Ice Hockey Teams Cross Finish Line


The 2022-23 winter season is officially now on ice for local ice hockey teams.

The Marblehead girls (a co-op that includes Manchester Essex student athletes) and Rockport boys (another co-op with Manchester Essex) ice hockey teams were knocked out of the MIAA tournament last week, ending the season for both squads.

Both teams lost in the Round of 32 by the exact same 5-0 score: the Marblehead girls lost to Haverhill on March 1 in the Div. 1 tournament, while the Rockport boys fell to Grafton on March 2 in the Div. 4 tourney.

Marblehead was able to fluster the Hillies in the first period, but penalties got them into trouble in the second, allowing Haverhill to take a 3-0 lead by the third quarter.

“Their team was clearly frustrated,” explains Marblehead girls coach Brittany Smith. “We were getting some offensive opportunities, but their goalie was very strong and big, so nothing came of those chances. In the second, we started to get some penalties -- which has kind of been our Achilles heel all season. They ended up scoring three goals in the second, which made it 3-0 after two periods. We continued to fight, but also had some more penalties which did not help our situation.”

Despite the loss, Smith praised the play of goalies Addie Lydon and Liv Doucette, as well as the play of Neelie Payne, Teyah Fleming, Sophie Zerilli and Riley Campbell.

“Both of the goalies stood on their head and had great games,” says Smith. “They both got lots of shots and kept the game reasonable. As for forwards, Neelie Payne had a great game as did Teyah Fleming. Teyah and Neelie controlled the puck and were able to make important plays in the defensive zone which prevented more shots. They both had crucial penalty kills which kept us in the game as well.”

The power play also figured heavily in the Rockport-Grafton game.

“The game went okay, even with the score being 5-0,” says Rockport coach Kyle Nelson. “They capitalized on two power plays, and all in all they moved the puck very well. We had a game plan to establish an aggressive forecheck, that when it was run properly it worked. However, oftentimes we hesitated, and they got clean exits out of their defensive zone.”

Jack Crompton made 30 saves in goal for the Vikings, while Dougie Pratt earned the praise of his coach with his play. Both Manchester Essex student athletes were key contributors all season for the hockey team.

“We had Manchester players contributing in all facets of the game this season,” explains Nelson. “Dougie Pratt and Quinn Brady averaged over one point per game, and Aaron and Jack Crompton gave us a great look in goal all season.”

Athletes from ME were also instrumental in the Marblehead team’s success in 2022-23, including a pair of sisters in Char and Mel Earl, and freshman phenom Fleming.

“She has great size and speed,” Smith says of Fleming. “She improved quite a bit this year. By the end of the year, she had much more confidence to skate the puck down the length of the ice and use her size to drive to the front of the net. She works hard every single shift and is her biggest critique which I think is one of the best attributes to have.”

Both teams attempted to find their way this season, with both the Vikings and Magicians looking to overcome key hurdles.

“This season's team had a lot of passion for the game of hockey, almost too much,” says Nelson. “At certain times we would take our lack of success in certain games personally to the point where we couldn't move forward.”

“This year’s team was unique in that the skill range was pretty drastic,” explains Smith. “We had six girls that were brand new to hockey and some very skilled girls with potential to play at the next level. At first, it was a challenge to incorporate some drills into practices because the range of skill was so variable; however, regardless of the skill level the team cheered every single girl on and supported them throughout the season. Overall, our team was very young especially when compared to teams in our league.”

The Marblehead girls lose four seniors to graduation in May, while the Rockport boys lose 11 to graduation. The Vikings return Crompton and two top forwards in Ryan Meaney and Quinn Brady for next year’s squad, while the Magicians will count on Fleming, Maddie Graber, Ava Shultz and Ava Vautour in 2023-24. The hope for both teams is that the returnees will anchor each squad and lead to improvement in future winter seasons.

“For the returning players, they get the experience of a tournament atmosphere and understand what went poorly with our pre-game preparation,” explains Nelson.

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