Frozen Four: Hockey keeps bringing Hadley’s Lisa Ito-Bagshaw back to the Pioneer Valley

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 03-16-2023 2:31 PM

Hockey drew Lisa Ito-Bagshaw to the Pioneer Valley initially. It keeps bringing her back, too.

The nomad who grew up across Canada and in California came to Deerfield Academy with her sister Sara to play hockey. Her parents moved to Hadley to stay close.

“I didn’t start hockey there, but that’s where I learned the most and played the most hockey and could see where it could take me,” Ito-Bagshaw said.

The sophomore at Hamilton will return to her old stomping grounds for the most important game (maybe games) of her college career when the Continentals face familiar foe Amherst College in the Division 3 Frozen Four on Saturday at Orr Rink (7 p.m.).

“It’s definitely different than a regular season game. This season was the first time I’d played at Amherst. It was really cool to be back and play where I played for the last four years before college,” Ito-Bagshaw said. “It was nice to be close to family. It was interesting. There’s a lot more pressure and a lot more nerves, which is not a bad thing. That definitely elevates our game.”

Wanting to elevate their games attracted the Ito-Bagshaws to Deerfield in the first place. They were living in California playing for a travel team that often ventured to Massachusetts, Detroit and upstate New York for tournaments.

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Deerfield coaches contacted Lisa Ito-Bagshaw at one of the showcases. The family also attended an outreach showcase in California before making the leap. 

“I’ve only lived in big cities before or very urban areas. It was kind of a culture shock going into Deerfield,” Ito-Bagshaw said. “It was more rural. I definitely enjoyed being able to explore and go outdoors more and bond with a smaller community. Obviously the people around the neighbors, the town, it’s a completely different feel.”

She appreciated being in and around a college town, interacting with students and longtime residents.

“There’s such a great environment. I feel like the culture shock turned into a love for a more open environment where I was able to go off on my own more,” Ito-Bagshaw said.

Lisa and Sara (who is currently a freshman at Bowdoin) scoured Western Massachusetts looking for ice time in the summers. They ended up in pickup games at the Olympia in West Springfield playing with boys. Some ended up being their neighbors from across the street in Hadley.

“It’s a much smaller world than I thought,” Lisa Ito-Bagshaw said.

Small enough to return to Amherst for the fourth time this season. The teams split their season-opening meeting Nov. 18 and 19. The Friday night 4-0 loss was one of just three for the Mammoths all season. Amherst won the next two meetings, including the March 4 meeting for the NESCAC title.

“Despite the outcomes of those three games we know its the exact same team we’ve played against before,” Ito-Bagshaw said. “We know this team we’re going into it with a more calm and confident mentality. We know their capabilities aren’t above ours.”

Hamilton (22-5-2) is the only team outside of the top three in both the Pairwise rankings (No. 5) and the US College Hockey online poll (No. 6) to reach the national semifinals.

“We’re the underdogs. We really have nothing to lose,” Ito-Bagshaw said. “We know none of the top three teams are unbeatable.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>