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Taylor Shepherd leads Salve Regina hockey squad

Quincy’s Shepherd gives edge to Salve

Taylor Shepherd is affectionately called Sister Shep by her teammates on the women’s hockey squad at Salve Regina University, in honor of the Quincy native’s status as its only religious education major.

The nickname, however, is hardly fitting on the ice. Shepherd is one of the fiercest players at the small Catholic school in Newport, R.I. Opposing goalies usually don’t stand a prayer against the 5-foot-6 sophomore forward, who leads the team with seven goals, including two game-winners.

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“To a certain degree she’s the meanest kid on our team, and I mean that in a good way,” said Salve Regina’s coach, ­Michael Cox. “She has a real edge to her game and can be nasty on the ice. And she has a great touch around the net.”

Shepherd, a graduate of Fontbonne Academy in Milton, has a knack for special teams play. She has three power-play and two short-handed goals for the Seahawks (7-5, 4-3 ECAC East). As a freshman, she was third on the team with 10 goals, including three power play and one short-handed.

“She has great puck instincts,” said Cox. “We allow her to be very aggressive on the penalty kill, and she’s very quick to jump on the puck and has a great touch around the net. All of those things add up to short-handed goals.”

‘To a certain degree she’s the meanest kid on our team, and I mean that in a good way.’

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Scoring in the clutch is nothing new for Shepherd, a double major also studying politics. She led Fontbonne to the Division 2 state finals three consecutive seasons, winning the state title in 2009 as a sophomore when she scored all three goals in the Ducks’ 3-0 win over the Whitman-Hanson/Pembroke co-op squad.

The Ducks lost at TD Garden in her junior and senior seasons. As a senior, Shepherd scored two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, to help the Ducks overcome a 2-0 deficit against Norwood in the state semifinals.

Shepherd didn’t miss a beat upon arrival at Salve Regina, where she started on the second line but quickly moved to the first line and added offensive firepower to the Salve attack. This season Shepherd scored a hat trick during a 6-1 victory over University of Massachusetts Boston, and is on pace to easily surpass the 10 goals she scored last season.

“A lot of it has to do with confidence and self motivation,” she said . “As a freshman you’re trying to prove what kind of player you are and that you can make the transition to college hockey. Now that I know the lay of the land, I’m more comfortable with my role.

“At the same time you need to have that mentality that you can’t get comfortable. Coach is going to play whoever is playing well, no matter if you’re a senior or a freshman.”

The biggest adjustment might be the lack of playing on a championship-contending team, something that Shepherd grew familiar with at Fontbonne.

Last season, Salve finished 11-10-5 and was bumped from the EACAC East playoffs in the first round; it was the third consecutive year that the Seahawks lost in overtime in their opening playoff match, and they are focused on breaking that streak.

“We’re hoping to make it past the first round this year,” said Shepherd. “We want to go deep into the ECAC playoffs. That’s really our goal, as well as playing consistent and coming out recharged for each game.”

The Seahawks are also receiving offensive support from freshman forward Molly O’Sullivan of Duxbury. A graduate of Westminster School, O’Sullivan has contributed four assists in six games. Caitlyn Farragher, a senior forward from Plymouth and Cushing Academy, has one assist in 12 games for the Seahawks. She had two goals and two assists a year ago.

“Caitlyn isn’t getting a ton of points right now but she’s a leader on our team as a senior,” said Cox. “Her role is on the checking line for us and she’s very good in the defensive zone. You need both kinds of kids, scorers like Taylor and kids who grind it out and do all the little things.”

Here and there

Paige Marshall, the Bay State League’s basketball MVP last season with Braintree High, is off to a fast start for Stonehill College. The freshman guard has started all nine games for the Skyhawks (8-1). She contributed five points, five rebounds, one steal, and one blocked shot in Stonehill’s only loss, a 66-50 setback to undefeated Bentley. She scored a ­career-high 10 points in Stonehill’s 60-49 win over Bridgeport . . . Hingham’s Ryan Kilcullen is averaging 3.8 points per game and 2.4 rebounds for the Williams College basketball team. The 6-foot-7 sophomore guard transferred to Williams from Boston College, where he appeared in eight games as a freshman last season. Kilcullen graduated from St. Sebastian’s in 2010 and spent a year at Phillips Exeter Academy. . . Weymouth’s Tim King has four goals and nine assists for the Saint Anselm College men’s hockey team, and a team-best +6 plus/minus rating. The senior forward and two-time captain has two game-wining tallies for the Hawks (6-2-1, 4-2-1 ECAC East).

John R. Johnson can be reached at jjohnson49@comcast.net.

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