Kitty Kelly skated over the blue line on the Capital Centre ice last month and fired her slap shot past the Nashua (N.H.) Angels' goalie.

A red light flashed, a score of hockey sticks were waved in joy and the Centre scoreboard rang up a goal for the Washington Red Coats.

"I just smashed it as hard as I could," explained the 107-pound Kelly, nicknamed "Puck" for her pukish humor and addiction to hockey.

"I think I may have closed my eyes, too," she said with a grin.

With that blend of exuberance and nonchalance, the Red Coats, Washington's first and only women's ice hockey team, liberated the Capital Centre nets in a preliminary to the Washington-Boston NHL game.

But the Red Coats' sense of liberation was more personal than social or political.

"When I first saw the Caps play here three years ago I said to myself, 'I've got to play that game,' " said the 22-year-old Kelly, one of the original Red Coats.

"But I never dreamed I'd score a goal on the Caps' ice."

Red Coat center and club president Sue Hardesty never thought of herself as an athlete until she began playing hockey in college.

"Learning a sport has been a revelation, a new world. I can't believe all the pleasures that men have been keeping to themselves," said Hardesty, a congressional aide.

Pleasures like high-sticking and bloody noses?

"Oh, hockey's not like that," she said, offended. "We play no-check. It's finesse and grace and constant motion and strategy."

In pursuit of grace, Hardesty and the Red Coats are willing to practice until midnight on Sundays. When, that is, they are not driving from three to 10 hours for weekend games from Philadelphia to Concord.

To have her hour on Centre ice, Hardesty interrupted Christmas vacation with her husband and parents in Milwaukee to make a 36-hour round trip back to Washington.

What price $155 in airfare to follow in Guy Charron's skate tracks? Even if the Red Coats did lose, 2-1?

The Red Coats speak of their newfound game as though it were a consciousness-expanding experience and not just a close encounter with pucks, sticks and sideboards.

"Skating itself is unique among sports," said Alicia Martinelli, who works in a law firm. "Running always bored me. But when you combine the incredible speed of skating with all the subtlety and competitiveness of a team game, it's . . . it's . . ."

The word she never quite found might have been "liberating."

"Hockey's fast, dangerous and exciting," said Kelly, relishing each adjective.

With an apostolic fervor the Red Coats have sought out each other, building from a club that often could not put six players on the ice three years ago to a growing team of 24 members.

Phil Schnibbe made only one demand this year when he volunteered to coach the Red Coats, the majority of whom were hockey novices.

"I told them I usually spent Sunday night drinking beer and watching the $6 Million Man," said Schnibbe, a shaggy-haired ex-schoolboy player who looks uncomfortable without something cold and wet in his hand.

"All I asked was enthusiasm and a willingness to accept instruction. I told 'em if I didn't get it, I'd just go back to my beer and the $6 Million Man."

Enthusiasm is not a problem; the Red Coats have almost cornered the market.

"Hey, what's the story on the eats? Where's the pizza and beer?" asked Lisa Hardy, wing person, taking a burly beau in tow as she rambled out of the Centre's subterranean locker room.

"Are our tickets for this Bruins' game all together? They better not try to split this team up. We've still got our sticks."

From the nose-bleed altitude of section 209, the Red Coats marveled at an NHL game taking place where they had just skated.

"The ice was so smooooth," said Kelly.

"I had read surveys of various NHL rinks," said Rosemary Warren with casual expertise," and the Centre ice isn't as bad as I was led to believe."

The Red Coats and their small platoon of companions soon turned 209 into a section of private celebration.

"Do we have good parties?" Schnibbe asked in disbelief of the question. "How many purses can you reach into and pull out either Budweiser or Coors? These girls are a two-case team. And can they dance. Hockey players just naturally have rhythm."

The only place the rambunctious Red Coats draw the line is at fights on the ice.

"I don't think I'd ever want to get into that," said Kelly. "I had a guy swing at me once in a pickup game . . . with his stick.

"I guess I'd kinda knocked him down with a sloppy check. I apologized later. I didn't want to get punched."

At present the Red Coats wish they had a crosstown rival to build up a little bad blood against. So far, they have not been able to find another women's team south of Philadelphia.

"We've got a 38-year-old mother of seven on this team and a 14-year-old in junior high," said Hardesty. "It's just a matter of time until we have a whole women's league.

"You know," she added slyly, "women are becoming more goal-oriented all the time."