Angelica Melone first put on a pair of ice skates when she was just 3-years-old.

She was at the Franklin Park Ice Arena where her older brother Luca was playing hockey. Two years later she joined her first team, the Franklin Park Panthers.

Her family is crazy about hockey. Luca is a defenseman for Aurora University and younger brother Dominic plays for a co-op high school team.

“We always like lived in a hockey rink basically and I just wanted to see if I liked it,” said Melone, a 17-year-old senior at Riverside Brookfield High School from North Riverside. “I’ve loved it ever since. I like how fast the game is and I like the competition.”

Melone started playing for the Panthers when she was five and played for the Panthers for five years. Most of her teammates then were boys.

“Some years I was the only girl, but some years there was another girl with me,” Melone said.

At 10, Melone started playing on a girls team joining the Chicago Mission, a high-level travel program, starting out on their under-12 girls team. Now she plays left wing for the Mission’s under-19 girls team. She is the fastest straight line skater on the team and a very hard worker with great intangibles according to Mission head coach Tony Cachey.

“She’s a dangerous kid because of her speed,” Cachey said. “Other teams have to be aware of her because of her speed. She will outwork people, especially in the corner for pucks.”

Speed is very important in women’s hockey where checking is not allowed.

While not a prolific scorer, Melone is very active on the ice.

“Angelica is very coachable and a super nice kid,” Cachey said. “As good a hockey player as she is, she’s a better kid. She’s the first one out of the locker room for every game and every practice.”

Hockey takes up a lot of time for Melone.

During the travel season, which runs from August until April, she goes to Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge on Monday and Wednesday afternoons for Mission practices. On weekends the team usually plays in tournaments, often hundreds of miles away. They travel regularly to Canada (mostly Ontario) as well as Michigan, New York, and Vermont for tournaments. The team often leaves on Thursday afternoons so she misses school on most Fridays.

Nevertheless, Melone is an excellent and conscientious student who made the B Honor Roll in the first quarter.

“She is on top of her school work,” said Doug Schultz, Melone’s College Algebra teacher.  “I would best describe her as being balanced. To be that competitive in a sport, but still an A student at school and responsible with getting any of the word done that she’s missed has been impressive. She’s just a nice person who adds to the positive atmosphere in my classroom.”

Playing travel hockey comes with sacrifices including missing many school events because she is gone so many weekends.

“I’ve gone to like maybe seven (RBHS) football games,” Melone said.

When she was younger she played travel softball and played softball as a freshman at RBHS, but gave up softball to concentrate on hockey.

Next year Melone will be playing Division I college hockey for Union College, a liberal arts college of about 2,200 students located in Schenectady, New York. Union College plays NCAA Division I hockey in the tough Eastern College Athletic Conference against bigger schools such as Brown, Colgate, Dartmouth, Harvard, and Yale.

“I was getting looked at by a number of schools but when I visited Union it was like the perfect match,” Melone said. “I don’t like big schools. It’s a really beautiful campus and I really loved it.”

Union College has traditionally struggled in the ECAC and didn’t win a game last year. This year the team has a 3-17 record this year but is rebuilding under first-year coach Josh Sciba, a former assistant at Colgate who played college hockey at Notre Dame.

“We want to bring in kids like Angelica and surround her with other kids who are passionate about hockey,” Sciba said.