PEABODY — Before their game even began Saturday, the Peabody High girls hockey team was trying to come to grips with the news that goaltender Lauren Hennessey would be out of action for a month after dislocating her patella while stretching before practice a few days earlier.
The news only got worse as powerful Beverly High came in and flexed its muscles offensively, skating off with a 10-2 victory at the McVann-O’Keefe Rink.
Tanners head coach Larry Minehan started Jillian McCormick in net, then midway through the game made a switch as senior center Courtney Smith went in between the pipes. Minehan was trying to find a way to slow the powerful visitors down, but their first line of eighth grade standout Julia Nearis, senior captain Nicole Woods and sophomore Kristen McCarthy provided the Panthers with all the firepower they’d need to improve to 2-0.
Woods led the scoring with two goals (including a shorthanded beauty) and four assists while McCarthy had two goals and two assists and Nearis added a pair of goals. Senior captain Rachel Trocchi also scored twice and had a helper.
“This was a good hard effort,” said Panther head coach Brian Seabury. “Our top line was pretty dominant; they have the ability and talent to measure up with the best in the state talent-wise.
“Woods and Nearis both had strong games, and I’m happy to see a lot of different (players involved) in the scoring. In our first game we depended heavily on that first line.”
Nearis took a perfect pass from Woods and beat McCormick less than two minutes into the contest. Izzy Straw made to 2-0 before Peabody answered 21 seconds later on an unassisted goal by Caroline Buckley.
“We have a few eighth graders, but they’ve stepped right up there very quickly to contribute,” said Woods, who now has 11 points on the young season. “We only lost a couple of players from last year’s team and are excited about our chances. Coach has big plans for us and set up a tough schedule, so we know we have to be ready.”
Nicole Kamens redirected Rachel Spencer’s shot from the point to put the Panthers back ahead by two goals, 3-1, but once again Peabody closed the gap when Alise Murphy beat Beverly goalie Maddy Jalbert in a jam in front of the net.
“We hung in there in that first period,” said Minehan. “The bottom line is we can’t compete against kids that can shoot like the Beverly girls can without Hennessey. Their first line is very, very strong. I thought we competed well against their second line, but that top unit can pass, handle the puck well and communicate. They’ve got a lot of talent and a real feel for the game.
“I made the move to put Courtney in net to slow down the scoring and get some offense going; it didn’t work. Smith did a good job, but we had to give up offense by moving her to goal.”
By the time the first period ended the Panthers were comfortably ahead, 5-2. They tacked on two more in the second period and three in the third while holding the Tanners scoreless for the final 30 minutes.
“I was pleased with the play of Trocchi and (eighth grader) Marlee Hamor,” Seabury said. “Spencer was very strong on defense, and our eighth grade goalie (Jalbert) is getting her feet wet and learning as she goes. We had a little lapse defensively in that first period and let Peabody get to some loose pucks. After that I thought we did a nice job on defense.”
Peabody (1-2) only had three shots on goal in the second period and two in the third. Minehan knows his team needs to test the goalie by putting more shots on net.
“I told the girls we need to get more shots on their goalie,” Minehan said. “She’s an eighth grader, but we didn’t pressure her enough. I felt this would be a high scoring game, but after that first period we didn’t really test her. They changed goalies in the final minutes (sophomore Kyra Wolonsavich took over), but we couldn’t generate anything.”
Minehan praised the play of Laura Miele, playing her first game on defense in a long time and doing an excellent job being a force in the corners.