Strong goaltending has been a staple of girls hockey on the Cape and Islands in recent memory, as some of the best netminders in the state have been stationed in the blue paint over the years.
But with a mass exodus of goaltenders from a season ago, split between gradation and college prep schools, there was a gaping hole on just about every roster as local teams hit the ice nearly two moths ago.
The loss in talent was not isolated to just one or two team. Of the seven girls hockey teams on the Cape and Islands, five had holes to fill with the vacated position.
Just two teams returned starters from the 2014-15 season. Martha’s Vineyard brought back the Jackie Hegarty/Julia Bettencourt combination and Dennis-Yarmouth had the services of Lucy Reid, who despite just a freshman, had the most varsity experience of any local goalie with 19 career starts, all of which came her eighth-grade season.
That left Barnstable, Bourne/Mashpee/Wareham/ORR, Falmouth, Nauset/Cape Tech/Monomoy and Sandwich with an opening at arguably the most position on the ice.
But here we are, the midway point of the season has come and gone, and not only has each and every one of those first-year starters answered the bell between the pipes, but all have given their respective teams a foundation to build upon not just for this season, but for years to come.
MiKayla Bestford, Sofie Schiappa, Emily Marciello, Molly McKenna and Delanie Corcoran, have all made the jobs of their respective coaches a little bit easier this season with the position locked down.
The position of goaltender may be the most difficult to master. Rarely does it come naturally over the course of the first season, but the Cape is growing a young slew of talent.
While the paths to full-time varsity goaltender are unique for each, the end result is the same. And with all five goaltenders playing just their freshman or sophomore season, the foundation is set for the foreseeable future.
Next big thing: For Sandwich’s Delanie Corcoran, there was never a doubt that she was the goalie of the future. The freshman was named to the varsity roster during her eighth-grade season, and had the skill set at that point and time to make a run at the starting gig, but given the play of senior Allyson Hir, solidified by her postseason play during Sandwich’s semifinal run the season previous, head coach Steve Noll couldn’t turn his back on his senior.
“Ally got the bulk of play because it was the end of her career and Delanie was kind enough to take a back seat,” Noll said. “We owed it to the senior goalie and Delanie accepted that and she knew the next four years were hers.”
Corcoran saw pieces of action during her eighth-grade season, and Noll had an idea in what he had waiting in the wings, but even he has been surprised by her play this season.
Few goaltenders have seen more shots this season (416), but the freshman has answered has been marvelous and likely the reason behind Sandwich’s four wins this season. Her 92.1 save percentage is second on Cape, only to Falmouth’s Emily Marciello and her four shutouts is tied among the top of the leaderboard (with D-Y’s Reid).
But it is not so much the number of shots that she’s seen that is so impressive, but rather her fundamentals and instincts between the pipes.
As a freshman, Corcoran shows incredible poise in net, portrays advanced rebound control and a level head. Corcoran rookie season has been a trial by fire, given the Blue Knight’s league play in the SEMGHL Coastal, facing some of the most potent offenses not only in Division. 2, but in Division 1 as well.
“I knew she was really good last year, so she’s no surprise to us at all, but what we didn’t know was how good she was,” said Noll. “We knew we had a good one, we didn’t know we had a great one.”
Most impressive is her short-term memory, which is critical for a goaltender at any level. Duxbury scored eight goals against the Blue Knights in the season opener, and Barnstable peppered her for 36 shots two nights later, but Corcoran shook off the frustrations and recorded her first career varsity shutout two nights later at home against the Furies.
“She sees a lot of pucks, she faces a firing quad every night, and it doesn’t phase her, Noll said. “She has the perfect mindset for a goalie, she’s calm, she’s cool, and she likes the pressure.”
While Noll doesn’t believe in a rebuilding philosophy, the writing is on the wall that Sandwich’s young core will blossom into a serious contender in Division 2. However, with such a young roster – which boasts a trio of lethal eighth-grade, second-line forwards in Kileigh Holt, Georgie Snow and Kaitlyn Ramsey, in addition to six other eighth graders and three freshman – the Blue Knights are enduring some growing pains still have some growing pains, as seen in their 4-9-2 record and 15 goals scored in their 15 games thus far.
“I never liked the phrase rebuilding, reloading or any of that, we go out there to win every game, every period and just accept what happens at the end of the game,” Noll said. “It doesn’t make sense to think about rebuilding, because I don’t know where these kids will be one, two or three years from today. It’s a changing environment, so to plan for the future that may not come, I don’t think is a wise decision.”
Déjà vu: For the second time in six years, B/M/W/ORR coach Kristyn Alexander is in the difficult position of training a new goaltender with no previous experience, at any level.
Alexander had one of the best young goaltenders in the state last season in eighth-grade goalie Michaela O’Brien, who burst onto the scene and nearly steered the co-op team to its first-ever postseason appearance.
With a limitless ceiling, O’Brien transferred to Philips Exeter Academy in the offseason, leaving then B/M/W without a goalie on the roster.
With the addition of Old Rochester this season, and the four players gained from the “expansion team,” Alexander didn’t quite find the goaltender she was looking for, but did get a player willing to learn the position.
Knowing that her new team was without a goalie, Old Rochester freshman Sofie Schiappa took it upon herself to learn the difficult position over the summer, knowing the position was hers for the next four years if she did so.
“Knowing that we had Sophie willing to work and willing to take on a new position shows a lot of character and we needed her,” Alexander said. “She knew we didn’t have a goalie, so over the summer she played on her U14 team and decided to take it upon herself to learn the position.”
For a first year goalie, Schiappa has turned in a solid season as she’s adjusted to both the new position and the new level of hockey. The freshman has started all 10 games this season, and earned her first career shutout on January 9th against Bishop Stang.
For Alexander, training a new goaltender seems to have become routine. When she first started the program six years ago, she was in a similar situation without a true goaltender when then-eighth grader Ariel St. Germaine stepped up to learn the position.
Now six years later, she is going through the motion for the second time.
“When we needed a goalie when we first started this program, Ariel stepped up and during her career, and I see a lot of Ariel’s characteristics in Sophie,” Alexander said. Learning to learn the position, willing to do what it takes and willing to be there for the team, and that’s a big part of it.”
Despite losing their leading scorer from the previous two seasons in Marissa Fitzgerald to Tabor Academy over the summer, B/M/W/ORR is still very much a young team. In addition, they received three young skaters from ORR to go along with the slew of sophomores on the roster to bolster the youth movement.
Big shoes to fill: From the moment she stepped onto the ice as an eighth-grader, Barnstable Olivia Sollows had the tools to be one of the best goaltenders in the state, and certainly made her case during her first two-seasons.
Sollows led the Red Raiders to the Div. 1 Quarterfinals in her first season, nearly knocking off top-seeded Acton-Boxboro in the process, and her Red Raiders were ranked No. 1 in the state for much of her freshman year.
But just like O’Brien, Sollows decided to take off over this past offseason, moving on to play at New Hampton in New Hampshire.
Fortunately for the Red Raiders, the had a very capable backup, albeit relatively untested, in sophomore MiKayla Bestford.
Surely, no one had expected Bestford to fill the shoes of Sollows in just her first season, but Bestford surely has. Impressive further, Bestford is doing so without the rock-solid defensive pairings that Sollows benefited from in each of her two seasons, as stud defenseman Morgan Richard and Kylie Hallam both graduated over the offseason.
“We thought we were going to take a hit this year, and that’s nothing again MiKayla, just in the fact we we’re losing Olivia because she’s just one of the best,” Barnstable coach Peter Nugnes said. “We talked about it all summer long, but what can you say. I credit her, she worked hard over the summer, she knew she was going to be the goalie, and she’s just playing light outs, I’m really happy about it, she’s probably been the best player on our team this year.”
Perhaps no team schedules a non-conference slate like the Red Raiders do, and Barnstable has to bring its best effort on a nightly basis. This year, those games include Div. 2 favorite Notre Dame Academy, Beverly/Danvers, Medway/Ashland and Whitman-Hanson/Silver Lake to go along with their brutal SEMGHL Coastal schedule.
Bestford was thrown into the fire in the opening game of the season against NDA, and has shown constant improvement in each game since. The sophomore has started all 11 games this season, stopping nearly 90 percent of shots that come her way and picked up three shutouts along the way.
While those shutout victories are impressive, her biggest games have some against the biggest competition, and haven’t always translated into victories.
Despite a 1-0 loss against Beverly/Danvers and ties with Duxbury and Medway/Ashland, those three games may have been the best individual game from Bestford. In a 2-2 tie with Duxbury on January 9th, Bestford recovered from a goal scored just 15 seconds into the game, and stopped 20 shots over the final two periods, as the Red Raiders erased a two-goal deficit to salvage a point with the Dragons.
Her play has given Nugnes the luxury of playing hockey the way he likes to, with a strong and physical defensive presence, something he wasn’t sure he would be able to do in the offseason.
“We are still working on our defensive zone coverage because we are so young back there, but we thought we would have to do things differently and we didn’t have to, we can play like we did last year,” Nugnes said.
Saving a season: For the reigning Div. 2 Champions, from top to bottom, just about everything had to be replaced.
Starting with head coach Erin Hunt, down to the 10 seniors on the team, and even freshman stud McKenzie Haberl, the Falmouth Clippers had the odds stacked against them from the get go.
With only a handful of skaters returning from that championship team, and no experience at the goaltending position, first-year head coach Brian Ferreira received a stroke of luck when sophomore goaltender Emily Marciello moved to Falmouth over the summer from Hanover, and quickly won the starting gig.
Despite not much playing time during her stint with Cohasset/Hanover her freshman season (just eight periods played all season), Marciello has perhaps made the difference between a potential rebuilding season and a contending season.
“What I was hearing from everyone in the offseason was ‘you’re going to have to rebuild, you don’t have this, you don’t have that,’ but she came in and won the job pretty quickly,” Ferreira said. “I think she stole our opening night, then went into Hingham she almost stole one there, in those first two games she made a statement that said ‘I’m ready to be a varsity goaltender as a sophomore’ and that gave us a little more confidence.”
That confidence has clearly been on the upswing as the season has progressed, and Marciello might be playing her best hockey of the season as the midpoint has come and gone.
In a span of two games last week, Marciello posted back-to-back shutouts over Sandwich and Dennis-Yarmouth and has allowed just five goals over her last six games.
With her impressive streak as of late, Marciello now leads the Cape and Islands with a 92.3 save percentage, and is allowing less than two goals per game, numbers that rival the play of one of Falmouth’s all-time greats in Madison Scavotto.
Replacing a legend between the pipes is never easy, and Marciello is surly keeping the Falmouth-tradition alive of tremendous goaltending.
“That girls see that and they get a little more confidence, they know she will do the job back there,” Ferreira said. “She may have been a little nervous, but once she went out and played as well as she did against Canton (in the season opener), she’s been accepted by the girls and they have all started to gel.”
Her play as of late has also sent the Clippers three games over the .500 mark for the first time this season as Falmouth closes the gap on yet another postseason appearance.
Red hot start: Ironically enough, Dennis-Yarmouth freshman goaltender Lucy Reid had the most varsity experience of any goalie entering the season, with 19 starts under her belt, all of which came during her eighth-grade season.
There was certainly reason to be optimistic of Reid’s future as goaltender of the Dolphins, as Reid stopped over 87 percent of the opposition’s shots last year, anchoring a team that had just five upperclassmen on the roster.
With another year of experience for not only Reid, but the entire young Dolphin’s roster, D-Y has put together a successful season, with plenty of reason for optimism over the next four years.
While the Dolphins don’t have that flashy goal scorer on its roster, they rely on opportunistic goal scoring, solid defensive play and strong goaltending, all of which was apparent during the Dolphins 7-0-1 start to the season.
Reid posted three shutouts during that stretch and has continued to impress despite the Dolphins struggles as of late.
The freshman has started all 15 games for the Dolphins this season, and is allowing a Cape-best 1.70 goals per game.
Second-year head coach John Shaw has been impressed with Reid’s play thus far, but knows that her best years are still ahead.
“Overall, she’s very coachable, she’s very quiet and that’s the thing, it kind of comes out in the way she goal tends,” Shaw said. “She’s not that aggressive, but I mean she’s 13 or 14 years old, but I think she going to grow into a great goalie, I mean her work ethic is great.”
The blueprint for the Dolphins has remained the same from the first game of the season. Clutch goaltending when needed, but superb play from the young defensive core in front that excels not only in shot blocking, but keeping shots to the perimeter. Eighth-grader Lily Holmes and sophomore Summer Walsh have combined to tackle that challenge head on, aiding in the play of Reid.
Learning experience: Nauset/Cape Tech/Monomoy coach Scott Rebello knows that the future is bright for his team, but first he must endure the growing pains that accompany a young team.
The Furies have one of the youngest teams on the back-end of the ice on the Cape, starting with freshman goaltender Molly McKenna and continuing up to the blue-line which is anchored by three sophomore and a freshman.
That youth has certainly shown this season, as McKenna, who has started all 15 games this season, has seen over 450 shots on the year, an average of 30 per game.
But for a first-year varsity goaltender, the freshman has shown improvement over the season, stopping nearly 88 percent of those shots.
One may look at the Furies 3-11-1 record this season and struggle to find a positive, but Nauset/Cape Tech/Monomoy but that is not the case.
In just her first season, McKenna has the Furies on pace to allow the fewest goals ever in the program’s history by a landslide and have held their own against some of the best teams in the SEMGHL Southeast.
“We got Molly, and obviously she hadn’t played at this level, so she’s seeing nowhere near the number of shots, the velocity on those shots that she’s used to, but she’s made the adjustments so quickly, and we were quick to find out she has all the tools,” Rebello said.
For the first time in the young history of the Furies program, Rebello has a goaltender that will likely be a four-year starter that he can teach over an extended period of time.
Rebello knew exactly what he was getting with McKenna before she took to the ice. Throughout her youth hockey career, McKenna put up solid numbers between the pipes, which give Rebello hope that the program’s first playoff appearance is on the horizon.
“What we faced over the first four years of the program in making a goaltender, this is all you could ask for,” Rebello said. “Just to have someone with some experience, then to find out that she is so self determined to become better.”
Along with a young defensive core that includes Blue Fancy, Elsa Lalone, Cat Ready and Breanna Kender, he hopes that the five will mesh into a potent defensive force.