The Peabody High girls hockey team has raised the bar for its program over the last two seasons.

Now the Tanners are looking to become the bar.

With a generous core of skaters and two top flight goalies back from the first Peabody squad to make the state tournament, head coach Michelle Roach skates into her third season hoping her charges can continue to push their way up the Northeastern Hockey League standings.

“We’ve worked really hard to build this foundation and build our identity,” said Roach, who was inducted into the St. Mary’s Lynn Hall of Fame last spring. “The vibe coming into the season that is that was can compete. We have a great opportunity with all the players we have returning.”

Just three years removed from simply hoping to hold opponents under seven or eight goals, Peabody’s program (which co-ops with both Lynnfield and North Reading) now has a baseline of competing with every team on its 2017-18schedule. Making the state tournament is no longer a pipe dream, but an attainable goal.

Defense and goaltending helped spark that turnaround. Junior Abby Buckley, an all-star last year with a .929 save percentage, anchors that end of the ice. Co-captains Kaydee Purcell and Mae Norton are both five-year regulars (including middle school time on varsity) and towering sophomore Carolyn Garoli has looked great so far in moving back to defense and sophomore Jeny Collins (1.77 goals against) is an outstanding option in net.

With that in mind, scoring could dictate the course of Peabody’s season. The Tanners scored zero or one goal in eight of their nine losses a year ago, so consistently putting the puck in the net is paramount to success. Early indications are that the lamp will light much more frequently: Peabody scored a combined 13 goals in its two preseasons scrimmages.

Sisters Sammie and Cassie Mirasolo could be primed for huge seasons. They combined for 20 goals and 40 points last winter with Cassie, a senior captain, being the steady centerman and Sammie, a sophomore, having the speed and dangling ability to decimate defenders.

The Tanners other forward line has a similar construction: Senior co-captain Sarah Buckley is excellent defensively and does the dirty work to free pucks for junior sniper Jess Robert. Freshmen Paige Thibedeau and Jen Flynn look to fill out the forward lines along with junior Kat DiGiulio.

“We’re looking to put the puck in the net more than we did last year and the good thing is our forwards are quick, so with our defense being strong we can be quick in transition,” Roach said. “It’s a really cohesive group.”

With two league games in their first three bouts, Peabody has a chance to show right away that they upward trajectory will continue into 2018.

“We talk a lot about being a team that’s tough to play against,” said Roach. “A hard working, gritty team that will fight and win one-on-one battles.”

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Assistant sports editor of The Salem News, blanketing the North Shore with the best coverage you'll find. Football fiend, track guru, seam-head, goaltending aficionado, history buff, stat geek. Allons-Y. #StrikeOutALS