 games. A leader and strong complimentary offensive option, Earley carved out a nice career in Hockey East.
With professional options limited, Earley hung up the skates when it came to organized hockey after graduating in 2016. The itch was always there for the Minnesota native, however, and she finally decided to return for the 2020-21 season. After making the cut for the New Hampshire Regional Training Hub in September, Earley has suited up in multiple exhibition games and is expected to provided both leadership and depth to the Hub this season.
We recently caught up with Earley to discuss her return to hockey, why she joined the PWHPA and more!
SE: I am the youngest of four girls in my family, and we were all heavily involved in athletics. When I was nine years old, we were visiting D1 colleges for my sister and I remember making a commitment to myself that I was going to do everything in my power to be a two-sport D1 athlete.
I saw the dedication first-hand of what it would take to get to that level, and I am so grateful for my incredible parents who supported, encouraged, and pushed me along the way. My passion became fueled by my love of the game, the commitment to excellence my dad instilled in me, and the fun I had along the way.
WHT: What drew you to the PWHPA? What about the organization’s goals and values stood out to you?
SE: I thought that I was finished with hockey after college, to be honest, but the past few years I started to contemplate the ways in which I could give back to the game that had given me so much. I had never seriously considered playing professional hockey since there was no possible avenue for me to support my family financially.
Then, when the PWHPA started, I saw how this could be a tangible way I could make a difference for future generations of women.
SE: It has been amazing getting to play with some of the best players in the world! The women on my team are wonderful, and the coaching and support staff have been incredibly professional. Of course, playing during a pandemic throws a wrench in everything, but it has been a great experience thus far considering what we are up against.
SE: I’ve changed a lot since lacing up my skates for my last college game four years ago. I now have a family, am working full-time and studying, volunteering with a local ministry, and am building a house. Playing hockey now, for me, is a huge blessing and something that I treat as a gift. My goal for this year is to spread the message of the PWHPA, be an encouraging and contributing teammate, and enjoy every moment I have on the ice.
As for the New Hampshire Region, I want us to win — OBVIOUSLY!