Girls hockey preview

St. Mary's expects to be challenged

By Liz Torres
Globe Correspondent / December 17, 2010

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For the past three years, the St. Mary’s girls hockey team has been its own toughest competition. It has a record-breaking 77-game unbeaten streak, scored the most goals in the state during that time and four Division 1 state championships (2005, ’08, ’09, and ’10).

But this year, the Spartans are going to have to find their way without All-Scholastics Courtney White and Courtney Winters. And so far it hasn’t been easy. The Spartans tied Braintree, 0-0, in their opener before beating Duxbury, 3-1, Wednesday. The streak is now at 79, but there’s work to be done.

“Like every team, we need to find our identity and role with it and embrace challenges that come our way,’’ said coach Frank Pagliuca.

Pagliuca is looking at the return of the dynamic Sabrina Iannetti, Allison Butler, the Donovan twins (Bridget and Mikaela) and a team effort to pick up the offense.

“We lost a lot of scoring and we need people to step up. We need to work hard for our offense and really bear down, turn the corner, and start putting pucks in the net,’’ said Pagliuca.

The Spartans are, as predicted, strong in goal with returning Sarah Foss and freshman Lauren Skinnion. But five scoreless periods to start the season (St. Mary’s scored all three goals in the third period) was proof the offense needs improvement.

“There are no excuses. We just need to do a better job of reading and identifying the situation and making adjustments,’’ said Pagliuca.

“From a coaching standpoint, every game has to be its own little season. The teams we’re playing are too good for us not to show up,” he said.

With repeated tournament appearances for the past four years, Lexington has yet to make it past the state semifinal round, but with new coach Amanda Ciarletta, the Minutemen will be a program to watch.

With the loss of Globe All-Scholastics goalie Nina Riley and leading scorer Samantha Woodward, depth was a huge challenge for the Minutemen, but Ciarletta is looking at freshman Amanda Charlton and senior Christina DiGiovanni to fill the gap. Returning junior forward Nicole Maher, Bridget Everett, and Meghan McNabb are also key players.

After losing six seniors, including Hillary Savoy and Lauren Sullivan, returning Division 2 state champ Winchester is looking for production from returning Globe All-Scholastic Michaela Chiuccariello (69 points, 48 goals last season) to lead the team to the tournament.

“Everyone will be shooting for us. We’ll be in for a tough season but we’re looking to get back to the tournament,’’ said coach Tom Johnson.

Johnson is looking for solid performance in goal from Meg Creane and Rachel Fama and defense from Mary O’Donnell and Katherine Zavez.

Division 2 state finalist Fontbonne has an overpowering offense with returning Globe All-Scholastic Taylor Shepherd, who recorded her 100th career point last season.

“She has poise, self control, and really settles things down with the team. She just loves the game and has this natural ability,’’ said coach Bob Huxley.

Huxley also has Liz Coleman and fellow All-Scholastic Erin McLoughlin. The Ducks have three solid forward lines this year along with a strong and fast defense with Sam Curley and Lan Crofton in net. Players to look out for include freshmen Shannon McIsaac and Madison Devine and sophomore transfer Erin Ferrara. Kiki Ham will also be returning from a broken wrist.

“The big challenge is to stay focused on each individual game. I have a pretty good squad, but we can’t look at the end. It’s a marathon not a race,” said Huxley.

After falling to St. Mary’s in last year’s Division 1 state quarterfinals, 5-0, Braintree played the Spartans to a scoreless tie in its opener. The Wamps put pressure on St. Mary’s throughout, a good sign for coach Kevin Burchill and Braintree.

Division 2 state semifinalist Duxbury, thanks to Brianna Connolly’s goal, had a 1-0 lead over St. Mary’s Wednesday, but ended up losing, 3-1. The Green Dragons are looking to Rachel Myette, who made 24 saves in that game, and Hannah Murphy and Lily Connolly to be leaders.

Hingham will feature freshman Catherine Linehan and sophomore Sarah Schewenzfeier.

In freshman goalie Amanda Charlton’s first varsity start, Woburn defeated Lexington 3-1. The Tanners are returning the majority of their team and coach Bob MacCurtain is looking to senior leadership with captains Colleen Martell, Kelly Duran, Meg Moore, and Hannah Mage. The Tanners have lost to St. Mary’s in the state final in each of the last two seasons.

Starting 6

A preseason look at the top players in girls’ hockey.

F — Sabrina Iannetti - St. Mary’s

G — Sarah Foss - St. Mary’s

F — Michaela Chiuccariello - Winchester

F — Taylor Shepherd - Fontbonne

D — Meghan McNabb, Lexington

D — Martha Findley, Duxbury