Senior Courtney Smith has seen the ups and downs of the Peabody High girls hockey team up close over the last four seasons. She’s played every position imaginable, shifting between an offensive minded forward, a defensive forward, a defenseman and even played a few games in goal.
The Tanners have improved every one of her four years, and there’s not much she’d like better than to win the team’s final game tomorrow. A victory over Shawsheen would give Peabody (3-12-4) 12 points on the season, the most ever in team’s eighth varsity season. Peabody could finish 2-2-3 in its last seven games, a sure sign of how much they’ve improved over the course of the year.
“I like the idea of going out on top,” said Smith, who’s known as “Bit” to her teammates for her size and hustle and will graduate as one of Peabody’s leading career point-getters for girls.
“We’ve improved a lot since my first year. We always seem to be better at the end of the year, especially since we’re bringing so many different girls together.”
Peabody co-ops with Lynnfield High, and also has players from the middle schools in both Peabody and Lynnfield. This year’s team is one of coach Larry Minehan’s best ever defensively, with goaltender Lauren Hennessey (2.50 goals against average, .900 save percentage) making all the difference. Jillian McCormick played well when Hennessey was injured for nearly half the season, but it’s easy to wonder if Peabody could’ve pushed for a state tournament spot if the goalies were healthy all season.
“The goalies have made a big difference last year and especially this year,” said junior Hannah Travers. “You feel so much more comfortable knowing they’re going to have your back if you make a mistake. Having (stronger) goalies makes everyone play better.”
It’s a next-player-up sort of season for Peabody. Strong skaters like Smith, Sophia Post, Caroline Buckley and Elise Murphy have toughed it out through injuries. In a tie with Brookline last weekend, young players like Emilia Higginbothan, Jonalyn Carpenter, Jillane Arigo and Alexis Couto stepped up and filled big minutes.
“We’ve been much better as far as being in games. We haven’t had a lot of one-sided scores, and that’s a credit to the girls. It can be tough to overcome the tougher games sometimes when all the steam comes out of the engine,” said Minehan.
Steady defense from Bella Piscatelli, Hannie Aylward and Kaydee Purcell has helped Peabody in both puck possession and keeping the biscuit out of their net.
“We have a lot more skill as a team,” said Purcell, who has been skating since she was six years old. “We’re definitely skating better and harder. The biggest thing for me is skating with my head up and looking for things out there.”
Peabody has a mix of players with loads of experience like Purcell, Smith, Post and Murphy, and players like Travers that picked up skating when they were older. Travers, who plays goalie for the Lynnfield soccer team, began playing hockey in seventh grade, whereas Purcell played big minutes for the Tanners last year when she was in seventh grade.
“Hannah hustles like you wouldn’t believe. It doesn’t always show on the scoreboard, but she back checks really well and she’s been impressive,” said Minehan. “Kaydee seldom makes a mistake. She’s very strong on the point and she makes good decisions to keep that puck in the offensive zone.”
Laura Miele, Courtney Cavanaugh and Kristen Hennessey have also been key cogs for the Tanners. Senior Ciara DiSalvo has been a steady skater for the better part of three seasons. Sarah Buckley and Emily Sylvanowicz contribute too.
During Saturday’s Senior Night ceremonies, Peabody invited players from the city’s girls youth program to skate with them during warmups and in between periods. The improving Tanners have served as good role models for the mites, and they’re hoping efforts like that will help grow the program going forward.
Now, the focus is on tomorrow’s finale against Shawsheen, and giving seniors Smith, Kristen Hennessey, DiSalvo, and Cavanaugh a memorable, winning sendoff.
“It’d be great to score some, everybody loves to get points,” said Smith. “But the biggest thing is going to be just doing what we have to do in our own end and giving the team a chance.”
In case you missed it, the Northeastern Hockey League announced Marblehead’s Brittany Smith and Beverly’s Nicole Woods as it’s co-MVPs on Tuesday. Woods is one of the state’s leading scorers and is arguably the best player in the Bay State this winter while Smith, as Marblehead’s lone senior and leading scorer by a mile, means as much to her club as any one player in the Commonwealth.
The league’s “first-team” All-Conference selections were Woods, Smith, Peabody’s Courtney Smith and Medford’s Brittani Lanzilli up front along with Winthrop’s Cat Salvetti on defense and Gretchen Howard in goal.
The rest of the all-stars were Masco’s Jensena Moner and Lily Dow, Kristen McCarthy and Caitlin McBride of Beverly, Caroline Hughes of Marblehead, Sophia Post and Lauren Hennessey of Peabody, Winthrop’s Caroline McKinnon and Katie Jeter, Medford’s Marissa Williams and Adrienne Porrazzo and Kellie Haggerty of Cambridge.
Winthrop’s Anthony Martucci was selected as the NHL Coach of the Year.
The entirety of the honorees will for the Northeastern Hockey League all-star team, which will face the girls all-stars from the Middlesex League on Saturday at Salem State after the conclusion of the NEC boys hockey all-star game. The girls game is tentatively expected to begin at 4 p.m.
How rare is Marblehead captain Brittany Smith’s accomplishment of reaching 100 career points in just three varsity seasons? She’s only the third skater from the area ever to do so, joining pioneers Rachel Konaxis, who only had three varsity seasons at Beverly, and Liz Chapman, who had three at Masconomet.
In Smith’s case, Marblehead didn’t have a co-op with her school, Manchester Essex, during her freshman year. With 70 goals, 37 assists and 107 points in her career, she’ll graduate third in Marblehead’s all-time list behind Sam Weinstein (117 points) and Tori Snow (152).
Snow was the area’s all-time career scoring leader until this year, when she was usurped by Beverly’s superb Nicole Woods. The Louisville-bound Woods has 161 career points with at least two games left in her career.
Masconomet (8-8-3) needs a win or a tie tomorrow afternoon to make the state tournament. Naturally, their opponent is rival North Andover, which is part of Haverhill’s new co-op team. Adding more intrigue to the must-win is the fact that NA was a part of Masco’s co-op last season, so there are players skating for the opposition tomorrow that played for the Chieftains last year.
Kick Saves, a column on North Shore girls hockey, appears in The Salem News on Thursdays during the winter sports season. Contact assistant sports editor Matt Williams at 978-338-2669, MWilliams@salemnews.com and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.
|Player, School||Points (Goals-Assists)|
|1. Nicole Woods, Beverly||62 (26-36)|
|2. Julia Nearis, Beverly||59 (37-22)|
|3. Kristen McCarthy, Beverly||56 (19-37)|
|4. Brittany Smith, Marblehead||41 (29-12)|
|5. Jillian Witwicki, Pingree||35 (26-9)|
|6. Caitlin McBride, Beverly||28 (4-24)|
|7. Leah Heinze, Pingree||27 (17-10)|
|8. Jensena Moner, Masco.||26 (10-16)|
|9. Elise Murphy, Peabody||26 (16-9)|
|10. Brooke Keough, Marblehead||23 (7-16)|
|1. Madison Jalbert, Beverly||14-2-2||1.88||.899||3|
|2. Cece Purcell, Pingree||10-6-0||2.63||.900||2|
|3. Lauren Hennessey, Peabody||2-3-3||2.76||.900||0|
|4. Molly Kelley, Masco.||6-7-2||2.86||.858||3|
|5. Andraya Ferraro, Masco.||2-1-1||3.60||.833||0|