Girls hockey looks to build defensive identity, scoring chances this season

The Marblehead High School girl’s hockey team competed at Pingree High School over the weekend in a hockey jamboree to begin the season. The Magicians played in three games, going 1-2, highlighted by a 4-1 win over Masconomet in the consolation game on Sunday. 

On Saturday, the Lady Magicians played games against Austin Prep and Newburyport, two of the top teams in the state. The team got off to a rough start to the tournament, dropping both games, however, head coach Brittany Smith noted that it was a really great opportunity for her team to play against such great competition so early in the season. 

“Austin Prep is one of the best teams in the state, so we knew that was going to be challenging going into it. We knew Newburyport is one of the top teams in our league, and they always give us a good fight,” Smith said. “We knew both of those were going to be challenging. It was a really great opportunity to kind of open the girls’ eyes and kind of see what could be happening once we finalize our systems.”

Sunday was a completely different story, and Marblehead ended the jamboree on a high note. After going scoreless in the first two games, the team bounced back to produce four goals, while only allowing one against the Chieftains of Masconomet. Smith said that Masco is similar in a lot of ways to her team, and was proud of her players for putting it all together. 

“Masco is a pretty comparable level of skill to our team, and we came out and beat them 4-1,” said Smith. “So we finally found our scoring and played sound D, and we got it (the puck) into the offensive zone which was great too.”

Finding that scoring is something that Smith wants the team to focus on this season. Last year, the team won eight games, with the heart and identity of the team being the defensive core. Marblehead made it into the first round of the tournament posting an 8-2 record, where they fell to Arlington. 

Though Smith wants the defensive identity of her team to remain strong, she hopes that her players can create a more balanced attack, and use the defense as a means to create opportunities on the other side of the ice. She said that not being able to generate offense was “kind of our downfall all of last year”, but now knows how she can get her players to put more pucks in the net, and it starts with the forecheck. 

“I liked our forecheck from last year, it was pretty strong, so we caused a lot of turnovers in the offensive zone, but then we couldn’t capitalize on those turnovers,” she said. “So I’m hoping to figure out a way to get that generated a little more.” 

The team is also deep at the goalie position. Over the weekend, both Addie Lydon and Liv Doucette started games in net for Marblehead in place of starting goaltender Lily Francoeur, who is missing the first few weeks of the season due to injury. Smith said that both Lydon and Doucette are stepping up for the team in big ways and are helping add to the depth of the roster.

Smith also praised her captain, defensemen Hannah Tsouvalas, who is one of four seniors on the team. She said that Tsouvalas is the glue that holds the defense together, and noted her ability to push the puck up the ice, but hustle back onto defense at a moments notice. 

“She will speed the puck up, and then she’ll get back and play D. She’s kind of all over the ice, doing everything she can do in one shift,” Smith said. “She kind of holds down the fort in the D zone.”

Ava Vautour and Paige Waldman are two other defensemen that will make an impact this year. Vautour is a returner that knows how to shield the puck away from opponents and plays a physical game, especially when it comes to protecting her goalie. Waldman on the other hand, is a newcomer to the program, but Smith said that she is a young, but solid defenseman who is already building a rapport with Tsouvalas. 

On the offensive side, Teyah Fleming, Neelie Payne, Sophie Zerilli, Maddie Graber, and Ava Shultz are all candidates to be the go-to goal scorer according to Smith, which is not a bad problem to have as a coach. 

With attempting to keep the defensive identity of the team, and developing more goal scorers this year, Smith’s top priority for the team is to make it into the state tournament and post a record that is improved from the season before, allowing Marblehead to be more competitive with seeding, as well as the teams they face off against come playoff time.