HAVERHILL — Iron sharpens iron and the Masconomet girls hockey team was fortunate to have not just one but two Irons in the fire when they opened the Division 1 state tournament Tuesday afternoon.
Sisters Kate, a senior captain, and Erin Irons of Georgetown scored both goals to send the No. 9 seed Chieftains to a 2-0 win over league rival Marblehead at Valley Forum.
“It’s a great moment, great for Georgetown. I think my sister is the only other Georgetown kid we’ve had on the team,” said Kate Irons, who plays at Masco on the co-op program. “The two of us scoring in the same playoff game is something we’ll always remember.”
Unbeaten in their last eight games, the Chieftains (16-3-2) advance to face the winner of Wednesday’s St. Mary’s vs. Peabody contest in the D1 ‘Sweet Sixteen’ (likely on Saturday). They were outshot by a hard-skating Marblehead team that finished the season 10-7-1 by a fairly healthy 32-11 margin Tuesday, but got a flawless performance from sophomore Molly Elmore of Newburyport in net.
“Molly was unbelievable, as usual,” said Masco coach Ryan Sugar. “Every team has first game playoff jitters and I think ours lasted a little longer than we wanted them to. Marblehead dominated that first period.”
The Lady Headers had 15 of their 32 shots in that opening 15 minutes despite being shorthanded twice. Masco didn’t even record a shot on goal at even strength in the first period, but Elmore was poised in smothering every chance that came her way to earn her first career playoff shutout (and fourth career playoff win).
“She does a great job controlling rebounds and they’re really good about boxing out in front of her,” Marblehead coach Chris Wells said of what makes Elmore so tough to crack. “We had open looks but she stuffed them. We couldn’t get that one goal we needed to really put them on their heels.”
The elder Irons put Masco on top just 45 seconds into the middle period, artfully tipping fellow captain Sami Kelleher’s shot through the legs of Lady Header goalie Grace Bertagna. Getting the lead after such a rough first frame put the juice back in Masco’s legs.
“Kate’s real smart in front of the net and now she’s got 50 career points,” said Sugar. “She’s tough, she’s physical, she can battle along the boards or in front. Wherever she needs to be on the ice, we know she’s going to be there.”
Midway through the period, Masco’s breakout connected. After a D-to-D pass from Riane Vatcher and Anna Behringer sent Erin Irons streaking up the wing, she rifled a shot home for a 2-0 lead and all the scoring that the Chieftains needed to advance.
“We knew we had to pick things up,” said Kate Irons. “That first step is always the toughest one to get going and get into those deeper rounds, so it feels pretty good to get that done.”
Marblehead kept the pressure on with eight shots in the second period and nine more in the third. Grace Moroney, the team’s only senior, created some good chances for Bella Peters and Sydney Cresta, but too often the Masco defense closed down the shooting lanes shortly before the Lady Headers could pull the trigger.
“Sydney’s someone you’re nervous about every time she’s on the ice,” Sugar said. “When she’s coming through the middle of the slot, you just want everybody to jump on her.”
Young defenders Abby Kalinowski (freshman), Chloe Trudel, Juliette Pierson (both in middle school) and Caroline Kinne (junior captain) had outstanding games for Marblehead as far as possessing the puck and making good decisions went. The loss stung for Marblehead, which hasn’t won in the playoffs since 2009, but the experience gained by so many young players was a net positive.
“I told the girls to look around the room. We’re losing one senior, maybe one or two to prep school, and then we have a pretty good team coming back. We could be poised to make some noise next year,” Wells said. “The effort and progress the girls made, all the hockey knowledge they picked up, I’m really happy with.”
Masconomet 2, Marblehead 0
Marblehead (10-7-1): 0 0 0 — 0
Masconomet (16-3-2): 0 2 0 — 2
Division 1 Preliminary Round
Goals: Kate Irons, Erin Irons
Assists: Sami Kelleher, Abby Gendron, Anna Behringer, Riane Vatcher
Saves: Molly Elmore 32