From Williston to Amherst: Natalie Stott, Maeve Reynolds continue their winning ways

By HANNAH BEVIS

Staff Writer

Published: 01-25-2023 8:20 PM

When ice hockey players Natalie Stott and Maeve Reynolds first met as freshmen at Williston Northampton School, they didn’t know if they would even be friends, let alone best friends. 

Stott, normally bubbly and outgoing, was nervous on her new team, and a little intimidated by Reynolds, who was naturally quieter and serious. Despite their different dispositions, it didn’t take long for the two to quickly become inseparable on and off the ice.

“I think they complement each other really well. They're both super serious students, and I think they care a lot about each other. They played field hockey together in the fall here for four years and then ice hockey,” longtime Williston girls’ ice hockey head coach Christa Talbot Syfu said. “I think Natalie likes to give Maeve a hard time, but Maeve is not afraid to to be quick-witted and give it right back to Natalie.” 

While Reynolds and Stott were lighting the lamp and securing shutouts for the Wildcats, Amherst College women’s ice hockey head coach Jeff Matthews was looking ahead at his next recruiting class. He would be graduating two senior goalies at the end of 2022, so goaltending was top of his mind for the 2022-23 season. 

Talbot Syfu knew Matthews well – she played college with his wife at Providence College, and as someone who stays involved with her players’ collegiate recruiting, Amherst College was a program she knew well. But in her 19 years at Williston, no player Talbot Syfu coached had ever gone there.

“Jeff and I have been in touch for years… he needed a goalie and I said, ‘You’ve really got to look at Natalie,’” Talbot Syfu said. “I think as the kids went into the summer, they went to visit, met with Jeff and really, really liked it.” 

Reynolds, who is from Plymouth, and Stott, from Franklin, actually made their first visit together – Talbot Syfu drove the two of them over to get a look at the campus. It wasn’t a typical visit, held early in the COVID-19 pandemic, but both were interested in the Mammoths program. As they narrowed down their list of colleges, neither told the other that they were looking seriously at Amherst. 

The day that Reynolds was poised to tell her team where she had committed, Talbot Syfu told Stott to write down where she was thinking of going beforehand so that Reynolds’ decision wouldn’t influence hers. Stott wrote down ‘Amherst,’ and when Reynolds told the rest of the team that she would be with the Mammoths next year, Stott was ecstatic. A week later, Stott made it official that she’d be headed to Amherst College as well.  

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“I'm so thankful for Maeve. We’ve been best friends for four years so coming in together, it definitely made it a lot easier,” Stott said. “I was really nervous, but having Maeve by my side, we could lean on each other.”

The two Williston grads are part of a freshman class that has lifted Amherst into the upper echelon of college hockey this winter. The Mammoths are currently ranked No. 3 in the country, winning all but one of their 17 games this season. Stott has secured the starting spot in net as a first-year, recording seven shutouts so far, while Reynolds is tied for the top spot in scoring with nine goals and eight assists – three of those goals coming shorthanded, and three more have come on the power play. 

“(Stott) is a fierce competitor. I had no doubt that she was gonna go to Amherst and do incredible things. She looks poised, it doesn't look like she's a first year player by any means,” Talbot Syfu said. “Maeve, despite her size, that doesn't stop her. She's relentless, she uses her body super well and possesses the puck and she's got really good offensive instincts but she's also a 200-foot player. They have the capability and the experience, not necessarily at the college level, but definitely (at Williston) that has propelled both of them to do really well at Amherst.”

Through it all, both Stott and Reynolds have had a strong supporter in Talbot Syfu, as well as their old teammates from Williston. Their former coach often comes to cheer them on when Amherst plays at home, and it’s not a far trip for the pair to go back to Williston to watch a game. The proximity to Williston was part of the appeal in going to Amherst, and it’s made a world of difference in their first year at college. 

“She's literally like a second mom and is always there. Even though we don't go to school at Williston anymore, she's always there checking in on us…. if she can't come to our games, she's watching them and keeping updated on them. She was more than a hockey coach,” Reynolds said. “Even though hockey was super important, she made sure that we as humans and students were doing well, which I really appreciate. I know my family appreciates [me] having her at Williston and just having her close by now when I'm in college.”

That gratitude is a two-way street – Talbot Syfu is equally happy to have two of her former players so close to home. It makes it easy for her to support them, whether that’s cheering them on the ice or checking in on them off it.

“I feel very fortunate to be in some ways part of their experience and that I've been able to go over there and watch them play multiple times and see them succeed and connect with them after the game,” Talbot Syfu said. “I think one of the most rewarding parts of my job is the continued relationship beyond the time that students are here at Williston.” 

When asked about one of their favorite moments together, Reynolds remembered the NEPSAC title game when she and Stott were seniors at Williston. Stott recorded a shutout, Reynolds scored a goal, and the two of them celebrated with their teammates after the buzzer sounded – a perfect conclusion to their time in Easthampton. They’re hopeful that they won’t have to wait until senior year to win a title together again – whether that’s a NESCAC championship or an NCAA title. 

“Having that memory and winning that championship was probably the best way to leave Williston and a core memory for me,” Reynolds said. “Hopefully we can continue doing that while we’re here.”

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