SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

February 21, 2013

Kick Saves: Pingree hopes third time is charm in EIL finals

The Pingree girls hockey team has come a long way since its season opener nearly four months ago.

Saturday, the Highlanders will find out exactly how much they’ve improved.

Pingree is headed to the Eastern Independent League finals for the third consecutive season, and they’ll match up against Berwick Academy for all the marbles at Dexter. The previous two years, Berwick has beaten Pingree in overtime for the title.

The Highlanders (12-11 overall) punched their ticket by beating Portsmouth Abbey in the semifinals, 4-0, yesterday. They’ve won seven of their last eight games and are certainly playing their best hockey at the end of the year.

“It’s an unbelievable accomplishment,” said Pingree coach :Sarah Carpenter:. “We had a bumpy road, losing our first two games and most of our non-league games, but the girls have proven that they want to get better. They love the game, they’re a coachable group. A lot of times we’re only playing nine girls and a goalie and they’re giving us everything they have.”

Berwick beat Pingree 7-0 in the season opener and has only allowed four goals against EIL teams all season. Two of them were scored by Pingree, however, in a tight 5-2 game that included an empty-net goal. Pingree is hoping to build on that for this weekend’s neutral-site championship game.

Just a week ago, the Highlanders were in Montreal enjoying a win over West Island, Canada. The team bonded during the trip and checked out tourist attractions like the BioDome and the Notre-Dame Basilica. They also skated outdoors, which helped them work on their creativity.

“We’ve been telling the girls not to be linear, not to worry about going to spot X, Y or Z on the ice, but to think creatively and find open space,” said Carpenter. “Playing outdoors, and playing on some of the ponds, really teaches them that.”

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