Brittani Lanzilli is skating full-speed the second her blades touch the frozen surface on pretty much every other shift for the Medford High girls’ hockey team.
She cuts across the sheet of ice with precise moves, calculating not only the play in front of her, but the plays that will unfold afterward.
Over and over again, alongside linemates Samantha LoPilato and Marissa Willliams, she dives into corners and covers every inch of the ice on almost every shift.
By the third period, Lanzilli tugs on the bottom of her pants, supporting her stick across her knees when a whistle blows the play dead.
She is gassed, and she couldn’t be happier, because she is back home playing for her Mustangs once again, a year after skating on the Garden ice with St. Mary’s of Lynn as a sophomore.
Lanzilli burst onto the scene as a spry seventh-grader and soon became the face of Medford hockey, showing off a dazzling display of skills, amassing 141 points over her first three varsity seasons, making her the leading scorer in program history, as a freshman.
Then came a trip to Lynn that altered Lanzilli’s course.
Lanzilli had no plans to follow her best friend and fellow Medford resident, Kaleigh Finigan, when she accompanied her on a tour of St. Mary’s. Finigan was transferring from Austin Prep.
Sure, the girls remarked about going there together and playing the sport they love for one of the best girls’ hockey programs in the state. but Lanzilli did not take all that talk too seriously.
Then, on that visit, she fell in love with the school, and those past conversations with Finigan suddenly sparked a serious interest in playing for the Spartans.
“I was just going to go with [Kaleigh] to get her uniform,” said Lanzilli. “Everyone was so nice. I met a lot of girls there, and then the next week I was there with my parents signing papers. . . .
“I guess I just wanted to try a change. I had always heard so much of their hockey program. They live up to everything that’s said about them.”
It was the season that dreams are made of. It was what she had always wanted in her hockey career.
Here she was, able to showcase her skills in front of a wider audience, skating alongside her best friend and helping the Spartans reach the Division 1 state championship game against Arlington Catholic.
They would not skate off the Garden ice with the trophy that night, and the game would turn out to be Lanzilli’s last in a Spartans’ uniform.
There was a void, something missing from her experience with St. Mary’s, and she couldn’t deny it to herself. She wanted to go back to Medford.
“I missed all my friends,” said Lanzilli. “It was hard, because I loved the hockey [at St. Mary’s], but at the end, loving my high school here outweighed the hockey part.”
With open arms she was welcomed back, with no hard feeling among her peers.
“I wasn’t upset at all,” LoPilato said of Lanzilli’s decision to go to St. Mary’s. “I know she has really great opportunities ahead of her, and I know going to St. Mary’s was going to help her further her hockey playing on the college level.
“Brittani was a major loss. But with Brittani [back], it’s exciting, because it’s going to give us that extra boost. We just need to show it and work harder.”
How much of a boost will be evident as the season rolls along, but head coach David McCarthy thinks her return will go a long way to help not only Lanzilli, but those around her.
“It gives us stability and some credibility,” McCarthy said. “She’s the type of player that people around her, their game will get picked up. It was a welcome relief when I saw she was coming back.”
A quick look at the roster shows that this might not be a Mustangs team with the potential to make it to the Garden like St. Mary’s.
“We’ve been young,” said McCarthy, who is now in his fifth season coaching the Mustang girls. “We have a middle school waiver, and we don’t co-op with anybody. It seems like we’ve been young forever.”
Despite the team having only two seniors and five juniors to balance out the eight middle school players on the roster, Lanzilli would rather give it everything she’s got to help her hometown team be all it can be and more.
“Last year we had a really exciting tournament run,” Lanzilli said. “Everything that you dream of, like the Garden. . . . I want the same thing here.”
Lanzilli’s return bolsters the leadership core, headed by LoPilato, a grind-it-out senior captain, and Adrienne Porrazzo, a fearless sophomore defensive captain.
Lanzilli has already been involved in two-thirds of her team’s goals (five goals, five assists).
In her first game back with the Mustangs, she reached the 200-point plateau for her career.
LoPilato followed that up by registering her 100th point in their next game.
Even though the the results have not fully favored Medford to this point, as the team has stumbled out to a 1-2-1 record to start the season, Lanzilli stands firm on her decision.
“I think we can surprise people,” she said. “We’ve become the underdogs. I think the tournament is the best. I hope we get far.”
Every other shift at a time.
Low turnout shuts down Pope John-Malden boys
Prior to playing any games, the Pope John-Malden High boys’ varsity hockey team had the plug pulled on its season due to concern about the low number of players available.
After their co-op with St. Clement’s expired after last season, Pope John linked up with Malden, but were unfortunately unable to pull together a viable roster in time for the season.
Pope John has not fielded its own varsity team since 2008, and in Malden, hockey has not been offered to its students for nearly a decade.Craig Forde can be reached at email@example.com.