PEABODY — Returning to game action after nearly two weeks and shaking up the forward lines can be a little but like taking out a new car for the first drive. Especially if its a stick shift.

Peabody’s girls hockey team found itself stuck in neutral Wednesday afternoon against Malden Catholic. Every time the hosts tried to hit the gas, it was either too much or too little and their game stalled out.

As a result, the Lancers netted the only two goals of the third period and handed Peabody its first loss at McVann-O’Keefe Rink in over 13 months, 3-1.

The Tanners (4-2-1) didn’t lack for possession in the last six minutes of the game. They drew their fourth power play of the night with 6:15 to play but came up empty and then had MC (4-1-1) penned in its own zone for much of the final 90 seconds.

Catie Kampersal had a bid at the tying goal tick off goalie Daneille DeJon’s shoulders. A perfect centering feed by Jenna DiNapoli found no body home in the slot in front of the cage. A bid by Hannah Gromko from the side of the cage was saved ... it was that kind of night for the hosts, who saw MC’s Bella Gillis net a 90-foot empty net goal that very nearly went wide for icing call with 10 seconds to play.

“We were definitely rusty,” said Peabody coach Michelle Roach, whose team hadn’t played a game in 2022 with several postponements. “Everything was out of sync. There didn’t seem to be a lot of urgency in our game, where as Malden Catholic came ready to fight for every puck.”

Still it was a 1-1 game going into the third period. MC took the lead when Alyssa Jankowski was credited with poking the puck inside the post with 11:39 left. A Peabody defenseman was wheeling behind the net with the puck but it hopped off her stick and the disc somehow found the space between the post and goalie Alyse Mutti’s skate for a strange go-ahead tally.

“We fought the puck all night,” Roach said, “in all three zones.”

That was particularly true on the man advantage, where the Tanners were 0-for-4. MC’s penalty killers never really let them set up and the few chances Peabody did generate 5-on-4 came on the rush.

“It was messy,” Roach admitted. “They beat us to a lot of pucks and we made some panicky plays at times.”

One area the Tanners excelled at, but perhaps didn’t use enough, was shooting lanes from defensemen. Penny Spack’s shot from up top produced the team’s only goal, a puck-with-eyes that was tipped in by DiNapoli to give the hosts a 1-0 lead 73 seconds into the second period.

The Lancers drew even at the end of the frame, though, when captain Antonia DiZoglio scooted up the boards, fought through a stick check and got off a slick backhand shot with only :35 seconds left before intermission. Mutti, a freshman, finished with 20 saves for the Tanners. She played at the top of her crease, making an aggressive save on a shorthanded breakaway in the middle period and coming across for an impressive backdoor stop on MC’s only power play of the game.

Malden Catholic 3, Peabody 1

at McVann-O’Keefe Rink

Malden Catholic 0 1 2 3

Peabody 0 1 0 1

Scoring summary

First period: No scoring.

Second period: P, Jenna DiNapoli (Penny Spack, Sarah Powers), 1:13; MC, Antonia DiZoglia (un), 14:25.

Third period: MC, Alyssa Jankowski (un), 3:21; MC, Bella Gillis (un), eng, 14:50.

Saves: MC, Danielle DeJon 20; P, Alyse Mutti 20.

Records: MC, 4-1-1; P, 4-2-1.

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