Defying the Odds: Interview with Woodbridge Ice Hockey’s Goalie, Abigail Karas


Karas in action on the ice, playing for her club team.

Chloe Tu and Alexander Casares

Abigail Karas, otherwise known as Abby, is a sophomore at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School and is the varsity goaltender for the Woodbridge Township Ice Hockey team, which currently stands at an undefeated record of 12-0. The teams used to be separate, but Colonia, JFK and Woodbridge combined teams in the 2017-2018 season.

Editors at The Torch had the wonderful opportunity to interview Abby about what it’s like being the only girl on an all boys team, the responsibility that comes with holding such a key position on the team and how her team rose to success in the 2021-2022 season.

Did a family member or friend get you into hockey?

It was my brother- my younger brother. Yes, he was a player actually before he started playing goalie and one day, we were downstairs and my dad was shooting [hockey] balls at him. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I want to try that!”, so I put on the pads and that’s how I started, downstairs in my house.

How old were you?

I think it was third grade, but I could be wrong. I started ice skating lessons a couple years earlier. 

How does it feel to be undefeated, especially when you have a position on the team that is so crucial?

It’s actually a very good feeling, especially since the Woodbridge Hockey Team hasn’t been very successful in the past. Being 12-0 right now is a really big deal, but I feel like it’s also [because] we haven’t faced any opponents that are really to our level yet. Once we play St. Joe’s, that’ll be a really big telltale sign of how good we really are because right now, the goalies haven’t had to do the most work. All the credit goes to our players right now. 

As we haven’t done that well in the past, what do you think is the difference between this year and past years?

Honestly, I think the fact that we’ve just been building up this program so much because Woodbridge Township Hockey was still so new. It’s not that old, I don’t think ‘cause I don’t know when we combined, but it wasn’t that long ago. Even last year, we weren’t that good. We were average, but the players we have now are insane, so I think that helps a lot.

Have you ever felt like you’ve been underestimated just because you’re a girl on the team? 

Oh, a hundred percent, especially just starting out. I got so many stares. I remember the first couple times I played, there was this one dad- I remember it so vividly. So we were about to go out on the ice and this dad turns to my mom and he’s like, “Oh, is she any good?” If I was a guy, they’d never say that. They’d never be like, “Oh, is he good?” But just because I was a girl and I was tiny, ‘cause I was [8 years old]- I don’t know, I was younger. [He just asked if I was good] and I could clearly hear him and at that point, I was still getting started, but just for him to ask that is like oh I see how it is. As I’m getting older, I feel more pressure honestly just because there’s more eyes on me- or that’s how I feel. There probably aren’t, but just like if I mess up, I feel like everyone’s gonna blame it on me. Well now it’s not as open as it used to be. People used to say it not to my face, but say it where I could hear when I was younger. Now, they doubt, but then they see me play and then they’re a little [less doubtful]. Also the fact that I’m still playing at this age- it’s kinda like you wouldn’t be playing if you weren’t able to keep up, so I think they are not as doubtful anymore.

Do the boys and/or coaches treat you differently and inferior for being a girl? 

No- well, no. The coaches? Absolutely not because they’re the nicest people ever- especially DiPalma. Love DiPalma- he’ll stick up for me through and through. I mean the boys are so welcoming. I’m friends with every single guy on the team. They don’t treat me as inferior, but there are little jokes. I don’t take them to heart and they don’t mean for me to take them to heart either- it’s just the little jabs occasionally. It’s not because of my gender- I mean I guess, since I’m a girl. It’s just they’ll make little jabs at me, but it’s also just casual friends making and playing jokes with each other kind of thing. If I was a guy- the guys make fun of each other and play with each other all the time- so it’s not because I’m a girl, it’s because I’m their teammate and I’m their friend if that makes sense.

What do the practices consist of?

Practices are always at 5:45 in the morning. 5:45 a.m. to 6:45 a.m., so they’re an hour. Usually we’ll practice two times a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then usually we have games Wednesdays and Fridays. In the beginning [we] get out there, do a little stretch, we’ll do this little circle thing [skating] and then we stretch again. Usually we’ll go into a drill where you just warm up the goaltenders, so shooting. Then we go into more team breakouts, just getting out of your zone, more teamwork defensive zone coverage, our attack, we work on power play and penalty kill, all those game elements. [With] a power play, [you] are in the [penalty] box for two minutes. Say the opposing team gets a penalty, then my team is up one person, so we have 5 players on the ice and the opposing team has 4 players on the ice for two minutes.

What made you want to be in net instead of playing forward or defense? As a goaltender, you are the face of the team in front of you, what is the biggest challenge?

Definitely my brother because if he wasn’t a goalie, I don’t think I would have ever gotten into hockey at all. The biggest challenge is definitely what you said, being the face of the team. I just feel like all the pressure falls back on me, even [though] that’s not the case at all. It’s just all in my head and I think I make it out to be so much of a bigger thing than it is and all my teammates joke about it with me ‘cause I always am like “I’m so nervous” before a game, even if the team is bad and they’ll be like “Oh, Abby’s nervous!” I definitely get very nervous before games, and honestly I think the pressure has gotten to me a little bit just in the fact of my overall opinion of hockey. There was a dark place at one time where I was just like “I’m not playing anymore, that’s it.” I wasn’t going to play this season actually, I don’t know if i’m going to play next season either. 

Is there anything that happens during a game where you’re not doing so well and then suddenly there’s a ton of pressure that gets you on a hot streak, for instance, a big save? 

Yes, usually making a save definitely helps. I get so nervous before games, I am always really antsy and I have my own superstitions that I do every time. After I get that first shot, I kinda settle down a little bit ‘cause you never want to let in your first shot as a goaltender because one, your save percentage is zero and that’s so embarrassing, and also the fact that it paves the way for the whole tone of the game after that first shot. Say I let in a bad goal, the best thing for me to do is forget about it and just focus on making the next save. If that doesn’t come, then obviously it gets a little bit frustrating, but you kind of just have to push through it ‘cause until they pull you out of the net there’s nothing you can really do besides do your best. 

How do you deal with the pressure that you feel? Earlier you said you have things that you do, do you have any rituals?

Yes, a lot. My superstitions are so bad, for example, if I wear a shirt and I play badly that day I can never wear that shirt again. It’ll be things that don’t even relate to hockey at all. Say I change my private story name, right? I literally think that correlates to how I play, or if I change my wallpaper I’m like “my wallpaper isn’t the same, I have to change it back!” It’s so bad though, I don’t know why I’m like that. I think it’s ‘cause my dad is very superstitious like that but it’s just [with] everything. If someone says I’m gonna get a shutout before the game, that’s automatically like- you jinxed it. I’m not gonna get a shutout and that happened the last two games. I also put all my left stuff on before my right, I always carry my bag on the same shoulder, I always use the same stick even though I have two, I always use the same one. I always do this thing when I go out to the net. At the beginning of the game, we go “One, two, three, Woodbridge!” and then I go out to the net. I hit my stick to my blocker and then I stretch out and then I crack my neck three times, [then] I squeeze my glove three times in two intervals, so I squeeze it a total of six times. Then when I go to the far net I do it three times in three intervals because the far net is farther so you have more time. My superstitions are crazy.