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Lexington High girls’ hockey takes disciplined approach to success

Jackie Denning, center, led teammates Sarah Lehman, left, and Carolyn Avery down the ice.

Jon Chase for the Boston Globe

Jackie Denning, center, led teammates Sarah Lehman, left, and Carolyn Avery down the ice.

Amanda Ciarletta was a senior captain on the University of Massachusetts Boston women’s ice hockey team when Maura Crowell was hired as head coach in the fall of 2005.

Just a few years older than Ciarletta — Crowell was 25 at the time — the new coach needed to establish her values immediately.

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“A lot of it was discipline,” Crowell said. “Structure. And systems. But I mean discipline on and off the ice.”

She was strict from Day 1. She needed the support of the captains or it could have easily backfired. Ciarletta loved it.

Years later, as Ciarletta begins her third season as head coach of the Lexington High School girls’ squad, the Minutemen are being coached in a very similar way.

The values of coaching are almost hereditary, naturally passed from an inspirational teacher to an impressionable player.

“Everything I wanted to implement, she was willing to do it all,” Crowell recalled of Ciarletta’s stint on her team at ­UMass. “She was excited for it. She helped bring that to the rest of the team too, which was so important. She helped that be a smooth transition because you know how that can go. That can very easily go the other way.”

After just four years at ­UMass Boston, Crowell became the winningest coach in the program’s history, and left in 2010 with a career record of 73-53-4.

Now an assistant at Harvard, Crowell says she brought her belief in conditioning to UMass, where Ciarletta, the team’s goalie, was “in phenomenal shape.” Crowell also believed in dedication. Ciarletta, she said, “loved being in the weight room.”

As a coach, Ciarletta is still reflecting similar qualities.

The biggest may be the most important.

UMass Boston was a high-flying, aggressive hockey team that thrived off scoring. Lexington has been that, scoring 92 goals last year. This winter, the Minutemen return one of the most dynamic scoring lines in the state, a triple threat of childhood friends, Carolyn ­Avery , Jackie Denning , and Sara Lehman , who have finally hit their senior year, though it seems like they’ve been upperclassmen for four years.

The hard part has been pulling it all together, with the defense and the goaltending, and making it jell consistently.

For help, Ciarletta often turns to Crowell, who is eager to answer the phone and happier still to use her scanning machine to send documents full of drills, from skating to shooting, and checking to forechecking.

“We try to take what she gives me and adapt and modify to what we have,” Ciarletta said. “For us, we like to focus on a lot of defense. It can be the difference between whether or not we’re successful.

“We practice the D-zone, but we’ll have the kids turn their stick over. It helps them to skate through the girl instead of just reading with their sticks. It makes them skate better and improves the footwork.”

Ciarletta is surrounded by hockey minds. Her husband, Mike Ciarletta , an Arlington Catholic alum, is the varsity boys’ coach at Andover High. And her co-worker in the physical education department at Lexington is the legendary St. Mary’s coach, Frank Pagliuca .

“We’ll exchange drills, bounce ideas off each other,” said Ciarletta, whose squad will likely need to get through St. Mary’s to claim a Division 1 crown come March. “There’s never that feeling like, ‘Oh, I have to keep this a secret from you.’ ”

The drills are working, the girls are becoming dedicated, and Crowell’s old coaching habits are rubbing off.

“She has a love for the game,” said junior goalie Amanda Charlton . “We’ve done some new drills so far, these past couple weeks. They’re a lot tougher than we’re used to. But she has a lot of patience with us.”

Charlton, who has pleasantly surprised in her first year as the full-time netminder, thinks there’s something Lexington really needs to work on.

“We need to build up our stamina and condition more,” Charlton said.

Ciarletta would be proud. So, too, is her old coach.

Penalty kills shot at Franklin’s first win

The Franklin High girls nearly picked up their first win of the season Saturday against a tough Medfield team, but a five-minute penalty in the game’s final minutes led to a pair of power play goals in a 2-2 tie that left the Panthers winless through six games (0-5-1).

After a 12-5-3 finish to last season, the young squad has yet to jell this winter, though coach Margie Burke thinks that will change with time.

Burke said the major penalty was absolutely the right call, but an incidental one that she didn’t find worthy of further punishment, especially with her player stuck in the box for the remainder of the game.

Afterward, Burke said Medfield coach Molly Norton told her that a Franklin player had left the ice without shaking hands. Unaware initially, Burke later reprimanded that player.

Burke said she has benched top players, even in big games, if they suffer any lapse when it came to sportsmanship.

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, whose daughter, Gabby Schilling , plays for Medfield, took to his 50,000-plus Twitter followers Saturday night to air his feelings on the matter. His posting: Franklin HS Girls hockey coach should be ashamed. Poorest display of sportsmanship I’ve ever seen in amateur sports #proudwarriorparent.

Tough loss at buzzer for Arlington Catholic

Right before the final buzzer sounded in a hard-fought game between the Arlington Catholic and Andover boys’ hockey teams, the Cougars suffered a crushing blow.

With a 3-2 lead in the Ed Burns Holiday Classic consolation game, Arlington Catholic won a faceoff in its own zone but turned it over, and Andover’s Markie Campbell found the net right before the horn.

The day before, the Cougars surrendered a 2-1 third-period lead to Billerica when the Indians scored twice in seven minutes to finish a 3-2 win.

“That’s just experience, as far as late in the game, being able to protect that lead,” said coach Dan Shine . “It takes experience, and a lot of practice. We have to work on that.”

Seniors Zach Blanch (two goals, two assists) and Brendon O’Connell (one goal, two assists) played well in the two tournament games, though the Cougars’ top line is still looking to fill the void of senior Steve Kehoe , who has been out with an injury.

Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at jasonmastrodonato@yahoo.com.
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