Whether they’re ahead, behind or locked in a tie game, new head coach Danielle Finocchario wants her Beverly High girls hockey team to be grateful that they can be on the ice.

It’s not just a motivational catchphrase, either. Finocchario, taking over the program that co-ops with Danvers, Ipswich and Saugus, comes from a generation that never had the option of playing high school hockey. Helping teach and grow the game to the next crop of hockey-loving young ladies was a major motivator for her to get into the coaching ranks when the job opened up last spring.

“When I went to Danvers High, there was no team. We had to play with the boys,” remembers Finocchario, who also coached Salem State women’s hockey when it was a club team with Endicott College. She teaches at the middle school in Danvers. “Just being a part of girls hockey is a really big motivator for me. My daughter is three years old and I want her to know there will be a program there for her someday.”

Beverly won four games last year, missing the state playoffs for the first time in nine years. The Panthers scored only 21 goals in 20 games, number they’ll need to increase to increase the win total.

Up front, juniors Emma Thibodeau and Sophia McNeill skate alongside sophomore Emma Knott, while freshman Jamie Dupont anchors another line with sophomore Catie Nemeskal.

Defense should be a strength. The teams only seniors, captains Ava Daly and Shelby Johnson, anchor a group that includes junior Tori Shea and sophomore Cayla Greenleaf. Newcomer Anna Arsenault is also a capable defenseman, and Kayleigh Crowell can play either forward or D.

They’ll be playing in front of an inexperienced goaltender. Amanda Barry, a newcomer from Saugus, volunteered to convert from skater to the net, and field hockey goalie Julia Otterbein has also decided to try her hand on the ice.

The Panthers had scrimmages with Gloucester and Bishop Stang ahead of their season opener against defending league champion Masconomet. They held their own at the time, but also found plenty to work on.

“It’s really still getting to know everybody. We have a good skill level and we’re getting comfortable with our passing,” said Finocchario. “So far, we’ve been focused on a lot of team building stuff. The common theme is learning to work together, talk to each other and feel like a team.”

Finocchario coached youth sports in Danvers before taking time off after having children, even coaching captains Daly (a team-best 6 goals last year) and Johnson on the Danvers U-12 team years ago. She coached junior varsity girls soccer as well, and feels the teaching background goes hand-in-hand with coaching at the high school level.

“It all kind of comes full circle,” she said. “Coaching is teaching. Being in the school system helps, too, because you get a chance to work closely with the girls and get to know their personalities.”

It’ll be a challenging start out of the gate for Beverly, with its first four games all being against top 20 teams (Masconomet, Winthrop, St. Mary’s Lynn and Peabody). They’re looking improve as they go and establish their new identity.

“We’ll take it game by game. We’re going in with a positive outlook,” said Finocchario. “Our morale is high. Everybody’s looking forward to a good, positive year. Everybody’s willing to work.”

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