Freshman goalie Elmore keys Masconomet’s incredible run to girls hockey state semis
By Matt Williams Staff writer Mar 13, 2017
The first time she saw goalie pads, Molly Elmore wanted to climb into the crease and try her luck stopping pucks.
She was only eight years old and whether is was on the ice or on the concrete floor of her basement, nothing was going to stop her from making saves.
“I remember my parents said ‘Nah, maybe next year.’ So I went to my basement, put on all my gear, threw the ball at the wall and saved it when it came back at me. I did that for hours and hours,” Elmore recalled.
“And when I was 11 and I played my first year in net, it blew my mind how much I loved it.”
Now the freshman mainstay for the Masconomet girls co-op team, Elmore’s ability to stay clam under pressure and make huge saves is what’s blowing the minds of her Chieftain teammates and their fans.
Riding the hot hand of their young goalie, No. 18 seed Masconomet (12-8-3) is in the Division 1 state semifinals for the first time in program history. They face host Woburn (19-2-2) Monday at O’Brien Rink at 5 p.m., with the winner advancing to the state finals next Sunday at TD Garden in Boston.
“Molly’s been incredible,” said senior captain Madi Brooke, one of Masconomet’s staunch defensemen. “She’s composed. She’s got skill and the mentality for the position. She’s always yelling at us on the ice and telling us where to be.”
Elmore has posted some impressive numbers this season. She’s 12-7-2 and has played 900 minutes, allowing only 1.95 goals per game. Her 503 saves are the second-highest total in program history for a single season, and her .930 save percentage is among the best in the state.
“She’s been our backbone,” said first-year Chieftains head coach Ryan Sugar. “To do what she’s done as a freshman? It’s incredible.”
It’s not easy stepping into a big role as a first-year player. It’s even tougher on a co-operative team as girls from five different schools try to get to know one another.
Coming from Newburyport, Elmore made the Clippers’ varsity soccer team last fall, and those relationships helped her hockey transition along.
“I knew Sami Kelleher and she helped a lot with meeting new people,” Elmore said. “I came in a little nervous and scared about playing with older kids, not knowing how the high school game would be. But it’s been such an amazing experience with everyone supporting me no matter if I have a good game or a bad game.”
For Elmore, there have been far more good games over the course of the 2016-17 season.
She has 4 1/2 shutouts (one of those was shared with senior MacKenzie Saitta) and has been at the top of her game in the state tournament. Elmore held Quincy to one goal in the opening round, made 41 saves to knock off second-ranked Beverly and followed that up by holding defending state champion Austin Prep to one goal in the state quarters.
“We’ve been the underdogs in every game and didn’t know how far we could go,” said Elmore. “It’s been an unbelievable run so far. And playing in front these big crowds? Our fans make us feel like we’re knocking it out of the park.”
Elmore is a strong butterfly-style goalkeeper who has a knack for controlling rebounds. It’s nearly impossible to knock the puck free once she gets a pad or a glove on it, and she has a tendency to stop every puck she can see. She also doesn’t get rattled, making some 10-bell saves last week against Beverly even after the Panthers rallied to get a 4-3 lead in the third period.
“She’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever been around,” captain Izzy Sarra said.
Outstanding in 1-on-1 battles, Elmore made four stops in the five-round shootout to beat rival Beverly (which was Masconomet’s first win over the Panthers in 17 tries going all the way back to 2009).
“Molly actually loves shootouts. She’s crazy,” said Brooke. “She was happy to get in the shootout, and it was great to see her get those saves. We were all so excited and proud of her for doing that.”
The Chieftains have a tremendous senior defensive pair in Brooke and fellow senior Rachael Duval; they’re essentially what the Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg pair meant to the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Bruins. Young blue liners Riane Vatcher, Gianna Conte and Anna Behringer have been strong as well; as a team, Masco can defend with their backs to the goal because they trust Elmore to make the easy saves.
The Red-and-White call it protecting the house. They do it as well as any guard dog or home security system.
“My defense has been so great this year,” Elmore said. “I trust them no matter what and we communicate really well.”
The Chieftains have embraced an “empty the bucket” mentality in these playoffs. It’s brought them to the brink of history — and they have a rock between the pipes to cover up any breakdowns.
“Everyone gives energy. Even when the legs are dead, they keep pushing,” said Elmore. “When you see the players in front of you keep pushing and pushing like that, you can’t help but makes the saves for them.”
How tall is Masconomet’s task of upending Woburn? The Tanners are 19-2-2 and outscoring their opponents, 104-26. They were unbeaten over their first 17 games and boast one of the state’s leading scorers in Georgie Santullo (37-plus goals).
It won’t be a totally unfamiliar foe for the Chieftains, however. The teams scrimmaged each other in early December.
Interestingly, the last time a seed lower than Masconomet’s No. 18 made the state semis was in 2010, when Woburn made it that far as a 22-seed. The Tanners made it to TD Garden that year but fell to St. Mary’s of Lynn in the final; they’re seeking their first state final since then, while Masconomet is eyeing its first-ever trip.
Looking for an unsung hero for this Masconomet group? Look no further than junior winger Lexi Rosenbaum. Since returning to the ice after missing a chunk of time with an injury, Rosenbaum has given the team a significant scoring boost. She has points in all three playoff wins and her seven goals rank fifth on the club, no small feat considering the number of game’s she’s played.
A few nuggets: Sarra’s 90 career points are now second on the Chieftains’ all-time scoring list … Prior to this season, the Chieftains had only won one state playoff game in their 14 varsity seasons; this year’s group has tripled that with three playoff wins … Masconomet is the third team in Northeastern Hockey League history to advance to a state final four, joining Marblehead’s 2008 Division 2 squad and Winthrop’s 2011 Division 1 entrant; A victory Monday would make Masco the first team in league history to reach a state championship game.
Keep eye on the first goal Monday night. Masconomet is 11-0-1 this season when they score first.
Newburyport Daily News sports editor Dan Harrison contributed to this story. Be sure to follow Matt Williams on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN for live updates from Monday night’s game.