Playing a ton of minutes has become a fact of life for the Pingree hockey team over the last few seasons.
Luckily for the Highlanders, they always seem to have a group of girls that look at long and numerous shifts as a blessing instead of a burden.
“I would guess that our top three forwards are playing somewhere between 30-35 minutes a game, and we run three defensemen,” said Buddy Taft, the retired Pingree boys coach who has been running the girls team during head coach Sarah Carpenter’s maternity leave.
“These girls see so much ice, you sort of build in some systems that won’t burn them out. They embrace playing that way. They love it.”
Senior Jill Witwicki of Danvers is Pingree’s captain. She played defense regularly as a freshman and is now at center, with 99 points for her career. She’s close to a lock to becoming the sixth girl to hit 100-career points in the 26 seasons the Highlanders have had a team.
For Witwicki, a three-sport standout including field hockey and softball, her favorite game is about so much more than points.
“The most impressive thing about Jill is the way she leads. That’s not something you can learn by shooting pucks in the driveway,” said Taft. “She has high expectations but she does it in such a positive way. She doesn’t say anything negative and she has a way of making teammates feel great about themselves.”
Witiwicki has six goals and four assists for 10 points this year. Pingree’s leading scorer is fellow captain Leah Heinze, a junior from North Andover, who has nine goals and 14 points. The Highlanders third captain is Kristina Caradonna, a senior from Lynnfield who tore her ACL during soccer season. She’s been at every practice, fully committed to the team despite the injury.