SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 30, 2014

Kick Saves: Junior captains driving Masconomet through change

Kick Saves
Matt Williams

---- — Any way you sliced it, 2013-14 was going to be a season of changes for the Masconomet co-op girls hockey team.

The Chieftains had just one senior coming back, and graduated their all-time leader in every goaltending category, plus their leading scorer. They also saw longtime co-op partner North Andover join Haverhill’s new team.

On top of that, Masco had adjust to a new coach at midseason, with Andrew Boepple taking the reigns back from Nicole Twomey.

Through it all, the Chieftains have stayed strong and stuck together. That’s a credit to their leadership, which fall largely on the shoulders of junior captains Jensena Moner, Dana Valletti and Ashley Hodge.

“We knew we had to step up and upperclassmen and kind of hold everything together. The great thing was that we didn’t really need to,” said Valletti, a top-line left wing. “Everybody stepped up. We didn’t need to take any drastic measures.”

It’s been an up-and-down year, which could be expected when a team skates 10 freshman and seven sophomores. The Chieftains started 3-1-1, then lost three straight, won a game and lost their last two by a combined three goals.

That leaves Masco 4-6-1 overall, needing an attainable 11 points in their last nine games to make it three straight state tournament appearances.

“We might not be where we want to be yet, but we definitely have the ability to put it together,” said Boepple. “The girls have set their minds that they want to be in the tournament and that’s something they can certainly do.”

Moner, who centers the top-line, leads Masco with seven goals, 11 assists and 18 points. Sophomore Maddy Werner and freshman Adara Nazarian have added some scoring punch, and versatile skaters like Meg Hubbard, Sydney Sheerin, Lily Dow and Kylie Currier have helped anchor a defense that’s had a variety of faces dues to injuries and position changes.

“Everyone is really mature. Every though we’re a young team, so many of us played as freshmen and the freshman now are talented, so we were able to find some great chemistry right away,” said Valletti, who is from Peabody and attends Hamilton-Wenham on school choice. “It’s a crucial time of year now. We want to buckle down and make states.”

Valletti, Moner, Hodge and senior Danielle Teixeira are among the players that had Boepple as a coach when they were freshmen. Coming back into a situation where he knew them was certainly a plus for the interim coach, who is still on staff with the Cape Ann League contending Chieftain boys team.

“They’ve been great and the fact that they were named captains as juniors speaks to who they are as leaders,” Boepple said. “They’re definitely more vocal than they were two years ago. They know the right things to say at the right times, and the other thing I see from them is resilience. They don’t back down if we’re down behind by a goal or two. There’s a drive there to keep playing and keep working.”

Young players like Izzy Sarra, Nell Criscione and Brynne O’Connor have also contributed for Masco and junior Meagan Aponas netted her first varsity goal last week. Goalies Molly Kelley (a junior from Newburyport) and Andraya Ferraro (a sophomore from Masconomet) are doing their part.

Moner (“Someone we can play in all three zones, in all situations and know she’ll do well,” Boepple said), Valletti (who Boepple said “creates so many chances with her shot and by getting the puck to the net) and Hodge (“A leader in the locker room who knows what to say to pick the girls up and is always excited and ready to play,” the coach added) have been the glue.

From their point of view, that’s all part of wearing the C.

“I remember being a freshman and looking up to the captains and to be that person is a really cool feeling,” said Valletti, who figures she started skating before she could walk when she was on the ice with a figure skating sister.

The Chieftains are back at it Saturday against Leominster/Gardner. It’s a chance to get back in the win column after four days off to recharge their batteries and iron out some of the kinks. A team blending together players from Masco, Hamilton-Wenham, Newburyport, Georgetown, Triton and Amesbury figues to be a second half team, as they get to know each other and develop chemistry.

For the players, the recipe for success is as simple as it gets.

“I think the biggest thing is working hard. A lot of teams can fall apart under the stress of the middle of the season, whether its mid-terms or injuries or anything like that. I’m striving to make sure we stay a happy and healthy team.”

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It was a momentous week for the Winthrop/Lynn English co-op team, which toppled St. Mary’s and followed that up with last night’s 1-0 win over Beverly/Danvers at Talbot Rink in Gloucester. The win puts the Bulldogs in control of the Northeastern Hockey League, as they’re now 4-0 in league play. The Panthers (10-2-1 overall) are now 3-1 in NHL action and will need to beat Winthrop/English on Monday February 10 in order to claim a share of the league title for the second straight season.

The Panthers, meanwhile, are suddenly looking for goals after averaging nearly seven per game over the first six weeks of the season. Beverly was shutout for the first time last night, scored just two against top-ranked Duxbury on Monday in a tie, and managed only one goal in a win over Lexington last week.

“There’s going to be times against good players and good goalies when you don’t have the puck luck. At the end of the day, we have to get our noses dirty and go get those rebounds and create chances around the net,” said Beverly coach Brian Seabury.

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Marblehead captain Brittany Smith can reach 100 points on Friday against Needham or Saturday against rival Beverly. Smith enjoyed an eight-point weekend in two Lady Header wins last week, and now has 32 on the season to lead her team. The three-year standout has 63 goals, 34 assists and 97 points in her career.

One big-plus for the Lady Headers (6-5-2 overall) has been the play of middle school forward Sydney Cresta, who had two goals and two assists last weekend. Fellow forwards Emma Brophy (four assists in the two wins) and Brooke Keough (goal, two assists) are also heating up.

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Marblehead native Lexie Laing will be wearing Red, White and Blue again this March. The senior forward at Nobles earned her second straight spot on the United States Women’s Under-18 National team when USA Hockey announced tis roster for the upcoming Women’s World Junior Championships last week. Laing helped the Americans win silver last year and will be competing this year in Budapest, Hungary. Laing scored a pair of goals in an Under-18 series against Canada in August to help Team USA top their rivals.

The Under-18 Women’s National Team is coached by Beverly native Jeff Kampersal, who is head coach at Princeton University where Laing’s oldest sister Denna is a two-year captain. Lexie will be joining her other sister, Brianna, at Harvard next year. A freshman goaltender, Brianna has a spotless 4-0 record with three shutouts for the Crimson (16-2-2 overall and ranked No. 5 nationally).

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Peabody girls hockey is holding a fundraiser at McVann-O’Keefe Rink on March 1. The team will be collecting electronics recyclables including TVs ($25 below 27 inches, $30 above 27 inches), wood consoles ($35), projection TVs ($35), computer monitors and laptops ($15), phones ($5) and other appliances ($15). For more information, contact Christine at 781-580-9227 or K_Ctravers@juno.com.

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Kick Saves, a column on North Shore girls hockey, appears in The Salem News every other Thursday 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 GIRLS HOCKEY SCORING LEADERS

Player, School Points (Goals-Assists)

1. Julia Nearis, Beverly 50 (31-19)

2. Nicole Woods, Beverly 46 (16-30)

3. Kristen McCarthy, Beverly 38 (14-24)

4. Brittany Smith, Marblehead 32 (22-9)

5. Sophia Post, Peabody 20 (14-6)

T6. Elise Murphy, Peabody 18 (10-8)

T6. Jensena Moner, Masconomet 18 (7-11)

T8. Leah Heinze, Pingree 15 (9-6)

T8. Emma Brophy, Marblehead 15 (8-7)

T8. Brooke Keough, Marblehead 15 (5-10)

GOALTENDING LEADERS

Player, School W-L-T GAA SV% SH

1. Madison Jalbert, Beverly 10-2-1 1.98 .886 2

2. Cece Purcell, Pingree 7-7-0 2.64 .913 2

3. Andraya Ferraro, Masconomet 2-1-1 3.64 .865 0

4. Aly Hopkins, Marblehead 6-5-2 4.23 .837 0

5. Meghan Woodworth, Bp. Fen. 0-9-1 4.60 .867 1

*Note: Statistics include players from The Salem News coverage area only and games played through Jan. 29, 2014.