A 1-3-1 start was less than ideal for the Duxbury High girls’ hockey program, a perennial contender to make a deep run in the Division 1 state tournament.
But the youthful Dragons, under the direction of a new coach, former assistant Paul Reissfelder, have bounced back in a big way. With wins in seven of its last eight games entering Thursday’s matchup against Westford Academy at the Hingham Showcase, Duxbury (11-4-4) has emerged a legit contender in D1.
The MIAA Division 1 and 2 tournament seedings and pairings will be announced on Saturday.
“It’s honestly unimaginable,” said senior captain Cate Griffin .
“No one believed in us, and no one still believes in us but the 25 players and our three coaches. That’s all we need to believe in ourselves.”
From the start of the season, Reissfelder has wanted to get his team back to the state final at TD Garden.
A five-year assistant under former coach Friend Weiler , who stepped down before the season after guiding the Dragons to 200 wins and four straight titles, Reissfelder has kept expectations high.
“I think we deserve to be back at the Garden,” said Reissfelder, who is assisted by a pair of Duxbury residents, Dan Najarian and Keith Carter .
“That’s our end goal. Our first goal that we had set was winning the league, and we’ve done that. Next is win the division and make it back to the Garden.”
A number of the players on the roster have postseason experience, despite being on the younger side.
On the blue line, the Dragons are led by a pair of SEMGHL Coastal League All-Stars, senior Elizabeth Connolly and sophomore Mairead Kennedy . Reissfelder lauded the entire group on defense, along with the sophomore goalie tandem of Erin Mathews and Sue Bird.
On offense, the Dragons have three lines that include three league all-stars, junior Jillian Cosgrove (12-7—19), freshman Kate McDermott (12-7—19), and sophomore Jackie Hayden (9-7—16).
Reissfelder feels his team is peaking at the right time.
“I’m excited to see what happens in the playoffs and who we face in the first round,” he said. “Everyone didn’t expect us to be where we are right now.”
Griffin believes her team has what it takes to make it to TD Garden.
“I honestly feel that we can, 100 percent,” she said.
Other teams that may be a bit under the radar entering the tournament: Barnstable (10-7-2), Burlington (13-5-1), Canton (9-4-6), Masconomet (9-7-3), and Winthrop/Lynn/Saugus (11-6).
■ Braintree senior captain Katie Yaxter recorded a show-stopping goal in a 5-2 loss against Hingham on Sunday. The senior scored her 100th career point for the No. 20 Wamps (12-6-1), prompting a brief stoppage of the game, complete with balloons . . . a few Division 1 coaches were scouting the competition at the 10-team Hingham girls’ hockey showcase ahead of the postseason tournament. Many felt the the D1 tourney bracket is wide open this season . . . Per masshshockey.com, Reading senior Michaela Boyle is the state leader in goals (38) this season. Beverly/Danvers senior McKinley Karpa is the leader in points (32-37—69) and senior teammate Izzy Primack (31-36—67) is not far behind.
Players of the Week
Genny Kent, Martha’s Vineyard – The junior forwward notched her first career hat trick, including the tying goal with two seconds left in a 4-4 draw with Norwood.
Julianna Lynch, Hingham – The senior scored twice for No. 18 Hingham (10-5-6) in a 2-2 tie with No. 7 Westford Academy at the Hingham Hockey Showcase, including the tying goal with 40.1 seconds remaining.
Erin O’Brien, Arlington – The sophomore scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Arlington Catholic, tipping in a shot by Jillian Danton to help the Spy Ponders (9-6-3) qualify for the state tournament.
Lexi Rosenbaum and Molly Elmore, Masconomet – Rosembaum, a junior, scored twice 40 seconds apart, and Elmore (34 saves)., freshman goalie, helped the Chieftains (9-7-3) qualify for the state tournament in a 3-0 win over Winthrop/Lynn.
Elizabeth Phalen and Elizabeth Hernberg, Needham – The sophomore (Phalen) and senior (Hernberg) each scored twice for the No. 2 Rockets (19-0-2) in a 4-4 tie with No. 1 Notre Dame.
Games to Watch
■ Wednesday, Norwell at Pembroke, 3:40 p.m. — Ninth-ranked Pembroke (16-0-2) could win the Gould Memorial Championship at Hobomock Arena for the third straight season against Norwell (11-7-1). Cohasset/Hanover and Scituate play in the consolation game at 2.
■ Thursday, Austin Prep at Notre Dame Hingham, 10:55 a.m.— Who’s the top cat . . . Cougar? Fur will fly as No. 5 Austin Prep (14-2-2) takes on top-ranked Notre Dame Hingham (18-0-1) in the championship game of the Cougar Classic at Rockland Ice Arena. Plymouth and Milton play in the consolation game at 9:30.
■ Thursday, Winchester vs. Masconomet, 7 p.m. — No. 12 Winchester (11-4-4) and Masconomet (9-7-3) play in the championship game of the Newburyport Bank Classic at Graf Skating Rink . Marblehead and Winthrop/Lynn face off in the consolation game at 5.
■ Thursday, Duxbury vs. Westford, 4 p.m. — No. 14 Duxbury (11-4-4) faces No. 7 Westford (15-2-20) in the third game of the Hingham Showcase. Reading and Andover open at noon, Arlington Catholic and Acton Boxboro follow at 2, and later on, Arlington and Hingham play at 6, No. 10 St. Mary’s and No. 20 Braintree play at 8.Lenny Rowe can be reached at email@example.com.