---- — PEABODY — It might be hard to believe that the previous 30 games — all losses with the exception of one tie — helped the Bishop Fenwick girls hockey team win their last three contests.
The Crusaders, who finished their season with a 5-1 win over Matignon at the McVann-O’Keefe Rink yesterday, stayed positive throughout the last two seasons. That outlook, and desire to improve themselves every practice, is what brought this third-year varsity program to a place where they could win.
“We wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for all the positive energy,” said Nina Groom, the team’s only senior and one of two captains. “The attitude was everything for us.”
Fenwick went 0-16 in both 2011-12 and 2012-13, their first two seasons as a varsity team. They were 0-13-1 this year until last Saturday.
Imagine coming away without a win for three years (36 total games), then winning three games in a five-day span.
It meant the world to the Crusaders, many of whom took up ice hockey for the first time as high school students.
“It’s so awesome,” said Groom, who joined the team as a sophomore with no skating experience. “We knew we had some games with teams that we’d had close games with before, but you do get to the end and start feeling a little down. I didn’t want to leave without getting a win, and for us to be able to get the first varsity wins for Fenwick feels amazing.”
The Crusaders are in a unique position as a fledgling program. They’re the only team on the North Shore that doesn’t co-op with another school, and since they don’t have an attached middle school like some other parochial schools in the state, the team can’t turn to middle school students with years of youth hockey experience for support.
Fenwick has a mix of players that learned to skate as high school students and younger players with youth hockey experience. There are eight freshmen, two sophomores and four juniors returning next year, and they’re hoping to build on all the improvements they’ve made in their skating.
“This has been a good springboard,” said head coach Doug Anderson, in his second year with the Crusaders. “We have a lot of work ahead, but it’s been great to see these girls rewarded. It’s quite an achievement for them.”
Freshman Caitlin Carney and Taylor Farrin had their first goals in yesterday’s victory. Defenseman Megan McGunigle, who had the first hat trick in Fenwick history over the weekend, also scored, as did sophomore Gabby Dotolo. Freshman Emily Charette added a goal and an assist for the Crusaders, who scored nearly as many goals over the last five days (11) as they did all of last season (13).
“It was huge to see so many different girls scoring. We’ve had some girls that picked up a stick for the first time this year able to get goals, and as teammates that makes you really happy for them,” said Groom, who is from Swampscott.
Of course, Fenwick boasts an excellent goaltender in sophomore Meghan Woodworth, who has great instincts and fills the net with confidence. A goalie that never quits no matter what the score is can lift her teammates, and that’s certainly been the case for Woodworth, who earned the first shutout in Fenwick history earlier this year.
Junior co-captain Maggie Clark has been playing good hockey for the Crusaders as well, along with classmate Nicole Muir. Katie O’Rourke and Sophia Vorias will be seniors next season, while Olivia Vorias and Dotolo are solid returning sophomores. Emily Carney had a strong freshman season, while Emily Smith, Laura Pasquale, Lauren Fortini and Madison Bethune are also ninth graders.
“We’ve improved so much since the start of the season,” said Groom. “We work on skating all the time in practice, and everybody’s been getting better. I could barely skate a couple of years ago, and to be able to win the last three games before I graduate shows how far we’ve come.”
Pingree will go into next week’s Eastern Independent League tournament as the No. 4 seed, but the good news for the Highlanders is that they’ll have freshman goalie Cece Purcell back between the pipes. Pingree is 3-0 since she came back after missing four games due to injury. Alena Larsen, a natural forward, filled in during Purcell’s absence and limited a strong Portsmouth Abbey team to three goals.
“I give Alena so much credit. She stepped in and did a great job,” said coach Sarah Carpenter, who also praised Abbie Dirks for moving from forward to defense to help out. “By the Abbey game, Alena was on fire. I really wish we could’ve won that one for her.”
Marblehead (6-8-3) will need five points over their last four games to get back into the Division 1 state tournament. The Lady Headers tied Cambridge, 3-3, yesterday, and will face Tewksbury/Methuen tomorrow. They then face Northeast Hockey League-leading Winthrop next week, followed by Matignon. The season could easily come down to the finale against Burlington next Wednesday.
Solid scoring from Emma Brophy (game-tying goal yesterday) as well as Sydney Cresta and Brooke Keough (3 assists yesterday, 19 total points) will be the key for Marblehead, especially with senior Brittany Smith back in the lineup and defenses paying her all sorts of attention.
“They’re the future of the team,” said head coach Emily Hudak. “We’re only going to have Britt for another five or six games, and then it’s going to be their team. They younger players have been playing well and we need them to continue to step it up.”
Masconomet’s road to the playoffs will require seven points over the last five games after a tough game against first-place Winthrop last night. With a game against Beverly on the docket, it’s possible Masco will need points in each of their final four games to make the cut.
The key for the Chieftains? Likely defense. Masco allowed three total goals in the mini-unbeaten streak (2-0-1) that got them back in tournament contention earlier this month.
The goal for Peabody is a strong finish, and the Tanners (3-10-1) would like nothing better than to match or surpass last year’s record of five wins. Elise Murphy (12 goals, 23 total points) continues to be one of the area’s more consistent point producers and captain Courtney Smith is heating up with a goal and an assist in last weekend’s encouraging tie with Marblehead.
“We’re looking forward to these last few games,” said coach Larry Minehan. “We feel like we can puck up a few points. We have a lot of firls that are playing well and are hustling.”
Peabody’s Senior Night is Saturday at 2 p.m. (against Brookline), and the Tanners plan to have girls from the city’s youth hockey program skating with the team during warm-ups and also in between periods.
Kyra Wolonsavich has won plenty of games as a goalie, including 16 for the Beverly girls soccer team last fall.
Last night, she earned her first win as an ice hockey player, making 14 saves to help the Panthers beat Medford, 7-4.
“Everybody stepped up and played well for Kyra. It was a great atmosphere around it,” said coach Brian Seabury, whose team was missing regular starter Madison Jalbert and leading scorer Julia Nearis due to illness. “They were excited for Kyra and they really played hard for her. It was a great team win.”Captain Nicole Woods had four goals in the win, including one on a penalty shot, and junior defenseman Caitlin McBride had two goals and one assists.
“Our leaders really rallied the troops in this one,” Seabury added.
Kick Saves, a column on North Shore girls hockey, appears in The Salem News every other Thursday during the winter sports season. Contact assistant sports editor Matt Williams at MWilliams@salemnews.com, 978-338-2669 and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.
AREA GIRLS HOCKEY SCORING LEADERS
Player, School Points (Goals-Assists)
1. Julia Nearis, Beverly 59 (37-22)
2. Nicole Woods, Beverly 55 (21-34)
3. Kristen McCarthy, Beverly 51 (17-34)
4. Brittany Smith, Marblehead 34 (24-10)
4. Jillian Witwicki, Pingree 34 (25-9)
6. Leah Heinze, Pingree 26 (16-10)
7. Elise Murphy, Peabody 24 (13-11)
8. Caitlin McBride, Peabody 23 (4-19)
9. Katie Shreenan, Pingree 21 (7-14)
10. Jensena Moner, Masco. 19 (7-12)
10. Brooke Keough, Marblehead 19 (6-13)
Player, School W-L-T GAA SV% SH
1. Madison Jalbert, Beverly 12-2-2 1.99 .886 2
2. Cece Purcell, Pingree 10-6-0 2.25 .903 2
3. Molly Kelley, Masco. 4-6-1 3.97 .847 2
4. Meghan Woodworth, Bp. Fen. 3-13-1 4.35 .888 1
5. Aly Hopkins, Marblehead 6-8-3 4.47 .823 0
*Note: Statistics include players from The Salem News coverage area only and games played through Feb. 12, 2014.