SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 23, 2013

Kick Saves: After big gains, have Beverly and Masco turned the corner?

Kick Saves
Matt Williams

---- — Two girls hockey teams with first-year head coaches made huge progress in 2012-13, with the Beverly and Masconomet co-op programs both winning more regular season games than any other team in their respective school’s histories.

The question heading into the offseason is: how do they take the next step?

Beverly’s Brian Seabury and Masconomet’s Nicole Twomey both intend on building on their rookie seasons.

For Beverly, which went 17-3-2 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Division 1 state tournament, beefing up the non-league schedule will be the first step.

“Looking ahead, we’ve already contacted some teams and want to get that kind of exposure,” Seabury said after his team fell in the playoffs to eventual state runner-up Arlington Catholic. “By doing that we’ll be able to get adjusted to different speeds, and that’ll help us in the long run.”

The Panthers, who draw players from both Beverly and Danvers high schools, hope that getting more high-profile games against teams that are known on the state level will help keep girls in their hometown programs.

“Our girls had a great experience this season and we’re hoping they’ll tell their friends,” said Seabury. “We’re hoping that will help us draw girls to stay at home, stay at the high school and the hometown team.

“We’re going to work to be one of the better teams in the state. That’ll take time, but getting (to the state tournament) and understanding what it takes to get here will only help us.”

For Masconomet, there could be progress just from being together for another year. The Chieftains incorporated six different schools into their co-op this season and had their biggest roster ever with 24 players, just six of them seniors.

“We’ve grown exponentially over the last two seasons,” said Twomey, who was an assistant before taking over the head job this winter. “If we keep the younger players in our program and keep them coming in, we’re hoping to stay a top-20 type of team from here on in.”

Losing captains Kendra Dow and Alex Jones won’t be easy for Masconomet. Jones, the league MVP, has played every minute of every game in the Chieftains’ net for five years. Dow had a tremendous senior season and was her team’s leading scorer.

“Kendra was a leader, both vocally and clearly with what she was doing out there on the ice. She was one of the best players in our tournament game (a shootout loss to Austin Prep),” said Twomey.

“I’ve only been without seniors for two years, but it feels like a lot longer. It’s hard to see them go.”

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Things are a little bit different in Marblehead, where the Lady Headers will be looking to bounce back from missing the state tournament for the first time in eight years.

They graduate no seniors, however, so if every player returns there’s no reason Marblehead won’t be back in the playoffs after missing by just three points this winter.

Keep an eye on the trio of Brittany Lydon, Rachel McKay and Brittany Smith, who combined for 123 points this season. That’s the highest combined point total ever for a Marblehead girls line, according to head coach Emily Hudak.

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Beverly and Masconomet weren’t alone in setting program wins records this season. Peabody did as well in what was the highest scoring, winningest season in the school’s history.

Freshman Sophia Post scored 19 goals and leading point-getter Courtney Smith is just a junior. The Tanners return all but four players from what was one of the deepest rosters coach Larry Minehan has ever had, so there’s no telling how much more progress they can make going forward.

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There are some major net losses facing North Shore teams heading into the offseason. There were 58 games won (combined) this season and nearly 80 percent of those (46) were won by senior goaltenders.

What’s more, seniors Jones of Masconomet and Ami Thompson of Beverly played every minute of every game this season and were the only goaltenders on their team’s rosters. Pingree senior Aly Heffron was the only goalie on her team’s roster as well, but skated on the wing for one game when fellow senior Mack Foster donned the goalie pads and manned the nets.

Peabody graduates Joanna Ambeliotis, but has a capable middle school understudy in Jillian McCormick, who won three games this winter.

Great teams definitely need help in goal, and it’ll be interesting to see who emerges in that department next season.

It’ll be very difficult for any high school goalie to match Jones, who graduates with Masconomet (and area) records of 44 wins, 2,500 saves and 21 shutouts in her career. She twice had a goals-against average of 1.25 for a season and boasts a career GAA of 2.22, with upward of 4,600 career minutes played over 102 games in five seasons.

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A final word about the overtime fiasco in the Masconomet/Austin Prep Division 1 state tournament game, in which the referees incorrectly enforced a 5:00 overtime and four-round shootout when MIAA rules call for a 12:00 overtime period and a five-round shootout:

It should never happen again.

I believe it was an honest mistake, but it was also a preventable one.

The state should immediately implement rules requiring the person assigning officials to review overtime rules with the refs before the state tournament begins.

In addition, a simple printout with the procedures should be mandatory in the scorer’s box at every state tournament game. This way, the officials can refer to it if they have any questions if the teams are tied at the end of 45 minutes.

There’s simply no good reason to get this wrong in the first place. Not taking steps to make sure it can’t happen again would be even worse.

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Lastly, for the annual Kick Saves Super Team.

The first team is the All-Kick Saves club, by position regardless of age, and then we’ll choose select squads for each of the school age groups.

Super Team

FORWARDS: Nicole Woods, Beverly; Livvy Konaxis, Beverly; Brittany Smith, Marblehead

DEFENSEMEN: Mack Foster, Pingree; Caitlin McBride, Beverly

GOALIE: Alex Jones, Masconomet

All-Senior Team

FORWARDS: Kendra Dow, Masconomet; Livvy Konaxis, Beverly;

DEFENSEMEN: Mack Foster, Pingree; Katie Szela, Beverly

GOALIE: Alex Jones, Masconomet

All-Junior Team

FORWARDS: Rachel McKay, Marblehead; Brittany Smith, Marblehead; Nicole Woods, Beverly

DEFENSEMEN: Courtney Smith, Peabody; Jillian Witwicki, Pingree (Played center, natural defenseman)

GOALIE: No junior goalies on a local roster

All-Sophomore Team

FORWARDS: Katie Shreenan, Pingree; Meg Gray, Marblehead; Jensena Moner, Masconomet

DEFENSEMEN: Caitlin McBride, Beverly; Emily Galligan, Bishop Fenwick

GOALIE: Ally Hopkins, Marblehead

All-Freshman/Middle School Team

FORWARDS: Sophia Post, Peabody; Kristen McCarthy, Beverly; Brittany Lydon, Marblehead

DEFENSEMEN: Anna Hayden, Beverly; Meghan Hubbard, Masconomet

GOALIE: Jillian McCormick, Peabody.

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Kick Saves, a column on North Shore girls hockey, normally appears in The Salem News every other Thursday during the winter sports season. Contact assistant sports editor Matt Williams at MWilliams@salemnews.com, 978-338-2669 and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.