Girls who play hockey are among life’s elite problem solvers.
If they’re from southeastern Massachusetts, they grew up skating on boys’ teams and clomping that extra 150 feet off the ice to a dressing room far removed from the epicenter of camaraderie, that sacred place where a team becomes a team.
Adjusting is their way of life, from the skates they wear to what they get for ice time and how equipment fits. So, when the Old Rochester Regional High School girls hockey team was given the green light to play a 2020-21 season, the avalanche of special requirements, restrictions, and rule changes that came with the good news was filed away on their everyday things-to-do lists.
“I’m happy for the girls that they’re going to get to play,” said Head Coach Ted Drew with a hint of trepidation because the circumstances are fluid and could change at any time. “It’s going to be a mishmash this year…. We’re going to figure this out as we go.”
The Travis Roy Rink at Tabor Academy is closed for the season, but John Gallo Arena in Bourne has made ice time available. Some players were unable to practice on Sunday because they are the subjects of contact tracing in a COVID-19 case. Another regular was on skates but on the mend from shoulder surgery.
The Bulldogs were a good, solid team in 2019-20; only they couldn’t generate enough offense to make many of the outcomes go their way, finishing 5-12-3 and out of the playoffs.
“We were one of the better defensive teams around. Everyone kept telling us we were the best five-win team they’ve ever seen,” said Drew, in his second year as coach after ORR began hosting the coop program originated by Bourne in 2010.
Improving on offense will not come easily without Erin Craig, who is attending prep school this winter, and 2020 graduate Madison Guinen. Fellow forwards Meghan Berg and Lauren O’Malley also graduated, as did all-star goaltender Megan Nolan.
Succeeding Nolan is one challenge that the Bulldogs are well equipped to handle, as senior Meghan Craig is back for her senior year after sitting out the 2019-20 season recovering from foot surgery. Craig comes from a stellar hockey pedigree. The Mattapoisett resident’s uncle is the 1980 Olympic gold medalist Jim Craig. She has learned to fill the net smartly with anticipation and positioning that comes with experience and knowledge.
“I’ve got to give the kid credit (despite being unable to play). She came to all the practices and games. She’s very vocal, and that’s what you need. She’s been well-coached,” said Drew.
Augmenting the defensive side of the puck is a core of players that will allow Drew to deploy his niece, senior captain Carly Drew, as a forward this season. Carly Drew was previously the Bulldogs’ game controlling defenseman. Thanks to strength in the form of blueliners Emma Dettera, Avery Hathaway, Cassidy Hill, and Nora Schiappa, Carly Drew will now become the brains of the attack. Eighth-grade defenseman Lily Cook is a newcomer to the program.
Seniors Amanda Orchuck, Amanda Wheeler, Isabelle Stone, and Abigail Thompson, and sophomores Heather Lapworth, Kellen Geake, and Emily Kilpatrick will be supported on the forward lines by freshman Sophia Sheehy and seventh-grader Elizabeth Kilpatrick.
Girls high school hockey has adopted a field hockey rule known in that sport as “third party.” If two opponents are competing for the puck, what ice hockey coaches have long referred to as puck support is now illegal. The restriction applies to a two-man forecheck. Meantime, centers lining up for a faceoff must remain 6 feet apart until puck drop. Up to five players are allowed on the bench at any one time and only one in the penalty box.
It wasn’t known until late in the game that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) would sanction coop programs, upon which many girls high school teams and a growing number of area boys teams are predicated. And it wasn’t known where Bourne would land; even though the program originated as BMW, the Canalmen were an 11th-hour inclusion.
Eight players are ORR students, six from Bourne, two from Apponequet Regional (Lakeville and Freetown), and one from Mashpee. Upper Cape Tech opted-out of winter sports, so with no boys hockey, it was decided that UCT’s girls would not play either. The “W” in BMW stands for Wareham, which is no longer part of the coop.
Assistant coach Kami Medeiros is back to assist Drew, but Braly Hiller is on the mend from hip surgery and, under doctors’ advice, will not coach this year. Carly Drew has committed to play NCAA Division III women’s hockey next year at Anna Maria College in Paxton.
ORR has scheduled seven games and will potentially play nine, beginning on Saturday, January 9, the season opener against Bishop Stang at Stephan Hetland Memorial rink in New Bedford.
By Mick Colageo