CT Hockey Heroes On Front Lines of COVID-19 Fight

Many members of our CT Hockey community are on the front lines as doctors, nurses, therapists, first responders, essential business employees, food and medication suppliers, researchers and more. These hockey family members are the soldiers who are directly fighting for all of us. They are working to save lives and help us get back to a way of life we enjoyed a short time ago. We are lucky to have these friends and former competitors on our team at this time of crisis.

In the coming weeks we will be sharing stories of our CT Hockey teammates. They are the soldiers fighting for us. They are CT Hockey Heroes, and we're grateful they are part of our wonderful community! #CTHockeyHeroes #CTHockeyHero

To recommend someone for a CT Hockey Hero profile, please their name, CHC program involvement, role in the COVID-19 crisis efforts, some photos, and both of your contact information.


Vivaan Powari

Volunteer, Sant Nirankari Mission
Darien YHA House Player

Vivaan is 10 years old and is involved in volunteer social services through his church, Sant Nirankari Mission. One such activity is providing free masks and gloves to the general public. Vivaan is seen here packaging gloves and masks into ziplocs and labeling them for distribution.


Katie Beirne

Director of Development & Communications, New Beginnings Family Academy, Bridgeport
Hockey Parent, Darien YHA

Katie Beirne is the Director of Development & Communications at New Beginnings Family Academy in Bridgeport, a public charter school. When the quarantine went into effect, Katie and her team quickly mobilized, raising enough money from various organizations and private donors to ensure that a Chromebook would be delivered to any student at NBFA who needed one. This unplanned fundraising drive has been instrumental in ensuring that the school's 500 students are able to complete their school assignments from home and keep in contact with their teachers throughout the quarantine.

Katie's son Emmett is a first-year Squirt in the Darien Youth Hockey Association and the CT Breakers.


Kate Giamattei

RN, Yale New Haven Hospital
Hockey Parent, Hamden Dragons

Kate Giamattei is a RN at Yale New Haven Hospital. Kate had worked on a surgical ecology floor at Smilow before COVID-19. Her floor was converted into an ICU, and Kate and her colleagues were moved to the St. Rafael’s campus. Kate has voluntarily floated to work with COVID-19 patients during this time and has continue to provide excellent care to her patients and love and support to her family.

Kate's son William plays for the Hamden Dragons. Says her husband Anthony, "She is truly an inspiration to us all."


John Sather

Emergency Department, Yale New Haven Hospital;
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Yale School of Medicine
Coach, Yale Youth Hockey

Dr. John Sather is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Yale School of Medicine and works in the Emergency Department at Yale New Haven Hospital. He is on the front lines, taking care of COVID-19 patients and setting up critical care pathways for patients in the Emergency Department.

Dr. Sather played hockey at Fairfield Prep, Yale University, and professionally in Europe prior to his career in medicine. He has coached at all levels in the Yale Youth Hockey program and still enjoys following his children and nieces around the rinks.


Lisa Baker

Emergency Trauma Nurse, St. Mary's Hospital
Hockey Parent, Hamden Youth Hockey Association

Lisa Baker is an Emergency Trauma Nurse at St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury, working 12-hour shifts at a time. With family unable to be by their sides, her greatest honor is holding the hands of her patients and reassuring them that they will make it through this. But unfortunately, she's left wondering what happens to them once she admits them to the hospital.

Says Lisa, "I recently had the privilege of seeing a video that portrayed one of my patients as he was being discharged, and it brought such a sense of relief to see that he had beaten COVID-19. I can only hope that my words, actions, and presence mean something to the people that I am caring for during what is often the scariest moments of their lives."

Lisa is a mom to 4 kids, two of whom still play hockey. Matt is a goalie for Notre Dame West Haven and Robert is a forward for Hamden Youth Hockey. When she's not at work, she is busy homeschooling her youngest during the quarantine, finishing up her own degree, and until recently, helping to care for her mother-in-law who was battling cancer.

Lisa’s husband Bill introduced her to the world of hockey when her step-son (now 27 years old) was playing for Yale Youth Hockey. Over the past 21 years, Bill continued to play as well as coach their two younger boys.


John Gaffney

Supervisor of Facilities Management, Yale New Haven Health
Hockey Parent & Board Member, Hamden YHA

John Gaffney is a Supervisor of Facilities Management at Yale New Haven Health. He and his team have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to design and implement equipment used to protect the doctors and nurses on the front lines of the pandemic.

When not at work, John can be found at Louis Astorino Ice Rink, cheering for Hamden and supporting his favorite Hamden Youth Hockey players: sons Jack and Wyatt Gaffney. John also serves on the HYHA Board of Directors.


Lori Orrico

Respiratory Therapist, Norwalk Hospital
Hockey Mom & and President's Wife, Greenwich Cardinals YHA

Lori Orrico is a Respiratory Therapist (RT) at Norwalk Hospital working 12 hour shifts in the ICU. Lori has been a RT for 15 years. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, she was working in Pulmonary Rehab which is an outpatient unit. Once this crisis started to escalate, that unit was closed and she returned to critical care. If that responsibility isn't enough, on her days off Lori has helped to care for her 83-year-old father-in-law who is battling COVID-19.

Lori is mom to two boys playing hockey for the Greenwich Cardinals YHA – U12 (1st year) and U14 (2nd year). Lori is also married to the GCYHA president, which means non-stop hockey!


Michele Gintoli

Physical Therapist Assistant, Western Connecticut Home Care
Coach, Ridgefield Lions

Michele Gintoli is a physical therapist assistant, working for Western Connecticut Home Care, a branch off of Danbury Hospital. Michele sees patients after they’ve been discharged from the hospital but need to continue rehab within their homes. She is required to wear goggles, a mask, and gloves for all patients regardless of whether or not they’ve been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19. Positive patients require full PPE with some modifications since we are in the home.

Michele has seen the success side of COVID-19, where people are home after being intubated in the ICU, weaning off oxygen, and getting stronger so they can return to their prior level of function. There are still many unknowns, especially within a setting that is not as controlled, which can be unsettling. Michele’s main focus is helping patients achieve their independence again.

Michele will be head coach for the Ridgefield 10U B team next season. She is also co-captain for USA Women's Deaf National Hockey Team.


Cherie Kokoszka

RN, Yale New Haven Hospital
Shoreline Sharks Hockey Parent

Cherie Kokoszka is an RN at Yale New Haven Hospital. In May, she will celebrate her one-year anniversary at Yale. The staff from her floor and many other floors have been flexible and go to floors that need them the most now. She is currently at the Saint Raphael campus but is originally from the York Street Campus.

Cherie's twins Evelyn and Olivia Twarowski play on the Shoreline Sharks U12 Black team. Evelyn recently decided to be a goalie, and Olivia plays mainly center but is flexible and plays where needed. Evelyn and Olivia also act and model in their free time. Working full time, helping the girls with distant learning, and caring for their numerous rescue pets keeps Cherie nice and busy. "Stay safe everyone," she says, "we will get through this! xoxo"


Colleen Sullivan

X-ray Technician, Yale New Haven Hospital
Hamden Youth Hockey Parent

Colleen Sullivan is an X-ray technician at Yale New Haven Hospital, where she is on the front lines every day to help patients in need. After working her stressful long hours, she comes home and cooks, cleans, and makes sure that her family members are mentally ok.

Colleen is mom to two Hamden Youth Hockey players and a third who has already graduated. Says her husband Robert, "She is the glue that holds our whole family together. She is the most unselfish person I know. She was amazing before the virus and she has gone above and beyond during this pandemic to take care of her patients and us. She's the best!!!"


Jonathan Bankoff

Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine & Senior Attending Physician, Middlesex Hospital
President, West Hartford Youth Hockey Association

Jon Bankoff is the Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown. Dr. Bankoff is overseeing the Emergency Department during these difficult times, managing and coordinating the emergency medical team on the front lines of the coronavirus war in Middletown. Asked if anything in medical school prepared him for this unprecedented event, Dr. Bankoff simply answered, "No, but the Marine Corps trained me pretty well for this."

Dr. Bankoff is President of West Hartford Youth Hockey Association and will coach the West Hartford Wolves Squirt A team for the upcoming 2020-21 season. Dr. Bankoff and his wife Heather have four children who have skated with West Hartford Youth Hockey throughout their youth hockey careers: Keegan (Midget) who plays at Westminster School, Connor (Bantam) a goaltender, C.J. (Squirt) and Reilly (Squirt).


Jennifer Currier

Yale University Hospitality
Hamden YHA Board Member & Goalie Mom

Jenn Currier is part of a Yale University hospitality team that is making sure that 300 students, first responders, and health care workers are being fed during this pandemic.

Says Jenn's son Jake, a Hamden Squirt A goalie: "My mom is going to work to make sure people are eating. She is also working from home and being a teacher for my brother and I. She is already my hero and now she is being a hero to others."


Heather Carney

Physician Assistant, Yale New Haven Hospital
Hamden Dragons Parent Manager

Heather Carney is a Physician Assistant at Yale New Haven Hospital. She has, depending on her role for the day, worked directly on the COVID-19 unit at the Hospital. She works Monday through Friday and often beyond her assigned hours. Heather changes her clothes at work and comes right home, throws her dirty scrubs in the washing machine, and jumps in the shower. During these difficult times, Heather remains calm during the storm, which helps her kids deal with the crisis relatively stress-free because of her calming presence.

Heather is mom to three Hamden Dragons: a Mite, a Squirt, and a Learn-to-Play participant (shown below eating Christmas dinner with her at the hospital during her shift). Last season, she managed the Hamden Mite B team.

Heather also is assigned as an educator to many of the new PAs that are starting at the hospital. Some of these young PAs have been thrown into the fire that we know as COVID-19, but Heather makes sure that they are prepared for anything.

Heather has been recognized for achievements in the medical field. Heather’s family is very proud of her, now and always!


Paul Melanson

Farmington Chief of Police & Emergency Management Director
President, Simsbury Youth Hockey

Paul Melanson has a dual role in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. He is the Chief of Police for the Town of Farmington and the Emergency Management Director. Multiple times a day, he is conferencing and coordinating with either the Health Department, CT Department of Emergency Management, UConn Health Center or the Governor's Office in order to have a coordinated response throughout the State.

Paul has also been busy drafting new policies and implementing a new shift plan within the police department to attempt to minimize and mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus among first responders. Community policing has always been a cornerstone of the department's mission; however, now they are trying to keep their distance from people and even handling some calls for service telephonically. They have also had to coordinate the procurement and distribution of PPE's to health care facilities and other first responders in Farmington.

Paul is President of Simsbury Youth Hockey. This past season, he was coach of Simsbury's split season Midget, Bantam A, First Step (learn to skate program) and Simsbury High School Girls’ Varsity ice hockey teams. His wife has a sign that she puts up in the kitchen at the beginning of every hockey season which says "We interrupt this marriage to bring you hockey season."

Paul comes from a hockey family: his brothers coach at Northwest Catholic, and his father Alfred was one of the founders of Simsbury Youth Hockey.

Old picture of the Melanson family hockey players


Dan Walsh

Vice President of Support Services, Bridgeport Hospital
Darien YHA Parent

Dan Walsh is Vice President of Support Services at Bridgeport Hospital and serves as the Incident Commander for the Hospital. Dan says: "When we are in crisis we activate our Hospital Incident Command Structure (HICS) and run the facility through that model. This structure allows us to have more control of the crisis." Dan and the rest of the HICS team leaders have been working around the clock for about a month to prepare for the surge of patients.

In these photos, you can see some of the measures the Bridgeport Hospital team has taken. These include standing up a tent for patients to account for the surge in admissions, retrofitting med/surg rooms to be negative pressure and have ICU capability, staging mobile testing sites, and triage tents outside the Emergency Rooms so patients can be screened quickly.

Dan’s son Finn is a second year Pee Wee, and his daughter Genevieve is a first year Squirt with the Darien Youth Hockey Association. His wife Jessica is a Nurse Practitioner currently seeing her patients via video.


Dawn Bryson

Public Health Nurse
Darien YHA Parent & CT Hockey Conference Secretary

Dawn Bryson
Dawn Bryson

CT Hockey Conference Secretary Dawn Bryson is a Public Health Nurse for the City of Stamford, currently working at the drive-thru nasal swab testing site at Westhill High School for COVID-19 symptomatic patients. Dawn has also worked at the Stamford Hospital drive-thru testing site and fielded phone calls on the COVID Crisis Intervention Hotline at the Stamford Government Center.

Dawn's sons, Grady (12U) and Nolan (Midget), both play for Darien and are currently learning remotely at home. Nolan plays for Fairfield Prep. Dawn's husband Jim — who played on the inaugural Darien Youth Hockey team in 1973 through high school and coached both of his sons' teams — is working from home.

Dawn Bryson

Dawn is an RN with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and 30 years of experience. She will soon be working in a shelter in the City of Stamford which is set to open later this month.

Dawn Bryson

More profiles are coming soon!