Centered Ice: Catholic Education is the Foundation on Which Michelle Roach’s Success was Built

Michelle Roach would be an ideal motivational speaker for any high school in the country. She’s both a pioneer and a role model for aspiring young women in the fields of sports, education, and business.

Roach is an assistant vice president at Brown Brothers Harriman and Company in Boston. She is also the head coach of the Peabody High School girls’ hockey team.

St. Mary’s hockey captain Michelle Roach (far left) at the Catholic Central League all- star game in 2003 with Jannie Pattern and Colleen Clancy of St. Mary’s and Nancy Adler of Arlington Catholic.

A 2003 graduate of St. Mary’s High School, Roach said her Catholic education at St. Pius School and St. Mary’s High School set the foundation to her success in life.

It was a proud night for the Roach family when Michelle Roach was inducted into the St. Mary’s High School Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 2016. Pictured, from left, at the induction ceremony and dinner are her mother, Diane Roach, her brother, Stephen Roach, Michelle Roach, and her father, Bob Roach.

“I worked really hard at St. Pius and St. Mary’s and I had a lot of success there,” said Michelle. “There were a lot of opportunities. I went on to Saint Michael’s College, which is a small school just like St. Pius and Saint Mary’s was, so I very much felt it was an extension of that.”

Michelle said she tries to instill in her hockey players the values she learned at St. Pius and St. Mary’s.

“I teach my players about sportsmanship, hard work, confidence, and commitment,” said Michelle.

She said she had terrific, inspiring teachers at St. Pius and St. Mary’s.

“Paul and Cheryl Maestranzis made a big impact on me,” said Michelle. “Cheryl is a teacher and Paul was a teacher and became principal while I there. He is still the principal at St. Pius today.

“At St. Mary’s [former Vice Principal] Jim McHugh was a huge influence on me. Mr. McHugh, Mrs. [Frances] White, my mathematics teacher, and Mr. [Doug] Lowe also – the three of them were such a positive influence on me as teachers.”

The first captain of St. Mary’s girls hockey

Before Michelle Roach decided to enroll at St. Mary’s High School, she was on her way to becoming an ice hockey standout.

Michelle grew up playing in Lynn Youth Hockey after participating in the “Learn To Skate Program” on Saturday mornings at the Connery Rink.

She competed on Lynn Youth Hockey boys’ teams through her freshman year in high school before transitioning to the girls’ hockey program.

“It’s kind of cool,” said Michelle. “I think I’m one of the first females who played in Lynn Youth Hockey and went on to play in college.”

 Michelle has benefited greatly from the lifelong support and advice of her father, Bob Roach, now the girls’ hockey coach at Shawsheen Tech.

“My father coached the Lynn-Winthrop high school team when they first started and when he took a teaching position at Shawsheen Tech, they asked him to coach their newly formed girls’ hockey team,” said Michelle, who volunteered as a coach at Shawsheen.

“My father has taught me a lot through the years,” credited Michelle. “He really got me into coaching when I got back from college. He really helped get me interested and get a passion for coaching as well.”

 At St. Mary’s, Roach became captain of the school’s first girls’ varsity hockey team in the 2001-02 season.

“I had played on the boys’ [JV] team for my first two years at St. Mary’s and the last two years I played for the girls’ team,” said Michelle. “St. Mary’s was building a program and Todd [Langlais] is an absolutely fantastic coach. My father was an assistant coach on Todd’s staff. I still keep in contact with Todd and I pick his brain for coaching advice. We were building something that became a really great program.”

College degrees from St. Michael’s and Harvard

As a 5-foot-9-inch forward for the Spartans, Roach displayed superb stickhandling and a nifty scoring touch while drawing the attention of women’s college hockey hockey coaches. Michelle’s All-All-Star career and outstanding leadership at St. Mary’s earned her induction into the school’s Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 2016.

“It was a fantastic honor,” she said humbly.

She chose to attend St. Michael’s College in Vermont.

“It gave me the opportunity to continue in the Catholic education as well as the opportunity to play hockey there,” said Michelle.

Michelle played three years of college hockey before two concussions led to her decision to call it a career.

“It was a great experience to be a part of a college team,” said Michelle. “There’s a lot of camaraderie. Your teammates are always there for you and they became close friends and roommates. You have that lifelong bond with your teammates. You go through a lot – the training, the travel, and all the hours that you spend on and off the ice. We started in September and the season went through February so that’s most of your college year being together.”

Michelle received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Saint Michael’s. She minored in Business and Human Resource Management.

She later attended graduate school at Harvard University, where she received her master’s degree in Human Resources and Organizational Behavior.

She worked at Bear Stearns, a finance company in Boston where she had enjoyed a college internship while at St. Michael’s. She also worked for 10 years in human resources at Harvard.

“I’ve been at Brown Brothers Harriman for four years and I’m an assistant vice president in human resources,” said Michelle proudly. “It’s a great company to work for. My boss is fantastic. I’m very appreciative of the time and flexibility that she gives me to be able to coach because it’s something that I care a lot about.”

Enjoying success as the Peabody head coach

Roach is continuing her association with girls high school sports as the sixth-year head coach of the Peabody High School girls hockey team.

Her record of successes is impressive. Roach’s Lady Tanners are the two-time reigning league champions and have qualified for five MIAA State Tournaments in a row. She is a two-time Northeast coach of the year award recipient.

“Obviously I was at St. Mary’s for a really long time and they’re near and dear to my heart but I’ve also found a home in Peabody and I’ve been there for six years now. I love coaching in Peabody. The kids are great. I have players from Peabody, Lynnfield, and North Reading and I get great support from the administration from all three schools.”

Asked about coaching a hockey team during the COVID-19 health crisis, Roach said, “Ultimately, we’re just happy to be on the ice and be together. So it’s a sense of normalcy for us and it’s good to be able to have the kids together. We have five seniors this year so being able to be together, to play, and honor our seniors, we’re just so grateful for that.”

Prior to becoming the head coach in Peabody, she was the junior varsity coach and assistant varsity coach at St. Mary’s for five years and an assistant at Masconomet Regional for one season. During her time as an assistant on Frank Pagliuca’s staff at St. Mary’s, the Spartans claimed three state titles and compiled an amazing undefeated streak of 101 games.

“It was so great to be a part of that run, given that I started off a player in the St. Mary’s program in 2002 and being able to see that progression from the beginning to coming back as a coach and seeing the success,” said Roach. “Frank taught me so much to help get ready for this coaching position in Peabody.”

One of the opponents on the Peabody schedule has been her father Bob’s Shawsheen Tech Rams.

“I think we’re the first father-daughter duo that has coached against each other in an MIAA game,” said Michelle. “It’s a great experience to come full circle from where I started. At Sunday family dinners, we’re talking about hockey, going over practices and bouncing drills and systems off of each other.

“I think we drive my mother (Diane) crazy because my brother (Stephen) is one of my assistant coaches,” continued Michelle.

Stephen Roach is also a graduate of St. Mary’s, having been the Class of 2012 valedictorian before attending Boston College. He is currently working in a health reinsurance company.

“Stephen was a student when I was coaching at St. Mary’s and he would actually come to the rink after school and run the clock for my JV games,” recalled Michelle.

Influencing the next generation

Michelle Roach said she’s happy to be in a position where she has the direct ability to affect students’ lives.

“What I really enjoy about coaching is that I have this unique opportunity where we’re growing players but we’re also growing people and helping form these students so they can go on and they can do great things. Many of my players are competing for collegiate club and varsity teams.”

One of her former players at St. Mary’s, Amanda Donahoe (a 2016 Saint Michael’s graduate), is currently an assistant on the Peabody High staff.

She is thankful for the academic and athletic opportunities she’s had throughout her career.

“I’m grateful for the opportunities and the success that I’ve been afforded because I had these role models that helped me and guide me,” said Michelle. “It starts with my father and my family.”

She is excited about the future of women’s hockey.

“It’s absolutely amazing how far the sport has come,” said Michelle. “When I started playing hockey, you didn’t have many women in the area that were playing. Women’s hockey has gained so much more visibility and exposure and I think the National Women’s Hockey League playoffs that are going to be on national television is a great stage for them to be able to showcase their sport and for us to see some of the great skills they have and that we’ve been seeing for years in our hockey programs.”

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