On Monday afternoon, Acton Boxborough goalie Madigan Anderson looked across the ice to a formidable foe at Frozen Fenway.
The contrast between the A-B roster and that of Dual County League rival Westford Academy was rather stark.
In a last-second 3-2 loss, the seventh grader faced 21 shots from a Westford squad team made up of mostly upperclassmen.
“We have a really good defense,” said Anderson. “They help me a lot, and I’m very grateful for that. We have some really good players, even though we’re a younger team.”
The Colonials roster includes 12 players that are freshman or younger; that includes Anderson and three teammates that are also seventh graders.
“We’re really young,” said A-B coach Brian Fontas.
“It’s the youngest team I’ve had since I’ve been here for 17 years. “We’re young, we’re still learning. We’ll be in every game, we’ll battle, it’s the little things we need to get better at. That will come with maturity; these kids are young, but they know how to play hockey.”
Acton Boxborough (1-4) is not the only team leaning on young players.
Aylah Cioffli, a seventh grader at St. Mary’s of Lynn, has 11 points in six games. In Eastern Massachusetts, there are 8 eighth grade goalies on roster. Ellen Linso, an eighth grader at Boston Latin, has fourth-best save percentage (.956) in the state.
More and more teams are opting to co-op with other schools to field competitive teams. Yet the participation level appears to be dwindling, thus opening for the door for younger players to earn spots on rosters.
Anderson is the youngest goalie to earn regular playing time. She had to leave school early on Monday to play at Fenway, but she said her teachers were “cool” with it, and were impressed.
“It’s a little bit nervewracking,” Anderson said. “I was just thinking ‘please don’t let in an own goal’ and it will be fine.”
“Our youngest [player] is 12, and I’m 18,” said Acton Boxborough senior captain Lisa Kidd. “It’s a wide range, but I came on the team when I was a seventh grader and it was like that, and we all get along so well, we’re together every day.”
“I’ve honestly been so proud of her,” said Kidd about Anderson. “She’s been keeping up and holding her own.”
“She worked hard over the summer to get better,” Fontas said. “She knew it would be her job, and she’s done a fantastic job.”
For Anderson, and the rest of the young Acton Boxborough crew, at the end of the day it comes down to just playing hockey, no matter the age.
“All of us, we’re just trying our best.”
Denna Laing remains an inspiration for countless players, from former and current collegians to the ranks.
The 25-year-old Marblehead native suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury in the 2015 Women’s Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium. Since, she has received overwhelming support in her recovery, and lauded for her perseverance.
On Women’s and Girls’ Hockey Day at Fenway Park on Tuesday, the former Princeton captain and three-sport athlete at Noble & Greenough in Dedham dropped the puck for a matchup between Noble and Independent School League rival Buckingham, Browne, & Nichols. Every player on the ice — the Nobles players clad in blue, and BB&N in yellow — wore No. 24 jerseys to honor Laing.
Noble & Greenough senior forward Becca Gilmore, who netted three goals in her team’s 4-1 win over BB&N, said Laing is “a fellow Nobles student and someone I know well and a lot of people know well.”
“It’s an incredible opportunity to play for her.”
Laing said Nobles has been a major pillar in her recovery, along with the hockey community.
“The support I’ve received couldn’t be any greater. The hockey world has been amazing — Boston specifically. They have all been so supportive,” said Laing.
“It’s so funny, we just moved back to our house [Marblehead] right before Christmas. The amount of jerseys that I have in my closet, it’s like a full section. The support has been crazy, really welcomed, definitely what I needed.”
On Tuesday night, her younger sisters, Brianna, a senior goalie, and Lexie, a junior center, started for Harvard in their Frozen Fenway matchup, a 3-1 loss to Boston College.
Players of the Week:
■ Michaela Boyle, Reading and Emily Devine, Lexington – Boyle opened up the Middlesex Liberty League contest with four goals. Devine answered back with four of her own for Lexington (3-2-2) as the two squads played to a 4-4 draw.
■ Kerri Bolivar, Westford Academy – The junior defender scored with 24.7 seconds left at Frozen Fenway to lead the Grey Ghosts (3-1-1) to a 3-2 win over Acton-Boxboro in a Dual County League matchup.
■ Emily Marciello, Falmouth – The junior had 20 saves for the Clippers (5-1) in a 2-0 SEMGHL Coastal win over Canton.
■ Alexis Sia, Stoneham – She netted the winner with four minutes left in the third period to lead the Spartans (5-2) to a 3-2 Middlesex Freedom League win over Watertown.
■ Ciara Wall, Matignon – The sophomore notched her 100th career point with two goals and two assists in a 6-3 win over Arlington Catholic.
Games to Watch:
■ Wednesday, Cohasset/Hanover vs. Norwell, 4:20 – Two of the top teams in the SEMGHL Northeast battle it out at the Bog in Kingston.
■ Wednesday, Walpole at Needham, 6:40 – The 17th-ranked Rebels (4-1-2) travel to Needham (5-0-1) in a matchup of the Herget and Carey Division leaders in the Bay State Conference.
■ Saturday, Matignon at St. Mary’s, 2:10 – The Warriors (7-1) visit St. Mary’s (4-2) in a clash of high-scoring Catholic Central attacks.
■ Saturday, Arlington Catholic at Austin Prep, 6 – It’s Cougar vs. Cougar as Arlington Catholic (2-5), the defending Division 1 state champion, takes on top-ranked Austin Prep (4-0-1) at Stoneham Arena.
Lenny Rowe also contributed to this story. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Marisa Ingemi can be reached at email@example.com.