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Salem News article-Dec 14, 2016

Kick Saves: Masconomet’s veterans embrace new style, enjoy strong start

Kick Saves Matt Williams

Jumping into a new season with a new coach can be a little bit like hopping in the pool when the water is a bit cold.

Do the veteran players dip their toes in and feel things out, or do they dive in head first?

The leaders on the Masconomet girls hockey co-op squad, beginning the year with their fourth head coach in as many seasons, leaped off that figurative diving board. Just two weeks after their first practice the early scores are in the 10.0 range.

The Chieftains aced their first test last Sunday, toppling Marblehead 8-1, and also drew some confidence from winning the Pingree Holiday Tournament the previous weekend.

“Every season’s different from the last one. You have players that develop, new talent coming, and for us a new coach. It’s a new rhythm and you have to adapt to that new rhythm,” said senior Izzy Sarra, one of Masco’s three captains. “The game doesn’t change, but with a new coach the mentality can change.”

Ryan Sugar took over the Masco program (which co-ops with a host of Cape Ann League schools including Newburyport, Triton, Georgetown and Amesbury) this season. He saw a squad with plenty of veteran skaters and good leadership, and made it his goal to help them build on their success from the previous three years (all state tournament qualifying seasons).

“They’re starting to pick up on what we want to do,” said Sugar. “We’ve been skating a lot. We want to be a team that can go all three periods without really losing a step.”

Senior defenseman Madison Brooke and juniorwinger Kate Irons are the captains along with Sarra. The Chieftains three period emphasis came in handy in their opener, where they trailed after 15 minutes, got the lead after 30 and scored six times in the third to roll to victory.

A strong start will be essential for Masco, since they begin the season with four straight league games (Wednesday against Peabody, Dec. 17 against Medford and Dec. 21 against Marblehead).

“I think it’s symbolic of the momentum we hope we can gain over the course of the season,” Sarra said of the opener’s strong finish. “Scoring can come with a lot of trial and error and sometimes it’s a game of chance. You have to keep plugging and moving forward to the net.”

If scoring is a game of chance, Sarra is the type of player that has the winning lottery numbers. Her 21 goals were tops in the area last season and she now boasts 61 career points (not including Wednesday’s game). A hard-charging winger from Newburyport, Sarra has a great shot from the slot and can also create her own chances — Sunday, she knocked down a loose puck, passed to herself and scored the game-winner.

“She took it off her pads and right to the stick,” said Sugar. “She was the top scorer last year and comes in as leader a captain. She’s an intense player and they’re naturally going to follow that.”

Masco’s top line features Sami Kelleher centering Sarra and Irons. It’s a group that was together for the better part of the 2015-16 season and stands to be even more productive this winter.

“Knowing who you’re playing with on a personal level is a big help. Chemistry can come and go but knowing who you’re out there with, their style and their attitudes definitely helps,” said Sarra.

Early in the year, the second line stacks up to be sophomore Abby Gendron with Lexi Rosenbaum and Mikayla Vincent. Freshman Nicole Flak has been playing both offense and defense while Katie Strauss and Gianna Conte are contributing up front as well.

“I’ve definitely got a better grip on the team, who’s who and who can do what,” Sugar said. “The girls know that different situations might call for different things, and they just say yes. They’re willing to play wherever they can to help the team.”

Defensively, Masco has plenty of experience. Brooke, Sarah Norton, Riane Vatcher and Rachel Duval are among the regular rotation and just about all of them played top-pairing minutes a year ago. They’re working in front of freshman goalie Molly Elmore and senior Mackenzie Saitta (3-3 in six starts last year).

Winning that Pingree tournament in their first non-practice action with their new systems was a huge boost of confidence for the Chieftains. They toppled Marblehead and North Yarmouth in the jamboree-style tourney’s first round and then got the better of rival Beverly in the finals; that was a big one since Masco hasn’t beaten Beverly in a regular season clash since 2009 (an 0-12-2 stretch).

“We were stoked. We’d never beaten them in anything,” said Sarra. “That weekend was really good to see what we’d be going into the season with, and see how comfortable we can be with the new systems and all that.”

The Chieftains don’t have their first official game against Beverly until Jan. 11, a contest that should shape the Northeastern Hockey League race.

Jumping into a new season with a new coach can be a little bit like hopping in the pool when the water is a bit cold.

Do the veteran players dip their toes in and feel things out, or do they dive in head first?

The leaders on the Masconomet girls hockey co-op squad, beginning the year with their fourth head coach in as many seasons, leaped off that figurative diving board. Just two weeks after their first practice the early scores are in the 10.0 range.

The Chieftains aced their first test last Sunday, toppling Marblehead 8-1, and also drew some confidence from winning the Pingree Holiday Tournament the previous weekend.

“Every season’s different from the last one. You have players that develop, new talent coming, and for us a new coach. It’s a new rhythm and you have to adapt to that new rhythm,” said senior Izzy Sarra, one of Masco’s three captains. “The game doesn’t change, but with a new coach the mentality can change.”

Ryan Sugar took over the Masco program (which co-ops with a host of Cape Ann League schools including Newburyport, Triton, Georgetown and Amesbury) this season. He saw a squad with plenty of veteran skaters and good leadership, and made it his goal to help them build on their success from the previous three years (all state tournament qualifying seasons).

“They’re starting to pick up on what we want to do,” said Sugar. “We’ve been skating a lot. We want to be a team that can go all three periods without really losing a step.”

Senior defenseman Madison Brooke and juniorwinger Kate Irons are the captains along with Sarra. The Chieftains three period emphasis came in handy in their opener, where they trailed after 15 minutes, got the lead after 30 and scored six times in the third to roll to victory.

A strong start will be essential for Masco, since they begin the season with four straight league games (Wednesday against Peabody, Dec. 17 against Medford and Dec. 21 against Marblehead).

“I think it’s symbolic of the momentum we hope we can gain over the course of the season,” Sarra said of the opener’s strong finish. “Scoring can come with a lot of trial and error and sometimes it’s a game of chance. You have to keep plugging and moving forward to the net.”

If scoring is a game of chance, Sarra is the type of player that has the winning lottery numbers. Her 21 goals were tops in the area last season and she now boasts 61 career points (not including Wednesday’s game). A hard-charging winger from Newburyport, Sarra has a great shot from the slot and can also create her own chances — Sunday, she knocked down a loose puck, passed to herself and scored the game-winner.

“She took it off her pads and right to the stick,” said Sugar. “She was the top scorer last year and comes in as leader a captain. She’s an intense player and they’re naturally going to follow that.”

Masco’s top line features Sami Kelleher centering Sarra and Irons. It’s a group that was together for the better part of the 2015-16 season and stands to be even more productive this winter.

“Knowing who you’re playing with on a personal level is a big help. Chemistry can come and go but knowing who you’re out there with, their style and their attitudes definitely helps,” said Sarra.

Early in the year, the second line stacks up to be sophomore Abby Gendron with Lexi Rosenbaum and Mikayla Vincent. Freshman Nicole Flak has been playing both offense and defense while Katie Strauss and Gianna Conte are contributing up front as well.

“I’ve definitely got a better grip on the team, who’s who and who can do what,” Sugar said. “The girls know that different situations might call for different things, and they just say yes. They’re willing to play wherever they can to help the team.”

Defensively, Masco has plenty of experience. Brooke, Sarah Norton, Riane Vatcher and Rachel Duval are among the regular rotation and just about all of them played top-pairing minutes a year ago. They’re working in front of freshman goalie Molly Elmore and senior Mackenzie Saitta (3-3 in six starts last year).

Winning that Pingree tournament in their first non-practice action with their new systems was a huge boost of confidence for the Chieftains. They toppled Marblehead and North Yarmouth in the jamboree-style tourney’s first round and then got the better of rival Beverly in the finals; that was a big one since Masco hasn’t beaten Beverly in a regular season clash since 2009 (an 0-12-2 stretch).

“We were stoked. We’d never beaten them in anything,” said Sarra. “That weekend was really good to see what we’d be going into the season with, and see how comfortable we can be with the new systems and all that.”

The Chieftains don’t have their first official game against Beverly until Jan. 11, a contest that should shape the Northeastern Hockey League race.

 

 

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