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Salem News 2/26/17: Girls hockey tourney: Beverly, Masco, Peabody gearing up

Girls hockey tourney: Beverly, Masco, Peabody gearing up
By Matt Williams Staff writer Feb 26, 2017
Beverly, Masco, Peabody gear up for girls hockey playoffs

JIM VAIKNORAS/Staff photo Beverly’s Mckinley Karpa and Masconomet goalie Molly Elmore hope to help their respective teams advance in the state tournament beginning next week.

BRYAN EATON/Staff photoMasconomet forward Abby Gendron has been a big scoring threat on the second line for the state tournament bound Chieftains.

When it comes to North Shore entrants, the 2017 Division 1 girls hockey tournament is dotted with the usual suspects.

Plus one surging program looking to crash the party.

Northeastern Hockey League champion Beverly has the highest seed among the local clubs at No. 2, and Masconomet is in the postseason dance for the sixth straight season. They’re joined by Peabody, which is getting ready for a state playoff game for the first time in 11 varsity seasons.

The Tanners and Chieftains both enter the playoffs at 9-8-3, with Peabody on the losing end of a coin toss to be seeded No. 19. Therefore, the Tanners earned a trip to No. 14 Arlington Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Masconomet drew the No. 18 seed, so it opens the playoffs against No. 15 Quincy/North Quincy at Quincy Youth Arena Monday at 7 p.m.

That game is of major interest to the No. 2 seeded Panthers (17-1-3), who will host the winner at Bourque Arena Friday night (8:15 p.m.). That means Beverly could open with a league rival they tied only three weeks ago.

By any measure, coach Brian Seabury’s Beverly squad is a major state title contender. The Panthers tied a program record for regular season wins and went unbeaten for the first 20 games of the year (also a team best).

Their 106 goals are the most of any Division 1 team, and they’re only one of two clubs with more than 100 (top-seed Needham being the other). Beverly’s 28 goals allowed is a new team record, and their plus-78 goal differential is the best in the entire state.

Captains Izzy Primack (33 goals, 37 assists, 70 points) and McKinley Karpa (32 goals, 37 assists, 69 points) are the top two scorers in the state. Sophomore linemate Brittany Foster’s 19 goals and 46 points rank 12th statewide. In the back end, Beverly has solid depth and junior goaltender Madison Jalbert (1.23 goals against. .921 save percentage) is playoff tested with six postseason starts.

What could trip up the Panthers? They’re in the tourney for the ninth straight season, but have fallen in the Division 1 quarters in each of the last four. Should they get by the Masco/Quincy winner, the Panthers could face defending state champ Austin Prep, which has allowed only 20 goals all season and hasn’t lost to a Massachusetts Division 1 team.

The Cougars bounced Beverly from the playoffs both last year and in 2014 (the last time Beverly scored 100 goals in a season). AP would need to beat Braintree in its opener to set up a quarterfinal rematch.

For Masconomet, first-year head coach Ryan Sugar hopes to engineer the program’s first postseason win since 2009. The Chieftains are a stingy defensive club that’s 6-1-3 when allowing two goals or fewer.

That effort is led by senior defensemen Madison Brooke and Rachael Duval. Freshman goalie Molly Elmore’s had an outstanding season with a save percentage of .929 and a goals against of 1.91. Offensively, senior Izzy Sarra leads the way with 13 goals and 25 points, though Sami Kelleher (10 goals), Mikayla Vincent (9) and Abby Gendron (8) have shown a knack for finding the net.

The Chieftains match up with a Quincy squad that’s gifted offensively (98 goals) but that has surrendered 76 (an average of 3.80 per game).

Should the Chieftains get by QNQ, they’d be tasked with beating Beverly for the first time since 2009 (which, oddly enough, came in the Division 1 state tourney).

Coach Michelle Roach’s second season in Peabody has brought incredible progress. The Tanners have never had a positive goal differential (they’re plus-16) and her 15 wins in two years are more than the seven seasons prior to her arrival combined.

The next step in the team’s development is their postseason debut, coming Wednesday at Arlington. Three goals is the magic number for the Tanners: they’re 8-0-1 when they score that many and 1-8-2 when they don’t. It won’t be easy to hit that mark against a Spy Ponders team that’s allowed only 1.80 goals per game against a fairly solid Middlesex League schedule.

For Peabody, freshman Sammi Mirasolo (12 goals) and her center (and sister) Cassie (8 goals, 17 points) have been the sparkplugs up front. Two-year captain Elise Murphy (7 goals, 14 points) is also a threat with fellow two-year captain Caroline Buckley leading the defense.

Her sister, sophomore Abby Buckley, is the type of goalie opponents hate to see in the playoffs. She posted back-to-back shutouts over Bishop Fenwick and Melrose to make sure Peabody qualified for the tourney, and boasts a .929 save percentage with a 1.92 goals against.

The winner of Wednesday’s Tanners/Spy Ponders clash advances to face Woburn (17-2-2), which began the year unbeaten in its first 17 games and is one of the favorites in the bracket.

Outside the immediate area, NEHL member Winthrop (12-6-0) will face No. 6 Westford Academy in the quarters with the date TBD. St. Mary’s Lynn (13-4-3) drew the No. 8 seed and will host Duxbury next Saturday at Connery (time TBD).

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