NEW CANAAN — Catherine The Great was the most renowned and longest-ruling female leader of Russia. Her reign was called Russia’s golden age.
A little over three centuries later, Catherine Granito is merely part of what has been an outstanding era for three-sport female athletes in New Canaan. Is this comparison a stretch? Let’s just say Granito, who stands only 5-feet tall, packs greatness into every inch.
Consider: Granito started playing ice hockey when she was 2, save for one year played against boys until she was 14 and could graduate next year as perhaps the second-leading scorer in state history, surpassing one of her role models. Or that she never played field hockey until her freshman year, when she attended a “Meet The Coaches” gathering and was encouraged by a friend to come out for the team.
“A week before practice I had a stick in my hand,” Granito recalled with a laugh. By midseason she was part of the regular rotation.
Or that first winter with the Rams’ ice hockey team. “When she first got here she was a defenseman who could rush the puck,” coach Rich Bulan said.
So what did Bulan do? Move her to the first forward line, between two seniors, Olivia Hompe, the team’s star, and Corbett Ripley. Granito finished with 33 goals and 34 assists, her best statistical season, and had a goal and an assist in the Rams’ 2-0 win over Conard in the state championship game.
“I figured she would be a good fit there because she’s smart and fast,” Bulan said. “She first gave me that look, like I had three heads. I think she was scared and nervous, but never intimidated. She never felt like a freshman between two seniors. And it wasn’t long before they were looking to get Catherine the puck.”
Of course, with all of her hockey success on turf and on ice, it just makes sense that the versatile Granito will instead be playing lacrosse in college. She has given Michigan a verbal commitment — “My family is a big Michigan family, we bleed blue; I thought ‘Hail To The Victors’ was a nursery rhyme,” Granito said of the school’s right song.
“My favorite sport is hockey because not many girls can say they play hockey,” Granito said. “I love lacrosse, but I think skating is more unique. But I’m 5-feet tall, and hockey players recruited are very tall and very muscular.”
Despite some missed injury time, Granito finished with 38 goals, 12 assists, 10 draw controls, 15 caused turnovers and 17 ground balls in helping the Rams, after finishing as runners-up in the FCIAC final, to the Class M state title last month.
“She’s a true competitor,” coach Kristin Woods said. “Whether it is field hockey or ice hockey or lacrosse, she comes to play. She always can be matched up with anyone because she gives 100 percent and goes all out all the time.”
That tenacity seems to be more common ground to her excelling in three sports.
“She’s a great talent,” Bulan said. “She has a great shot, she’s got speed, she’ll outfight you for the puck. She has absolute power. Her shot is as hard as they come. When it is on, she can hit corners.”
Granito said growing up with four brothers and playing against males was great preparation once she arrived at the high school.
“The biggest game-changer was with hockey, just the pace of the game,” Granito said. “It was so much faster with the boys.”
Granito said playing summer lacrosse for the CT Grizzlies — a team, ironically, coached by the Rams’ biggest rival, Darien’s Lisa Lindley — helped give added seasoning and exposure to attract college coaches.
Granito said one of the players she looked up to is former New Canaan star Maggie Westfal, who set records for the school’s soccer and ice hockey teams. She was the state’s leading scorer in the latter until later passed by Hompe and went on to play both sports at Yale.
“She tried to get me to play two sports in college and I was like, yeah, right,” Granito said. “She would come skate with us and she made you want to be a better player.”
With 178 points, Granito is currently the fourth leading ice hockey scorer in state history. She likely will finish at least third and, with a big statistical season, could even also pass Westfal.
Granito said she is rarely without one of her three sticks in hand during the summer. “You don’t want to be rusty when the season comes,” she said.
It would appear there is not much more for Granito to accomplish at New Canaan, but she insisted that is not the case.
“We ended this year in lacrosse winning the state championship and I hope to do it again,” Granito said. “In field hockey we won the FCIAC championship and hope to do it again. I’d like to try and win two titles in both sports. And in ice hockey I want to bring things back to how we were my freshman year.”
Woods said Granito will be the perfect teammate to help make the goals turn into reality.
“She really gets a team going and is a true leader on and off the field,” Woods said. “A lot of it is letting her play on the field do the talking.”
Put it all together and it is the stuff of greatness.