In about a month — or a little longer, if the Arlington Catholic girls’ hockey team gets its way — senior captain Danielle Kelley might find herself doing something she’s never done in front of the Cougars before: Cry.
When the season does end, it will also be the end for her classmates and fellow captains Maddy Roberts and Duggan Delano . The graduation of Kelley and Roberts, in particular, will signal the end of an era; the pair are the first four-year players under Maggie Taverna , who started coaching the program in the fall of 2010, when Kelley and Roberts were freshmen.
“It’s sad, leaving this team,” Kelley said after practice at Veterans Memorial Skating Rink in Somerville Sunday morning. “I’ll probably cry.”
If they are tears of happiness streaming down her face in remembrance of all AC has done in her time there, Kelley would have good reason. Taverna’s Cougars are 56-19-8 through Sunday, a run that includes a Division 1 state championship in 2012, a second title game berth a year later, and a 11-2-1 team poised to make another deep run this postseason.
All of those wins started with one late November skating session in 2010, Taverna’s first at the helm and Kelley and Roberts’s first as high schoolers. Taverna doesn’t remember it — “It’s a faded memory,” she said. But for the then-freshmen, the memory is easily recalled.
“I was so nervous. I played terribly, actually,” Roberts said with a big laugh. “The seniors scared me even though they were really nice. I just didn’t know them yet.”
Added Kelley: “I knew a few of [the seniors], so it wasn’t so bad. But it was still kind of scary, especially since there was no JV team. You made it or got cut.”
They remember the 23-year-old Taverna being light-hearted that first day, keeping the players laughing but also trying to instill the base for the work ethic she wanted to see — a delicate balance she still uses.
When it’s all said and done, though, it won’t be that first practice, or any practice, or any of the many wins that stick out most for the captains. That moment came after one of the wins.
“The Garden game, remember?” Roberts said, turning to Kelley and referencing the team’s 3-1 victory over St. Mary’s (Lynn) for the state title in 2012.
In the locker room postgame Taverna “just goes, ‘I was waiting the whole season for this.’ And she did a back handspring.”
Kelley gawked at the time, and laughed in remembrance a full 23 months later.
“She came in the locker room and she just . . . did it,” Kelley said.
For her part, Taverna is quick to note Roberts and Kelley followed the same track as most high school athletes. “They grow up a lot.”
Both players saw sporadic time as freshmen only to see those roles expand dramatically. Kelley, a Charlestown resident, sees usual shifts and is an important member of the special team units, while Roberts also gets regular time and uses her speed to create pressure with a strong forecheck. The 5-foot-nothing Roberts, a Wilmington resident, also exhibits a great amount of “grit.”
“Every time she comes out on the ice at the beginning of a period, she says, ‘I’m going to score a goal,’ ” Taverna said. “That’s her mentality. She says it out loud to us.”
Although their offensive contributions are limited — junior forward Adrieanna Rossini (25 points) often handles that — they contribute in other ways, a factor Delano can attest to. When she transferred in from Austin Prep as a sophomore, Roberts was one of the first to show her around the school — the mark of a captain, two years before she got the C.
It’s a letter she’ll wear for another month, maybe more. Then she, Kelley, and Delano will say so long.
“It’s special to be able to play hockey and go to high school and enjoy the camaraderie of all these things,” said Taverna.
Arlington hockey a force again
Note to Division 1 North teams: The Arlington High boys’ hockey team is good again.
At 10-3-4 following a 2-0 win over Reading Saturday, the Spy Ponders have their best group in at least a decade, by coach John Messuri’s estimation. The sense of excitement around the team, school, and town is palpable.
“We’ve come a long way the last two years — a little bit faster than I thought we’d be in contention,” said Messuri, who is in his third year at the helm. “We’re ecstatic Arlington hockey is back on the map.”
The recipe for success is not anything out of the ordinary. According to Messuri, the Spy Ponders have a mix of strong leadership from the seniors, timely scoring from junior Jack Kelly (25 goals), and consistent goaltending from senior Mike Schiller (.920 save percentage, 2.14 goals-against average). The team is also dealing with the death of legendary former coach Ed Burns Sunday.
Schiller’s performance in particular is impressive considering it is his first year as the starter. He backed up Middlesex League (Large) All-Stars John Lepore in 2011-12 and Luke Tremblay in 2012-13.
The Spy Ponders qualified for the state tournament last year, but made a first-round exit. They fully expect this season to be different.
“We’ve been talking lately saying ‘Hey, last year we knew we had a ceiling,’” Messuri said. “This year we don’t think we have a ceiling.”
Here and there
The Newton North boys (7-7-2) need four points in four games to qualify for the postseason. Whether they make it, the Tigers played at least one game they won’t soon forget: senior night vs. Brookline, an 8-0 win. Senior captains Anthony Calabro , Cory Chin, and Alex Joyce all scored, as did senior forward Nick Sera . . . . Watch out for coach Chris Ryberg’s Newton South boys. They’ve won nine straight over the course of a month through Sunday after starting the season 1-5-1. . . . When Archbishop Williams and St. John’s Prep dropped the AC boys by scores of 2-1 and 3-2, respectively, last week, it was the first time the Cougars lost two consecutive games in a year. SJP was also involved in last year’s mini-skid.Tim Healey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.