‘Hanson Sisters’ line leading way for New Canaan girls hockey

First things, first: Caitlin Tully, Jade Lowe and Maddie Kloud have not yet seen the movie “Slap Shot.”

But it is definitely on the agenda for the three New Canaan girls ice hockey forwards.

“We made it a point that the three of us have to sit down and watch it,” Tully said with a smile. “We’re very excited.”

They should be.

Three years ago, the three players joined the Rams as freshmen and impressed coach Rich Bulan with a gritty and energetic style of play which led to him giving them the nickname of the “Hanson Sisters,” after the Hanson Brothers from the aforementioned 1977 movie.

“We told them ‘give us a reason to play you’ and they did all the time,” Bulan said. “They were all so tough. Maddie Kloud was in front of the net and in the corner; Caitlin Tully was always around the puck; and Jade was all over the place. They were freshmen, they went out, and they weren’t afraid.”

And they’re still together as a seniors. After teaming up when they were in middle school, Tully, Lowe and Kloud have helped New Canaan win two FCIAC titles and a state championship during the past three seasons and are looking for more this year.

The word “chemistry” comes up often when they talk about playing together.

“We don’t even have to look for each other on the ice,” Lowe said. “We just know where we’re going to be. That’s just the really good chemistry we have. Even in middle school, we played together, so we’ve been with each other for a long time.”

“I don’t even have to look before I pass it sometimes; I know where they are,” Kloud said. “That chemistry just helps so much and keeps the flow going.”

The line is indicative of the depth on the New Canaan roster this season, as two lines have at least 30 goals and 65 points.

Tully (15 goals, 2 assists), Lowe (6 goals, 14 assists) and Kloud (9 goals, 19 assists) have combined for 65 points with 30 goals and 35 assists.

Senior Kaleigh Harden leads the Rams with 33 points on 21 goals and 12 points, and her line with senior Grace Crowell (12 goals, 11 assists), and freshman Maddie Tully (7 goals, 5 assists) has 68 points.

“We definitely have something special with this team,” Lowe said. “Especially with a senior-heavy team, we want to do what we did freshman year and win everything. So everyone is showing up every day ready to work with the mindset that you have to earn everything. We can’t go into any game assuming we’re going to win.”

A scene early in the movie “Slap Shot,” has player-coach Reggie Dunlap, played by Paul Newman, telling the Hansons they’re going into action for the first time.

“Ok, guys, show us what you’ve got,” Dunlap says in the locker room before the brothers proceed to wreak havoc on the ice.

Caitlin Tully said they watched that scene on a bus ride to Simsbury last week.

“It’s really funny,” Tully said. “They go out on the ice and they’re flying around. That’s basically what we were like our freshman year. We were just so excited to get out there, get a chance and show everyone what we can do. So we just left it all out on the ice.”

That big moment came when Bulan put the line in during a game in which the Rams were struggling to score.

“Nobody could score for the whole first period and all of a sudden, we got two goals,” Kloud said. “We weren’t even playing that much and then we scored one shift after the other. From there on, the rest is history.”

“All three of them go to the dirty areas — they go in front, they go in the corners and they play hard.” Bulan said. “The thing that impressed me the most? Man, did they back-check. They put their heads down and they didn’t want to get caught up ice.”

It was also around that time that Bulan gave them their nickname. Not knowing what he was referring to, the players went and looked into the movie. The next practice, they showed up wearing Hanson Brothers glasses.

The Rams won both conference and state titles that year, and Bulan said “we don’t do it without them. They were such a backbone for that team.”

The three players have only missed one season together since middle school, that coming in 2019-20, when Tully was sidelined by an ACL injury.

Tully returned last winter and helped the Rams go 12-1 and win the FCIAC championship. The line had 16 goals and 21 assists for 37 points, with Tully having nine goals and four assists.

“If they had the award, she would’ve been named the comeback player of the year with the big goals she scored for us and her presence,” Bulan said.

New Canaan will close out the regular season with a home game against rival Darien Saturday at the Darien Ice House, and a road trip to Newington to take on ETB on Feb. 19. Then, the FCIAC and state tournaments await.

For Tully, Lowe and Kloud, it’s a moment they’ve been waiting for. They haven’t had a state championship to play for since their freshman season, a result of the pandemic.

“Without having a state tournament the last few years, it feels great to have one this year,” Kloud said. “Freshman year was the only real time we’ve had that and that feels like a long time (ago). So we’re excited and all the pieces are coming together.”

“The main thing is we love being out here,” Tully said. “We love having the chance to play hockey and getting the chance to play together. I feel like that’s the biggest reason that we’re so good.”

And as for the pending movie night, Bulan has some advice: “Get some popcorn and enjoy.”

david.stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports