New era for Martha's Vineyard
The Martha’s Vineyard girls’ hockey team wears the slogan, “why not us?’’
“We asked ourselves, ‘why can’t we get there and get to 20 points?’ ’’ said Vineyarders coach John Fiorito.
The girls got their answer when they clinched their first postseason berth in 16 years Saturday night when the Vineyarders (10-7) beat Marshfield, 2-1.
The celebration after the game is what Fiorito remembered vividly, despite being blocked from entering the locker room.
“It was funny because I didn’t even get in, but I could hear them yelling,’’ he said. “There was a water bottle for a champagne celebration and they were soaking wet.’’
Although it is only his second year as coach, Fiorito has seen Martha’s Vineyard’s girls’ hockey make the transition from recreational to competitive sport. He said he is lucky to see his team be considered a “real kind of hockey team.’’
The Vineyarders won five games all of last season. This year the girls doubled their win total and the 20 points propelled them into the postseason. Martha’s Vineyard entered its matchup against Marshfield as the underdog, having lost to the Rams, 1-0, Dec. 28.
Nerves enveloped the team in the first five minutes until Celia Mercier, the Vineyarders’ leading scorer with 26 goals, potted a goal off an assist from Emily Cimeno in the first period.
“Celia, she scores big goals,’’ Fiorito said. “She’s been one of the people most passionate about hockey and [the girls] love her because you couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”
Mercier is currently ranked 30th in scoring in the state and has accounted for nearly half of her team’s total points.
“She is the focal point of every team we play against,’’ Fiorito said. “She is unselfish and plays every other shift and understands what her role is and how she carries herself.”
Mericer assisted on a Cimeno shot in the second period that gave the Vineyarders what proved to be an insurmountable 2-0 lead.
“We were nervous. It was a hot potato and we couldn’t settle down. That is when they scored in the second [2-1],’’ said Fiorito.
But, entering the third period, “we played a better period of hockey,’’ he said.
The Vineyarders limited Marshfield to five shots, eliminating any quality scoring opportunities. The senior leadership shined in the last 15 minutes, he added.
“We’d struggled to score if it was not for Celia. We talked about dirty goals - just going in and getting rebounds - that was the game winner. We knew if we could be resilient and that we had a pretty good goalie - that would be the difference,” Fiorito said.
Junior goalie Texe Craig stopped 22 shots.
The Vineyarders were struggling at midseason, with just a 5-5 record and losses to quality teams like Barnstable and Sandwich. The girls regrouped, winning five of their last seven games.
“We knew we had four home games and we wanted to take care of business,’’ said Fiorito.
Securing the postseason berth was an emotional moment for Andre Bonnell, the team’s goalie coach, who has been with the program from the beginning in 1996.
“He’s been here since the start and we were the first team on the Cape to have a program,’’ Fiorito said. “His daughter even went through the program so he cried in front of the kids.”
The annual SEMGHL All-Star Game will be Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Gallo Rink in Bourne at 5:30 p.m.
Games of the week
No. 8 Hingham at No. 9 Lexington, Mon., 10 a.m. - Lexington is going to need that same edge that toppled No. 6 Belmont, 4-1, to have a chance against Hingham. Hingham’s numbers shadow Lexington’s stats with Jane Freda, Catherine Linehan and Sarah Schwenzfeier combining for 110 points. Hingham is also solid between the pipes with Taylor Wash stopping 211 out of 245 shots this season.
No. 16 Wellesley at No. 19 Canton, Mon., 11 a.m. - Wellesley should see a strong presence from leading scorer Molly Connolly (34 points), but will it be enough to contend with Canton’s best - Meghan Lennon and Haley Gaughan - who tie in scoring at 33 apiece?
No. 3 St. Mary’s at No. 2 Acton-Boxboro, Wed., 7:30 p.m. - Acton-Boxboro is scheduled for a tough end of the season as the Colonials face the third and fourth-ranked teams in the Top 20. Acton-Boxboro has yet to lose this season and has earned seven shutouts.
No. 5 Walpole at No. 19 Canton, Thurs, 4:30 p.m. - Walpole has been prepped with a heftier strength of schedule giving the Rebels an edge in this matchup. However, Canton is not necessarily the underdog after defeating common opponent Norwood, 7-5, Jan. 16.
No. 2 Acton-Boxboro at No. 4 Woburn, Fri., 4 p.m. - This highly anticipated matchup contains Acton-Boxboro’s Kati Goguen, who ranks ninth in the state with 40 points versus Woburn’s star shooter Kayla Smith, who stands at No. 3 with 51 points.