In the rare moments of downtime, before school, or between practices for their two club hockey teams, Ava and Kayla McGaffigan were always skating on their backyard rink at their East Dennis home.
The twins watched as their older sister, Anna (Class of 2018) donned the green and white jersey as a member of the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional girls’ hockey team, later joined by some of their older Cape Cod Sharks teammates. The twins — impatiently — continued working toward their chance to play at the high school level.
It finally came last season — and it didn’t come quietly. Skating for the varsity as eighth graders, the twins combined for 50-plus points for a squad that advanced to the Division 2 quarterfinals, the most successful run in program history.
This season, the McGaffigans have been even better: Ava has a team-leading 30 points on 14 goals and 16 assists, and Kayla has produced 17 goals and nine assists.
“They’re special,” said D-Y coach John Shaw. “They play hockey the way it should be played — with their heads up. They pass. They’re very good hockey players.”
There are no seniors skating for 10th-ranked Braintree (9-2). And No. 8 Notre Dame-Hingham (9-2) has been backstopped by eighth-grader Lily Prendergast, who has yielded just 14 goals. Eighth-grader Sam Taber is the leading scorer for top-ranked Austin Prep (10-0), continuing to fill into the role she carved out for herself last year as a seventh-grader (21 points).
“I try as hard as I can both years,” Taber said. “I just keep putting effort into both my seasons so far.”
Taber, who started playing youth hockey in Tewksbury at age 6 and plays with the North Shore Vipers, is one of 14 underclassmen on the AP team.
“The older girls help the younger girls a lot, with drills and motivation to just do your best,” Taber said. “They really do show good leadership. I support the younger ones, as does everyone else.”
Sophie Ensley, now a freshman at Lincoln-Sudbury, joined her school’s varsity team while in middle school.
“It was a little sad when the season ended,” Ensley said. “I knew I wasn’t going to see any of them, that I could only see them for that season. We’re closer now. I get to see them more often.”
“She’s one of the younger kids on the team, but even the upperclassmen forget what grade level she is because of how much we rely on her,” said L-S coach Paul Hardy. “She fits in well.”
For the players dominating at the high school level before they’re actually in ninth grade, it’s difficult to imagine what might lie ahead.
Methuen/Tewksbury senior Carolyn Curley got her start on the Red Rangers as a seventh grader. She is now in her sixth year on the team.
“If I didn’t start in seventh grade, I don’t think I’d be as good,” Curley said. “Playing with people that are older than you and better than you makes you better.
■ Off to an 11-0-1 start after Monday’s 7-2 win over Marshfield, Duxbury has received stellar play from its senior goaltending tandem of Erin Matthews and Sue Bird. For the third straight season, the two have evenly split playing time in the battle for late-season minutes. The Dragons have allowed only 14 goals, with each netminder posting sub-1 goals against averages.
■ Notre Dame Academy first-year coach John Findley faced a familiar foe when the Cougars took on crosstown rival Hingham in the Hingham Cup: his twin brother, Tom, head coach of the Harborwomen. “We think so much alike. We probably have the same ideas, the same focus,” John said. Senior Alexa Graziano notched a goal and an assist, and senior Kelly Morrissey and junior Kelsey Stewart added goals to help the ninth-ranked Cougars (9-2-0) to a 3-1 win over Hingham.