There is no lack of motivation for the Winthrop/Lynn varsity girls’ hockey team this season.
Their stellar 14-5-1 season a year ago ended with a 1-0 loss to Braintree in the first round of the Division 1 tournament, pushing the players to work hard during the offseason.
On Saturday, in front of a packed house at the Larsen rink at the Mike Eruzione Center, the Bulldawgs faced rival Marblehead/Swampscott. The scene was not unfamiliar: The two squads go head-to-head often, and have a terrific standing relationship; they have even squared off on the ice at Fenway Park in the past.
This matchup, however, was special.
On the ice, players wore pink laces and taped the blades on their sticks pink. In the stands, everyone donned their own pink gear along with pink hats and ribbons that were being sold to raise money for the Marie C. Petrilli Fund as part of a “Pink the Rink” campaign to honor Leanne Silverman.
A 39-year-old mother of two, Silverman was diagnosed last January with Stage 3 breast cancer. Upon receiving the news, her family turned to the Petrilli Fund, a local charity that strives to relieve the daily struggles of cancer patients and their families. The fund, based in Winthrop, provides a number of services, including awarding scholarships to local students going into nursing.
When Silverman finished her chemotherapy treatment, the fund paid for an “end-of-chemo” party for her.
The little things can often make such a difference.
Winthrop High girls’ coach Anthony Martucci coaches the Silvermans’ daughter, Madison , on a U10 team in a youth league. He, along with varsity coach Dale Dunbar decided to put together the “Pink the Rink” event for Saturday’s double-header against Marblehead.
As Silverman’s husband, Pete , noted, Winthrop is a “hockey town.”
With two young children in the Winthrop youth hockey program, hockey is not only the Silvermans’ escape from daily struggles, it’s a huge part of their daily life. It only made sense when they found out the girls’ hockey team would be playing for them.
“This is our life. This is our second home,” Leanne Silverman said. “Everyone says ‘you’re an inspiration’ but I said — ‘you’d do it if you had to’ . . . you’ve got to keep going. I’m still not there yet, there’s a lot of little pieces missing, but I’m not going out this young.”
That was certainly extra motivation for the Bulldawgs, who connected for a pair of goals by Kara Donati and Flora English just 19 seconds apart in the first period for a quick 2-0 lead.
Marblehead, however, responded with four unanswered goals for a 4-2 cushion entering the third period.
But less than a minute into the period, sophomore assistant captain Caroline McKinnon , a humble girl who doesn’t like to take much credit, netted the third Winthrop goal. Larsen Rink erupted, and for the next several minutes, the entire building was on edge, every shot stirring loud “oohs” and “ahhs” while family, friends, and neighbors lined the glass holding hands and nervously jumping in anticipation.
With 9:33 remaining, Julianna Kennedy tied the game at 4. Fans banged the glass, stomped their feet, and a few people even had tears in their eyes, saying to each other “This is for Leanne.”
That moment of pure elation brought everyone together, making them forget for a moment their hardships.
“We’re all so close,” Donati said. “This is my second family. I call them my sisters. We’re such a close-knit team.”
Martucci agrees. “That dynamic of three different schools from three different towns (Winthrop, Lynn, and Saugus) really makes for the dynamic of a great team,” he noted.
But in the end, despite the emotion, the Bulldawgs had no answer for Manchester Essex student Brittany Smith , who netted her third goal of the game to hand Marblehead a 5-4 lead with eight minutes left and connected two minutes later. Brittany Lydon added an empty netter for the 7-4 final.
Despite the loss, Winthrop (5-2-1) is off to a terrific start and the squad is still finding its way offensively after the graduation of top scorer Mackenzie Clark (196 career points), now playing at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Much like Leanne Silverman, there are still a few little things missing. Ten months ago, their season ended earlier than expected.
Neither the Bulldawgs nor Silverman have quite reached their ultimate goals. But thanks to one another, they’ve both got a little something extra to work for.
The defending Division 2 state champion Wilmington High boys came into the season riding high and looking to continue their torrid play.
However, an opening night 3-1 loss to Woburn was an early wake-up call.
“It was a slap in the face, we kind of needed it,” said coach Steve Scanlon , in his 23d sason behind the bench.
That “slap” was all the Wildcats needed: They ripped off eight straight wins before suffering a 4-3 loss to Malden Catholic on Monday night. In the unbeaten streak, Wilmington outscored opponents, 36-6, recording four shutouts.
That type of play is the norm though, as “expectations were high” entering the season. Scanlon has an experienced group with “a lot of good players.”
That starts in goal with junior Drew Foley , along with senior captain Cam Owens, a second-team all-state selection last season who entered mid-week six points shy of the school scoring record. And Dylan DiNatale scored a hat trick Monday against Malden Catholic.
Scanlon believes it is his team’s balance, depth, and speed that will allow Wilmington to “push the pace.”
“We’re looking to try to win the Middlesex League [Freedom] division and want to be battle-tested. So far, so good,” he said.
Pat Bradley can be reached at email@example.com.