Kick Saves: Plenty of reasons to cheer in great girls hockey season
Kick Saves Matt Williams
A year ago this space finished out the girls hockey season with some cheers and jeers.
Incredibly, just about everything we jeered 12 months ago had a complete turnaround this past season. Let’s revisit:
First, we jeered the lack of overtime. It was specifically in reference to the first girls Carlin Cup (which ended in a tie), but ladies hockey fans around the North Shore were rewarded with three outstanding overtime takes this winter.
In December, Beverly’s in-season tourney ended with a tremendous 4-on-4 overtime win over Billerica/Chlemsford, with sopphomore Brittany Foster steaming down the wing and potting the winning goal.
It turned out that was just an appetizer for two of the most exciting games in area girls history coming this postseason.
First, was Beverly and Masconomet’s titanic first round battle at the Bourque Arena. The scoring chances were a plenty on both sides during the six minutes of 4-on-4 time and the ensuing six minutes of 3-on-3; who could sit down as Beverly bore down on the power play only to be denied again and again?
And who could forget Panther goalie Maddy Jalbert charging out of her crease like a soccer goalie to knock away a would-be breakaway chance?
Masco wound up winning in the shootout and the Chieftains went on to play yet another OT game in the state semi’s. This one didn’t last as long, with Woburn picking up the win 4:03 into the 4-on-4 session. Still, both sides had scoring chances that brought the O’Brien rink crowd to its feet.
So bemoaning the lack of OT a year ago brought us three of the better games played in these parts not just in girls hockey but in all sports. Call it the Midas touch? Check out the next jeer.
After jeering a big down turn in the individual scoring numbers, we saw an explosion in 2016-17 that rewrote the Beverly High and area record books.
Seniors McKinley Karpa and Izzy Primack each scored 73 points, surpassing the previous area-high of 70 set by Panther great Nicole Woods four years ago. The aforementioned Foster also became only the sixth player in area history to hit the half-century mark in a single season with her 50.
The 196 total points and 89 total goals by that line also top the 87 and 191 points set by Woods’ trio with Julia Nearis and Kristen McCarthy that season — that Beverly six are the only girls in the area to surpass 50 points in a year, meaning no skater on another club has ever done it.
For perspective on just how good Karpa-Primack-Foster were, the very best boys lines on the North Shore the last 10 years are typically around 150 points and none have sniffed 200. This year, Beverly and Burlington were the only girls teams in the state with multiple 50-point scorers and the Panthers were the only team with three.
Best friends since their elementary school days, Ipswich students Karpa and Primack finished with the same number of points and tied for third and fourth in the state. After waiting two years to play on the same line, it’s only fitting that they’ll share the BHS and area record.
One last note: Their balance is remarkable. They set the points record without breaking either the record for goals or assists. That means they’re both equally adept at scoring and making plays and speaks to their natural affinity for sharing both the puck and the glory.
What else did we jeer? The injury bug, which struck hard in 2015-16 but seemed to stay away in 2016-17 with all the local clubs operating at or near full strength at the end of the year.
The final jeer was to the MIAA for consistently placing the girls state finals at TD Garden as the first games, reasoning that a rotation would be fair and that 9 and 11 a.m. starts hinder both skating legs and the crowd. The girls remain in those timeslots this year, though. Maybe next year? And maybe there will be an area team there to enjoy it.
Imagine this: Masconomet’s incredible postseason run may have come down to a coin toss.
The Chieftains ended the season tied with Peabody with identical 9-8-3 records. Under state rules, that brings up a coin toss to determine the seeds, which the Chieftains won to end up No. 18. They then blasted Quincy/North Quincy and upset Beverly and Austin Prep in an unforgettable postseason.
What if that coin had dropped the other way? What if the Chieftains had drawn Arlington and then faced Woburn two round early? What if Peabody had drawn QNQ and then went on to face Beverly?
It’s possible the entire landscape of the this weekend’s state final would be different; Masco could’ve knocked off state finalist Woburn, or Beverly could’ve made a run. Defending champ Austin Prep might still be alive if they’d seen the Panthers — a team whose number they’ve had — instead of Masco.
Instead, it all worked out as we saw over the last two weeks. All set up by the way that one coin bounced on Selection Saturday several weeks ago.
Here are our annual Kick Saves All-Area teams and awards. Note that the Salem News Girls Hockey Player of the Year and Coach of the Year will be revealed with the rest of our winter sports all-stars beginning late next week.
Kick Saves/Salem News Girls Hockey Dream Team
F: McKinley Karpa, Beverly — One of the most tenacious and heady players to ever skate on the North Shore graduates with 155 points in only three years. If she’d had four, she’d have smashed the area scoring record. Also the only player in the Kick Saves era to lead the area in scoring three consecutive seasons.
F: Izzy Primack, Beverly — Another three year stalwart who graduates with 123 points. Had a great sense of the net from along the walls and also the ability to put the puck inside a mail slot from the dots on the power play. Chemistry with friend and linemate Karpa may never be matched.
F: Izzy Sarra, Masconomet — Graduated as Masco’s second all-time leading scorer with 90 points. More than that, this captain was relentless on the puck and demanded all-out effort of herself and her teammates. The rarest of rare straw-that-stirs-the-drink type kids.
D: Abby Dirks, Pingree — A remarkable return from an ACL tear for this two-year captain from Danvers. Played more minutes than any other blue liner in the area and also had a career-best and defenseman-leading 22 points; Possessed a booming shot, too, with nine goals.
D: Caroline Buckley, Peabody — Two-year captain helped the Tanners set yet another record for goals against, which improved in each of her four years on the back line. She was the tone setter for the first team in school history to make the state playoffs.
G: Molly Elmore, Masconomet — The busier this freshman was, the better she was. She was outstanding all season but took her game to another level in the postseason, which is the measure of a truly great player.
F’s: Karpa, Sarra, Primack
D: Madi Brooke and Rachael Duval, Masconomet.
G: Cece Purcell, Pingree
F’s: Cassie Mirasolo, Peabody; Sami Kelleher, Masconomet; Kate Irons, Beverly
D’s: Kaydee Purcell, Peabody; Riane Vatcher, Masconomet
G: Maddy Jalbert, Beverly
F’s: Brittany Foster, Beverly; Sydney Cresta, Marblehead; Abby Gendron, Masconomet.
D’s: Tiffany Foster, Beverly; Anna Behringer, Masconomet.
G: Abby Buckley, Peabody.
All-Freshman/Middle school team
F’s: Sammie Mirasolo, Peabody; Katelyn Clarke, Pingree; Cate Delaney, Marblehead.
D’s: Abby Kalinowski, Marblehead; Gianna Conte, Masconomet.
G: Molly Elmore, Masconomet.
Best defensive defenseman? Brynne O’Connor of Marblehead. That’s a kid that can play for my team any day of the week.
Best defensive forward? Sami Kellher of Masconomet. A prime penalty killer capable of winning a faceoff anytime her team needs it.
Four breakout players to watch next year:
1. Sydney Foster, Beverly: Likely to be paired alongside her sister Brittany, these two will terrorize Northeastern Hockey League goalies for the bulk of their junior and senior seasons.
2. Sammie Mirasolo, Peabody: Another winger paired with her sister (Cassie) at center, Sammie had a major knack for scoring big goals for the Tanners in her ninth grade season. She has speed and a great backhand shot.
3. Abby Gendron, Masconomet: In a second line role, Gendron scored some but not as much as she will next year. Masco will need more with Izzy Sarra graduating and Gendron will deliver; she has good skating, strong hands and a snipe from the wing.
4. Caylin Wesley, Bishop Fenwick: The Crusaders best overall hockey player flew under the radar a bit this year. She had a great season in goal and could skate on a forward line, too, if needed. Whatever she does, she’ll be tremendous for Fenwick in 2017-18.