At only 24 years old, Mallory Souliotis is already good at two jobs.
As a defender for the Boston Pride and a biomedical engineer, Souliotis has had both of her professional fields change dramatically in 2020.
The Acton native had been looking forward to playing in the Isobel Cup Final, which was supposed to take place back in March. It was expected to be the crown jewel of one of the best seasons from a team in the five-year history of the National Women's Hockey League. But the storybook was left without an ending, as the coronavirus pandemic first caused the final to be postponed, and then canceled altogether.
“I think this is probably the worst outcome for our team — is just not to have that opportunity to prove ourselves," Souliotis said. "To not only the rest of women’s hockey, but just to prove to ourselves as a team that we earned that Cup.”
Right now, women's hockey coming back hopefully next season is the light at the end of a long tunnel. But in the meantime, Souliotis is keeping busy working as a bioanalytical research associate at EMD Serono, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Rockland with a research center in Billerica.
And while two-sport athletes are nothing new, athletes whose other jersey is a lab coat during the coronavirus looks like a whole other level of achievement.
Souliotis knew she wanted to work in a lab well before she went to college. Her grandmother had breast cancer when Souliotis was 13, and then got brain cancer just a few years after that.
So, Souliotis earned a degree in biomedical engineering from Yale to learn how to study and eventually combat the disease.
“There weren’t very many hockey players that came through the biomedical engineering program,"she said. "I was the second student between the men’s and women’s teams to complete the major.”
Souliotis has now worked in oncology research for two years. And once the coronavirus hit, her work was deemed essential.
“I definitely would never have seen myself working full-time during a pandemic on not only cancer, but then addressing the pandemic head-on, basically," she said.
She didn't share much detail about the work she's doing, but said knowing her work could have an impact is keeping her and her coworkers focused.
"Even when it seems like no one else is working and all of our friends are sitting at the beach ... it's definitely tough," she said. "But at the same time, I'm changing people's lives, hopefully, eventually."
When Souliotis started at Yale in 2014, where she was named First Team All-Ivy as a senior, there was no NWHL. The league starting when she was a sophomore and the Pride taking her with the eighth pick in the 2017 draft allowed her to continue pursuing both of her passions.
“I’m essentially being paid to inspire young girls to play professional hockey, which is pretty awesome," she said. "I didn’t dream of playing professional women’s hockey with a bunch of other women. That wasn’t real.”
Pride team president Hayley Moore says the team’s players work in a wide range of professions. From teachers to engineers, Pride players appear to have a knack for high-profile gigs.
That may not be a coincidence. Many top hockey programs are based out of academically strong schools, and no real junior hockey pipeline to the pros exists for women. That's helped to cultivate a student-athlete mentality for players.
“That’s how it’s kind of been cultivated at a younger age. And then it’s inspired female hockey players to find passions outside of hockey in addition to it," Moore said. "And that’s why, you know, you see a lot of our players continuing to have other pursuits outside the rink and to have these other passions.”
Carina Carter, a senior scientist at EMD Serono, says she was a little intimidated when Souliotis arrived because she plays pro hockey.
But now, she’s a fan. She and her co-workers even went to one of her games to cheer her on in a block of seats the company sponsored.
“It’s inspiring to see somebody so young with such drive like she has and be so successful, in both areas," Carter said. "She’s successful on the ice, she’s successful on our team with us, we’re happy to have her on our team.”
People around the NWHL say the goal is to one day be able to pay players enough so they will be able to focus solely on playing hockey.
Still, Souliotis has gone pro in two fields.
“There’s definitely a sense of pride in that I have this career that will basically entertain me for the rest of my life," she said. "And then to be able to continue to play hockey is pretty awesome.”