There’s nothing in sports quite like playing goalie in ice hockey.
Between the bulky pads, the somewhat uncomfortable mask and the ‘butterfly’ style that calls for you to throw yourself to your knees against most normal instincts, it’s a position that isn’t for the faint of heart. On top of all that, you’re balancing on thin steel blades on the ice.
Playing goalie is a challenge, to say the least, and it’s a challenge that’ll be taken up by a number of new faces this winter. Of the six teams in the area, four of them graduated their primary goalie from a year ago.
Masconomet seems to have the biggest skates to fill, with Salem News Player of the Year and Northeast Hockey League MVP Alex Jones moving on to college.
The Chieftains, who co-op with Hamilton-Wenham, Triton, Amesbury and Newburyport, don’t have a natural goalie. They’ll rely on a pair of courageous defensemen: junior Molly Kelley and sophomore Andraya Ferraro.
“They both stepped back. They put in a ton of work over the summer on that craft. They went to camps and played in fall leagues, too. I’m a supporter of playing as many sports as you can, but when it comes to playing goalie there’s no substitute for getting experiences in games,” said Masco coach Nicole Twomey.
Kelley was rewarded for her efforts with a shutout in her first varsity start last night, a 2-0 win over Peabody. She made seven saves thanks to a tremendous effort by the defensemen in front of her: Meg Hubbard, Lily Dow and Kylie Currier, who slid back from forward due to an injury on Masco’s regular defensive rotation.
“We did what we needed to on defense and those three girls were certainly a huge part of it,” said Twomey. “The shots were low, but Molly made a few tough saves. Peabody has a few girls who can really shoot the puck.”
Masconomet will also lean on Ferraro and the leadership of its sophomore class. The Chieftains only have one senior, but have some experience because many of the seven sophomores saw significant varsity time last season.
“We know we need both goalies and they’re neck and neck. Every practice is like a tryout for them to see who’s going to be hot and who’s going to be in there,” said Twomey.
In Beverly, 18-game winner Ami Thompson’s graduation has opened the door for middle schooler student Maidson Jalbert to take over the reigns. She also won her high school debut last night, stopping 12 shots in a 7-3 triumph over Haverhill. Jalbert is a natural goaltender who is quite strong positionally, so her biggest challenge will be adjusting to the speed of the high school game.
The defense the Panthers deploy in front of her, led by Caitlin McBride, will be a big help in that department.
“I think for us the whole thing is finding the fight combinations, and getting good chemistry,” said Beverly coach Brian Seabury. “We want to improve around a young goalie. We’ll get good defensively — that’s where we’ll make our hay and when you’re good on defense the offense will take care of itself.”
Marblehead was in a similar position a few years ago, but has the benefit of experience coming back this season. Ally Hopkins, who was learning the position three years ago, is hoping to parlay that into a strong junior season. Sabrina Doughman can also play between the pipes for the Lady Headers if needed.
Peabody’s has two options in net: Jillan McCormick and Lauren Hennessey. McCormick saw some time last season while Hennessey is new to the program and brings plenty of experience at the youth level.
Pingree also has a new netminder in freshman Catharine Purcell of Georgetown. She’ll play every minute this winter as the only netminder in the Highlanders’ roster.
Congratulations are in order for Beverly senior Nicole Woods, who earned her 100th career point in last night’s season opener. Woods had two goals and three assists and powered a top line with Kristen McCarthy and Julia Nearis that accounted for all seven goals.
Woods, a four-year varsity contributor, set a single-season program high last year with 26 goals and 46 points. For her career, she now has 56 goals, 48 assists and 104 points.
Woods, who will play field hockey in college at Louisville, is the third member of the Panther girls’ 100 point club, joining Livvy and Rachel Konaxis. Livvy, who graduated last year and played on a line with Woods, is Beverly’s all-time leader with 116 points, a number Woods can conceivably catch over the course of her senior year.
Other girls that have a chance to score their 100th point this winter: Brittany Smith of Marblehead, who entered the year with 72 points in two years and had four in her team’s first game and another goal last night. Beverly’s McBride has 59 points and could get there with a big season, and Pingree’s Jillian Witwicki entered the year with 89.
Thanks to Beverly atheltic director James Coffey, the North Shore’s girls hockey league has an official name: the Northeast Hockey League. It’s a clean, refreshing name (not coincidentally with the initials NHL) after years of going back and forth between GEMIHL and “North Cape” league names.
With Everett dropping its stand-alone program in favor of a co-op, the Northeast is broken into two divisions. The North is Marblehead, Masconomet, Beverly and Winthrop, while the South is composed of Cambridge, Medford and Peabody.
The smaller size of the league has allowed teams to beef up their non-league slates, something Beverly and Masco in particular are very excited about.
“We’ve been able to schedule some very strong non-league opponents and that’s a testament to the girls and how far our program’s come in a short time,” said Twomey, who’s Chieftains play Austin Prep in a marquee test Dec. 30. “These are the kinds of programs that don’t schedule games for easy wins. It’s important to have those competitive games.”
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 978-338-2669, MWilliams@salemnews.com and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.
AREA SCORING LEADERS
Player, School Goals Assists Points
1. Sophia Post, Peabdoy 4 2 6
2. Brittany Smith, Marblehead 4 1 5
2. Kristen McCarthy, Beverly 3 2 5
2. Nicole Woods, Beverly 2 3 5
2. Julia Nearis, Beverly 2 3 5
6. Alice Murphy, Peabody 1 2 3
6. Bella Piscatelli, Peabody 1 2 3
6. Caitlin McBridge, Beverly 0 3 3
*Editor’s note: Statistics include players from The Salem News coverage area only. Goaltending leaders will begin in the next edition of Kick Saves.