BOURNE, Mass. – In just their fifth year as a hockey program, and third as a varsity squad, Bourne/Mashpee/Wareham coach Kristyn Alexander still doesn’t have the turnout that she would like.
With the low numbers in the program, any move to make BMW a deeper team is on the table and just two games into the season, an opportunity presented itself.
Following back-to-back losses to begin the season Alexander asked senior-goalie Ariel St. Germaine to move to the forward line in order to insert eighth-grade goalie Michaela O’Brien between the pipes.
The move immediately paid off as BMW and O’Brien allowed seven goals over their next five games, going 3-0-2 in that stretch and positioning themselves for a postseason push.
“It has brought our game to the next level because we are playing against teams that have been around for a while and that are established and we are still getting there,” said Alexander. “With Ariel skating our there and Michaela in net it has made us that much stronger at both ends.”
O’Brien has taken on the competition head on in her 10 games this season. In a half season of play, she ranks third on Cape and amongst the top-20 in the state with a 92.7 save percentage while allowing just over two goals per game. Her greatest performance of the season came a little over a week ago when Marshfield peppered her with 16 shots in the opening period, and O’Brien kept the Rams off the scoreboard.
“It’s a lot faster hockey and the girls are a lot bigger so it’s hard to see over them at 5-3 when you have girls that are six feet in front of you,” said O’Brien. “The team is just playing great in front of me and I had to adapt to the game and the quicker speeds and its been going well.”
The move was made possible by the selfless act from the only senior on the team in St. Germaine who had been the only goalie to suit up for BMW in their young history. But in an effort to make her team deeper this season, the captain shed her goalie pads, yielded her post to O’Brien and took up a position on the forward line.
“I think that adding one more player really pushes us over the edge because we had one goalie sitting on the bench and that didn’t really do anything for us,” said St. Germaine. “But now that we have two strong lines it’s really helped us improve our game.”
For the betterment of the team: In the first year of BMW girls hockey, 15 girls came out for the inaugural season but Alexander had no goalies in net. Then as an eighth grader, St Germaine answered the call and volunteered to play the role despite no prior experience.
She went through the growing pains of a young team, going through the ranks of two years as a junior varsity team and a two-win varsity season before falling just short of a postseason berth last year.
“She stepped up five years ago when we didn’t have a goalie and learned the position and took it head on,” Alexander said. “That just shows she’s a born leader and has the true leadership and true character. I wish I had a team full of Ariels because she’s very coachable and she’s willing to do what the team needs at that moment.”
Now four years later, St. Germaine returns to her previous spot on the ice where she doesn’t see the adjustment as a difficult one.
“It wasn’t difficult for me because she’s going to be on the team in the future, so to keep her in net was crucial, where for me it’s my last year,” said St. Germaine. “Going back to where I was isn’t going that difficult.”
Adjusting to the competition: O’Brien didn’t take long to figure out the high school scene, allowing just one goal in each of her first three games before allowing two in a home-and-home with Bishop Stang as BMW went 3-0-2 in that span.
In her seventh career game, O’Brien earned her first shutout as BMW blanked Nauset/Cape Tech 2-0 on January 10th.
“The bodies out front, my defense is doing a good job moving them out and that lets me see the puck from the point,” said O’Brien. “If I can see it, it’s not going in the net.”
The eighth grader however is no stranger to high levels of competition. She was a member of the Tier II U14 team that made the trip to Amherst, N.Y for Nationals last April. As the No. 2 goaltender behind Barnstable’s Olivia Sollows, O’Brien logged 81 minutes of play and allowed an average of 1.19 goals per game before the Storm were limited in the quarterfinals.
Deeper attack: With BMW not quite as potent offensively as they were a season ago, the play of O’Brien has been critical. Alexander moved last season’s second leading scorer Tannah O’Brien (20-13-33) to the blue line along side Natalia Gordon, leaving forward Marissa Fitzgerald (21-15-36) to form new chemistry with her line mates.
The moves has paid off as BMW is a much more defensively sound team this season while the offensive has become deeper. Freshmen Carly LaCasse (6-1-7) and Leah Hidenfelter (4-2-6) have stepped up in the offensive games while Fitzgerald (5-4-9) and O’Brien (5-4-9) still lead the team.
“This year it’s more spread out, we now have Tannah back on defense and she was one of our top scorers,” said Alexander. “Carly and Leah are picking up the slack and Marissa is still picking up that slack.”
With a majority of the players under classmen (eight freshman, three eighth graders), including all aforementioned offensive players excluding sophomore Tannah O’Brien, BMW has no where to go but up over the coming years.
Inching towards the postseason: With five games remaining on their schedule, BMW needs to collect five points to clinch their first-ever postseason berth. The task is certainly feasible with a pair of games against Martha’s Vineyard along with dates with Dennis-Yarmouth and Nauset/Cape Tech.
After going 2-12-3 in the inaugural season, the co-op team fell just short of the postseason last year with a 8-10-1 record, dropping their last two games of the season against Auburn.