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    GIRLS’ HOCKEY

    Hockey Night is the showcase for aspiring girls’ skaters

    Eastern Erika Lizotte, prepares to enter the ice at the Essex Sports Center, during Hockey Night in Boston. Mark Lorenz for the Boston Globe.
    MARK LORENZ FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE
    A slick puck mover on defense, Littleton’s Erika Lizotte helped her Eastern squad to the championship in the 24th Hockey Night in Boston Girls’ Showcase in Middleton.

    MIDDLETON — On the first Saturday in August, Erika Lizotte was soaking up the atmosphere inside the Essex Sports Center in Middleton, making rushes up the ice, putting pucks on net, and loving every minute.

    A rising senior at Lawrence Academy in Groton, the Littleton teen helped propel her Eastern squad to a 2-1 title win over Mass Public/Catholic, the defending champion, at the 24th Hockey Night in Boston Girls’ Major Showcase.

    Not quite a lazy summer day.

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    With preseason teams, club programs, the high school/prep schedule, and showcases for college coaches, there’s no offseason for aspiring girls’ hockey players.

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    “I love it,” said Lizotte.

    “Sometimes it can wear people down or people might get sick of it. For me, I love playing the sport year-round. It’s just fun and it gives me something to do.”

    Lizotte, who has the versatility and skill to play both up front and on the blue line, wanted to use the tournament to improve her skills on defense.

    “A coach first brought me to defense and I was basically skating around as a fourth forward,” Lizotte said.

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    Indeed, Lizotte was aggressive up the ice as a defender at HNIB, often joining the rush or pinching in from the point to keep the puck onside. Her teammates rotated back to cover her defensive zone.
    She picked up an assist from the blue line in a game against Minnesota.

    A pair of returning Globe All-Scholastics, Westwood High’s Kat Keith and Peabody’s Mady Hentosh (St. Mary’s Lynn), were contributors for the Public/Catholic runner-up squad.

    Kat Keith tries to squeeze the puck past Mid Atlantic, during Hockey in Boston, at the Essex Sports Center. Mark Lorenz for the Boston Globe.
    MARK LORENZ FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE
    Skating for the Mass Public/Catholic squad, Westwood’s Kat Keith (center) tries to squeeze the puck past Mid-Atlantic goalie at the Hockey Night in Boston Girls’ Showcase in Middleton.

    Keith, a playmaking forward, buried two quick goals in Public/Catholic’s first game, a 4-0 win over Rhode Island. Her play in the offensive zone was energetic and aggressive all tournament. Hentosh showed off her strong skating, backtracking smoothly to prevent forwards from getting clean looks.

    “I get to play with a bunch of girls that I spent all winter playing against. It’s fun to get together,” said Keith, who collected 22 goals and 22 assists last season for Westwood.

    The 19 players on the Public/Catholic roster, under the direction of St. Mary’s of Lynn coach Frank Pagliuca, represented 17 cities and towns — though the Austin Prep, Hingham, Methuen/Tewksbury, and St. Mary’s programs had two players apiece.

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    Lizotte’s Eastern squad featured four Lawrence Academy players along with the coach, Kevin Potter, but had 17 players from 17 zip codes. Half of the players in the tourney hailed from the Bay State, but there were athletes from 17 other states and Canadian provinces.

    The tourney’s leading scorer, Carolina Goffredo, from Mt. Laurel, N.J., tallied 10 goals and three assists for Tri-State.

    Two Bay Staters, Reading High forward Kat Paradis (4 goals, 5 assists for Public/Catholic) and Worcester Academy’s Ciara Wall (4-5-9; Central) tied for second.

    A number of the players savored the opportunity to play with and against former rivals or new faces.

    Using speed and their playmaking abilities in the offensive zone, Keith and her teammates had to play differently against the larger, more physical Minnesotans than against more familiar foes.

    “It was definitely a challenge, and showed us things to improve on,” Keith said.

    St. Mary's Mady Hentosh (#19) gets tangled with a Mid Atlantic player in the second period of action, during Hockey Night in Boston at the Essex Sports Center. Mark Lorenz for the Boston Globe.
    Mark Lorenz/for the Globe
    Playing for Mass. Public/Catholic, St. Mary's Mady Hentosh (right) gets tangled with a Mid Atlantic player at the Hockey Night in Boston Girls’ Showcase in Middleton.

    As Hentosh noted, “this is a good experience to get a lot of good girls across Massachusetts — prep school, private school, public school. It’s good to see what everyone’s about.”

    Showcases like Hockey Night are frequented by college, prep, and junior coaches, and it’s an important time for impression-making for many of the 300 players.

    “It’s good for a lot of the public school girls to get exposure,” said Potter. “A lot of the prep school girls will have showcases and things all the time, so this is really good for the kids who don’t get those opportunities.”

    Hentosh, who is hoping to play for a Division 3 college program, said it’s always a good idea to “know who’s in the stands.”

    But on the bench, there is a slight transition in skating with new teammates.

    “It takes the first couple games to get used to each other,” said Hentosh. “But then, it’s just like normal. A lot of these girls have been on the team for the past three showcases, so there’s some familiarity.”

    Mackenzie O’Neil, a rising junior forward for defending Division 2 champion Wellesley High, does not mind the lack of familiarity.

    “There a ton of really talented players around me, which is fun,” said O’Neil. She scored an important goal for New England in a 4-3 win over the Junior Shamrocks club team, roping a wrist shot high from the mid slot off a pass from the corner.

    Brewster Academy coach Maeve Connolly, also an HNIB playing alum, said “It’s good for them to be with players they haven’t played with before. It’s good for them to have coaches they may not know.”

    The strong showing by Bay State players and teams bodes well for the future of girls’ hockey in Massachusetts.

    “I’ve been amazed to see the level,” said Potter. “It just keeps getting better and better. If you go watch the younger kids, U10, U12, it’s incredible. And more and more girls are getting into it. The Olympics were huge, of course. It’s thriving.”

    Charlie Wolfson can be reached at charlie.wolfson@globe.com.