The leading scorer from defending Division 2 champion girls’ hockey team is now skating in the Independent School League and the head coach has stepped away after back-to-back championships.
Yet Notre Dame Academy-Hingham is still considered a major threat to make another run at a title after last year’s 23-0-1 campaign.
Katie Pyne, who tallied 40 goals in a fabulous freshman season, now plays for Noble & Greenough in Dedham. Jean-Yves Roy stepped down as coach after four highly-successful seasons. His assistant, Quincy native Chris Marshall, has taken the helm behind the bench.
“I think when you spend that kind of time with somebody like J-Y, who I consider to be a world-class individual in terms of his hockey background and the way that he conducts himself, you really learn a lot,” said Marshall, who played collegiately at Michigan State and Boston College before playing professionally for four seasons (1990-94).
“It’s a unique situation, but I think a positive one. I think it’s a little bit easier for me and the girls that I’m not facing a brand new group of girls and they’re not facing someone they’re not familiar with in terms of what the message is and what we’re trying to accomplish this year.”
On the ice, the Cougars are primed for a chance at a three-peat thanks to the return of all but two players from last season – Pyne and Skyler Irving.
The backbone is sophomore Erin Murray, who registered a 1.02 goals against average and .944 save percentage in her freshman campaign. The return of senior defenders Emma Duffey, Meredith Stewart and Jill Lyons, all captains, could result in an even better unit than one that yielded just 27 goals all last season.
The offense will be balanced and four lines deep.
“It was a blessing and a curse at the same time,” said Marshall. “. . . I think we’re a much more balanced team this year from the offensive perspective. When you have a player like [Pyne] who is responsible for such a huge percentage of offense, some of the other girls might take a back seat in their own minds . . . I think what it does by not having them there is they all realize they need to raise their game a little bit.”
The Cougars had their 30-game unbeaten streak snapped with a season-opening 3-1 loss to reigning Division 1 champion Woburn to open the season. No reason to panic.
“It was a quiet dressing room after that game,” said the coach.
“In some respects, I think it was good for us to feel what it’s like to lose. It’s not a good feeling and they didn’t like it, and so I think that certainly in the season, it can be a positive for us to build on and figure out that we need to work and learn how to win.
“You can’t just show up and expect to win, and people know we’re coming. We’re not a secret anymore, so we’ve got to put our best foot out every night.”
At Woburn, the early results have been promising in D1 title defense.
After graduating five seniors from a 21-2-2 squad, the Tanners are relying on young players to fill key roles on both sides of the ice.
The steady hand of Georgie Santullo (38 goals, 27 assists last season) is important, but coach Bob MacCurtain knows his team cannot be one dimensional.
“I think they all have to play well,” said MacCurtain. “Certainly, [Santullo] is a competitor, but if all we’re relying on is her, we’re in trouble. We’ve got a great group of forwards with six seniors . . . We like our depth up front and then we’ve got some good young infusion of talent there.”
Santullo scored twice against NDA, and despite the teachable moments for his young core, MacCurtain thinks his Tanners can be right back at the TD Garden for the state final in March.
“There’s a lot of teaching early on here, but we like our group,” said MacCurtain, in his 18th season.
“. . . It’s one of those things where we wanted to play a good team early on. Either way, I wasn’t going to make too much of it other than to find out where we’re at and where we’ve got to get better because you don’t really win anything in early December.
“But it was a good start, for sure.”
SEMGHL shiftThere is a seismic shift for the Southeastern Massachusetts Girls Hockey League for the 2017-18 season, with a number of programs moving to the traditional leagues of their other school programs.
Dennis-Yarmouth, Cape Cod Tech/Nauset, Falmouth, Marshfield and Sandwich form the Atlantic Coast League. Canton, Franklin, King Philip, Mansfield/Oliver Ames/Foxborough and Stoughton make up a five-team Hockomock.
New entrant Dedham joins Westwood along with co-ops from Dover-Sherborn/Hopkinton, Medfield/Norton and Medway/Ashland in the Tri-Valley League. The Patriot League will feature a talented Duxbury squad along with Hingham, Pembroke, Scituate and co-ops from Quincy/North Quincy, Plymouth North/Plymouth South and Whitman-Hanson/Silver Lake.
Latin Academy has merged with Fontbonne to form one of the teams in the new SEMGHL, joined by Barnstable, Bishop Stang, Bourne/Mashpee/Wareham, Cohasset/Hanover, Martha’s Vineyard and Norwell.
Defending D2 champion Notre Dame-Hingham and Ursuline will play as independents with the Catholic Conerence disolving. Matignon joins the Catholic Central League.Correspondent Lenny Rowe also contributed to this story.