Some of the older players on the Peabody High girls hockey team have been through a lot.
This season, they’re proving that adversity truly made them stronger.
The Tanners toppled Brookline, 6-4, last night at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena to improve to 5-12. That fifth victory was a significant one, as it marks the most wins in Peabody’s seven varsity seasons.
Peabody has had strong leadership from captains Julia Henry and Waverly Cohen. It’s an unselfish group with players like junior ace Courtney Smith willing to move between forward and defense with no complaints, and senior goalie Joanna Amebliotis sharing the cage with eighth-grade counterpart Jillian McCormick.
There’s a pride in Peabody building with the girls hockey team. With each passing day, and each win, the memories of several years ago are fading.
One of the best signs of progress is the way the Tanners have played in close games. Their win over Everett came by a 3-2 margin, and last night’s triumph had some obstacles to overcome. Peabody killed two penalties in the third period and shook off a 1-0 Brookline lead in the first. Brookline closed it to 5-4 in the third period, but Smith completed her hat trick with 6:18 to play to make sure Peabody came out on top.
“We made some mistakes, but in the third period we held them to one goal,” said Larry Minehan, Peabody’s coach since the program’s inception in 2006.
Sophia Post (13 goals) had an excellent game last night and is one of several talented freshmen who have the future looking very bright for the Tanners.
“She was everywhere and made it very difficult for Brookline,” said Minehan, who also highlighted freshman Hannah Travers’ hustle, as well as sophomore Laura Miele and Bella Piscatelli.
Peabody also has some strong middle school players. Defenseman Kaydee Purcell, a seventh-grader, scored her first varsity goal last night and has been a force on the Tanner blue line at times this season.
“We gave her the game puck for her first goal. She’s getting stronger every game,” said Minehan. “She’s really adjusting to facing bigger, stronger players and continues to improve.”
McCormick made some critical stops among her 17 saves as well.
Peabody’s success isn’t just measured by wins; it’s also measured in competitiveness and improvement. Take the Tanners’ 3-1 loss to Masconomet last week. It was a staunch improvement from an 8-0 setback to the Chieftains in the early part of the season. For the most part, Peabody’s been stronger the second time they’ve faced teams this winter.
“That was a great game for us, where we saw improvement,” said Minehan. “It was something we can build on for the future.”
Ciara DiSalvo has been something of an unsung hero in Peabody’s defensive rotation, playing big minutes and spending time up front as well. Courtney Cavanaugh is also playing an important role, as are Hannie Aylward and Krystin Hennessey.
The Tanners have more depth than at any time in the program’s seven years — and right now the results are speaking for themselves.
Weather permitting, Pingree is planning to celebrate 25 years of girls hockey on Saturday. The Highlanders have invited back all the program’s alumnae and friends and are planning a reception after the team’s game against Winsor at Johnson Rink (1 p.m.).
“Everybody is excited. We’ve invited a ton of people and we’re getting great feedback,” said coach Sarah Carpenter, who played at Pingree and graduated in 1997. “I’ve heard from a lot of girls from my era that are coming back. We won the EIL three times back then and there are girls I played with at Pingree that I played against in college, so it should be a lot of fun.”
Pingree has been wearing a special commerative 25-year patch on their jerseys all season. They’re planning to have special 25th anniversary pucks for Saturday’s game and are unveiling a plaque that will feature the names of every Highlander in the 100-point club.
“We’re really happy to have Jim McLaughlin back as well,” said Carpenter. “He really started the program and he coached for the first 19 years. I think of it as his program and I’m really just looking to keep it going.”
Beverly’s Livvy Konaxis joined a fairly exclusive club locally when she scored her 100th varsity point last week. She’s just the 10th player in the coverage area to reach that milestone in a decade-plus of public school girls hockey and the 25 years the sport has been played at Pingree.
Ex-Marblehead star Tori Snow (Class of 2008) had the area’s all-time scoring lead with 152 points, followed by Masconomet grad Lizzie Chapman (147), Marblehead’s Sam Weinstein (117) and Beverly’s Rachel Konaxis (110). Pingree’s 100-point getters are Lily Sabatini, Sarah Carpenter, Amanda Webber, Char Glessner and Kaitlyn Spurling.
Livvy’s career totals are now 32 goals, 72 assists and 104 points with six games remaining plus the postseason, so there’s a very good chance she’ll pass her oldest sister to become Beverly’s all-time leader.
There are a few other skaters that are closing in on 100 points and are on track to hit the milestone in the next month or early next season. Keep an eye on Beverly’s Nicole Woods (87 career points), Marblehead’s Rachel McKay (88 points) and Pingree’s Jillian Witwicki (74 points).
Marblehead is hoping to have leading scorer Brittany Smith back for Saturday’s scheduled game against Masconomet at Talbot Rink. Injury rules require her to have two practices before playing in a game, however, so the Lady Headers are hoping the predicted weekend blizzard doesn’t prevent that and possibly delay the junior captain’s return to the ice.
A quick look at the GEIMHL Northeast Division standings: Beverly is unbeaten at 4-0-1 with nine points and Masconomet is 2-1-0 with four points. The Panthers only remaining league game is next week against Masco; a win or tie would give the Panthers the title while the Chieftains would need to win their three remaining league games to get to 10 points and take the title. Masco (10-3-1 overall) is unbeaten in its last seven.
Kick Saves, a column on North Shore girls hockey, appears every other Thursday in The Salem News during the winter season. Contact assistant sports editor Matt Williams at 978-338-2669, MWilliams@salemnews.com and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.
AREA LEADING SCORERS
Player, School Points (Goals, Assists)
1. Brittany Lydon, Marb. 40 (23,17)
2. Brittany Smith, Marb. 35 (23,12)
3. Nicole Woods, Beverly 36 (18,16)
4. Livvy Konaxis, Beverly 33 (12,21)
5. Rachel McKay, Marb. 32 (11,21)
6. Courtney Smith, Peabody 23 (15,8)
6. Jillian Witwicki, Pingree 23 (13,10)
8. Anna O’Neill, Beverly 21 (10,11)
8. Caitlin McBride, Beverly 21 (5,16)
10. Sophia Post, Peabody 17 (13,4)
Player, School W-L-T GAA SV% SH
1. Ami Thompson, Beverly 13-0-1 0.93 .939 4
2. Alex Jones, Masco. 10-3-1 1.21 .935 5
3. Aly Heffron, Pingree 7-10-0 3.23 .861 4