WESTFIELD – Westfield native Evan Moorhouse has been doing double-duty for Westfield State University Owls this semester, living out a childhood dream by playing a season of college hockey while also beginning his fourth year as a catcher for the Owls’ baseball team.
Moorhouse, a goaltender, essentially ‘walked-on’ to the Owls hockey team this season after not playing collegiate hockey for his first three years.
“Coach Miele spoke to me this fall about coming out for the team,” said Moorhouse. “He asked when the last time I had played in goal was, and that he thought I had a good shot to make the team.”
“At the end of the summer we had a goalie who was interested that didn’t end up coming to school and freshman Jake Carter came in with an injury and we weren’t sure how soon he would be available,” said Bob Miele, the Owls seventh-year head coach.
“I had been aware Evan was on campus; knew he’d played in high school and junior hockey; knew his family from hockey circles around Westfield,” said Miele.
“I grew up wanting to be a college hockey player,” said Moorhouse. “My father has been the radio play-by-play announcer for the UMass Hockey team for a number of years, so I had always been around that program, gone to their camps with coaches Toot Cahoon and Mark Dennehy. They let me be around the team a lot. Watching what they and the players did revolutionized the way I attack college athletics now, right down to the way I stretch.”
“I’d get to the rink at the same time as the players, go on some of the road trips, see how the players carried themselves and spoke to the people around them.”
Moorhouse played high school hockey for three years at Springfield Cathedral, before the tornado that damaged the school. He transferred to Westfield High School for his senior year and played for the Springfield Pics in the Empire Junior Hockey league.
“I had been planning to go to STCC and continue playing junior hockey until I saw what opportunities there might be in collegiate hockey,” said Moorhouse. [Ed. Note; Many hockey players play juniors until age 20 or 21 before entering college.]
“I was playing baseball for Westfield High School my senior year and (then) Westfield State (assistant) coach Mark Bonavita and head coach Ray Arra approached me about playing for Westfield State about halfway through my senior year. I was kind of blown away by that because I hadn’t been expecting it.”
“Baseball is important in the city of Westfield,” said Moorhouse. “It’s a big baseball town. The city is hosting the Babe Ruth World Series [in August] and my little brother will have a chance to play in it, my high school team won a Western Mass title and you will see hundreds of people at a high school game, right down to seeing the little league games packed.”
“When I thought about it, I knew Jeremy Tanguay and Josh Blair who played for the Owls, and they had nothing but good things to say about the program. I knew I was going to have a chance to go to college right away and play, and the chance to go with the team on the trip to Cuba made the decision a no-brainer.“
“There isn’t a better town to play baseball in, and I was going to get to represent my hometown with “WESTFIELD” across the front of the jersey, it was just going to be a baseball uniform rather than a hockey sweater,” said Moorhouse.
Moorhouse has been a solid contributor for the Owls for three seasons, the first for coach Arra and the last two current Owls head coach Nathan Bashaw. Moorhouse started 19 games behind the plate for Westfield State in 2015.
“He’s always had the opportunity to get playing time,” said Bashaw. “He really solidified he role last year and made huge strides defensively; throwing, blocking, receiving pitches. We hope he’ll be a mainstay behind the plate for us again this year.”
But Moorhouse has had to work doubly hard, playing hockey and still getting to baseball practices in the fall and spring.
“The players, coaches, and trainers and everyone have been great about helping me to get ready for both sports,” said Moorhouse.
“I knew (Owls hockey senior captain) Dalton Jay pretty well going into the hockey season,” said Moorhouse. “But the first day of practice I was still pretty nervous. I’m not sure I even sat down in the locker room because I wasn’t sure where I should sit.”
But on the ice, the hockey skills started coming back. “It took a few weeks,” said Moorhouse. “I think over winter break I finally felt like I had my bearings back. As a goalie you want to have your hands out, and as a catcher you want to curl in and deaden the ball, and I knew I was doing it but it took a while to get used to. I had been coaching youth goalies and realized I needed to apply everything that I had been teaching them to do.”
“He came in and treated hockey seriously,” said Miele. “He prepares like he’s going to play, and he competes in practice to help his teammates get better. It’s impressive the way he approaches the game, and was excited about the opportunity no matter what his role.”
Moorhouse spent a lot of time on the bench behind Jonathan LoParco, the Owls junior starter, who has won multiple league “goalie of the week” awards this season.
Finally the opportunity to get into a collegiate game came on January 14 with the Owls in a big deficit against Fitchburg State.
“Bob asked me if I wanted to go in,” said Moorhouse. “I think I was nervous for the three seconds it took to get into net, but when I got there I felt like I was prepared because it was what I always wanted to do since childhood. I tried to have fun with it, my dad was in the stands taking pictures and videos, and it was a big moment for my family for me to finally be in a collegiate game with “MOORHOUSE” on the back of the sweater.”
“The first shot came on a 2-1 breakaway, but I survived it. “ Moorhouse only played for about five minutes but stopped both shots on goal that he faced. “I didn’t waste a second of it,” he said. “Those five minutes will stick in my memory and were pretty special.”
As the Owls’ hockey season wound towards the league playoffs, baseball’s spring training unfolded. Moorhouse hustled between the two.
“It’s a little bit tough leaving hockey practice early or getting to baseball late, then get home and do homework after,” said Moorhouse. “Goalie and catcher are both tough on the knees and there have been a few more ice baths this year. It’s a little bit stressful but I have a great support network from the staff, trainers, and my friends and family, who make it easy for me to rely on them.”
His coaches have been aware of Moorhouse’s ability to juggle everything.
“He doesn’t cut corners,” said Miele. “If he tells you he’ll be a half hour late, he gets there when he said he would and hustles to get ready.”
“I’m jumping right in when I get to baseball practice,” said Moorhouse. “I’ve been with coach Bashaw for three years so just by seeing where everyone’s standing when I get there I know what drill is coming or what’s going on.”
“It’s been fine for me – tough for him,” said Bashaw. “He’s a senior and a leader and he hasn’t missed anything. We’ve let him cut back on his conditioning work because of hockey, but he’s been getting swings and catching bullpens and hasn’t cost us anything from the baseball side. I’m happy for him. I knew he’d played hockey and it has been great for him to get a chance to play two collegiate sports.”
“I live with six of the guys on the baseball team and they’ve been excited for me. Every day they’re giggling ‘there goes the hockey player’ when I pick up my hockey bag and head to practice, but they have been very supportive. I think they’ve been to every home game even though my chances of getting in are slim.”
“It’s been nothing short of spectacular,” said Moorhouse of his hockey season. “It’s been a dream come true to put on a college sweater, and I’m happy to have any impact I can to help the team win.” – Courtesy of Westfield State University Sports
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The Westfield State men’s ice hockey season ended in heartbreak a week ago when Salem State captain Cam Moniz netted a game-winning goal in overtime as the Vikings snuck past the Owls in dramatic fashion 5-4 in the semifinal round of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference playoffs at Rockett Arena.
Westfield State erased a four-goal deficit in that game only to come up short in OT. Salem State slipped four out of seven shots past Westfield State goalie Jonathan LoParco.
The Westfield State baseball team opens the 2016 season with a double header against Dickinson Colelge March 12 at Lake Myrtle Park Main Field in Auburndale. First pitch is at 9:15 a.m.