By Matt Williams
---- — Girls hockey is alive in Peabody. This winter, a renewed group of 22 girls are going to see if they can make the program well, too.
Buoyed by co-op agreements with Lynnfield and North Reading, and a waiver to allow middle school students to play, the eight-year old Peabody program that was in danger of folding last spring just might be in position to make some progress.
Senior captains Julia Henry and Waverly Cohen will wear the traditional “C” and coach Larry Minehan has assigned the alternate’s “A” to junior forward Courtney Smith and junior goalie Joanna Ambeliotis. He’s tasked them specifically with helping the team’s six middle schoolers feel at home on the ice and in the locker room.
“The kids are all getting along well. It’s a good group of kids that way,” said Minehan. “Coming into tryouts I wasn’t exactly sure how many we would have, but we got a lot of kids that can skate.”
Leading Peabody’s crop of returning skaters beyond the captains are Courtney Cavanaugh and Ciara DiSalvo. Laura Miele and Bella Piscatelli are solid returnees out of North Reading, and Lynnfield’s Kristen Hennessey should also see plenty of time.
“I’m a little optimistic. I’m optimistic every year, but maybe moreso this year because I feel like we should have three lines we can put out there,” said Minehan.
Freshmen Sophia Post and Hannah Travers should both be factors for the Tanners, bringing experience at the youth level and solid shooting to the squad. Alexis Couto is also a solid young skater while Joanna Alyward and Katie Purcell should contribute as middle schoolers.
Jillian McCormick is a sixth grader who is a natural goalie, and having two goalies for both practices and games will be a welcome and crucial addition for the Tanners.
Peabody’s school committee last February. While it may seem strange for sixth graders to be playing with 12th graders, it is not uncommon in girls hockey. The state allows middle schoolers to play as long as no high school players are cut, and for fledgling programs adding players with youth hockey experience can make all the difference. Several middle school students playing at Marblehead or Masconomet have been Salem News all-stars.
“We have a decent core. We’re looking forward to the season,” said Minehan. “I know we’re not going to blow away the league, that’s for sure, but we could be stronger in the sense that you won’t see a lot of big scores.”
The Tanners have the luxury of having two weeks to practice before opening the season on Dec. 12 against Marblehead at McVann O’Keefe Rink.