The toughest challenge for a four-school ice hockey co-op — such as the Medway/Ashland/Holliston/Millis affiliation of Tri-Valley League members — is building chemistry with a group of girls residing in different communities.
But that dynamic receives a big assist at Medway/Ashland, where the presence of the Moriarty sisters has allowed the Mustangs to form a family-like atmosphere on and off the ice.
Brynn Moriarty, a senior captain who plays forward, her sister, Nicole, a junior defender, and the youngest, Dani, a freshman forward, are all three-sport athletes. And the trio have brought a mix of competitiveness, leadership, and a hard-working mentality to a Medway/Ashland team that is 3-4-1.
“Having three girls from one family, you understand what it means to be part of something bigger,” said Medway/Ashland coach Karl Infanger.
In a state that fields 96 girls’ hockey programs, it is very common for sets of sisters to skate for the same team. But three siblings on the same roster is rare.
The Dennis-Yarmouth program has the Holmes sisters — Lilly, a senior defender; Phoebe, a junior defender; and Chase, a sophomore forward.
For a D-Y squad with just 14 skaters, a hockey family allows the school to sustain a program. The same can be said for the Moriarty sisters. The numbers at Medway/Ashland have not been consistent, allowing younger players, such as Dani, get varsity reps.
“I’ve had so many sisters and hockey families play for me,” said D-Y coach John Shaw. “I’m fortunate so many have worked out for me, but they stick up for each other, and their competitiveness helps the team become more driven to win.”
“I watched Brynn a lot because we play the same position [center],” said Dani. “I feel like I can be my own player, but when I need something, I can go to them.”
Brynn paces the team in scoring, Nicole leads a rapidly improving blue line, and Dani skates on the second line.
All three started at a young age, playing for their father, Ted, who is still involved coaching the Central Mass Outlaws youth program. The sisters began skating at 2½ and were playing Mites at age 6 for Assabet Valley.
Hockey has deep roots with the family. Ted Moriarty has been a frequent participant in the NESN Backyard Rink competition; a year ago, his rink was ranked one of the top five in New England. His father, Edward Sr., captained the Merrimack College program in the late 1950s.
“[Our dad has] definitely shaped us a lot, because he’s been our coach throughout our whole hockey experience,” said Nicole. “He’s taught us a lot of different skills.”
In her senior season, Brynn said skating with her sisters is special.
“We played field hockey together, and that was really different,” she said.
“All three of us on the field at the exact same time. I feel like when you’re on the field or the ice it’s not like they’re just your sisters but your teammates, too. We work the puck around pretty well, and it’s a good time.”
Fourteen months younger than Brynn, Nicole said as a freshman, it was easier having an older sibling as a role model.
“There’s definitely a little pressure, but I feel like having her has helped me a lot,” said Nicole.
And as the oldest, Brynn considers her role on the team as the “leader of the family” and passing on everything she has learned for four years.
“She’s a character person who leads by example,” said Infanger. “She’s always pushing herself to get better and incorporates any feedback she gets into her drills in practice. She’s a quiet leader but vocal when she has to be.”
A respected leader that both Nicole and Dani know that they can lean on when needed.
“There’s definitely a bonding factor,” said Nicole. “We’re always spending time together whether it’s at the rink or in the car. It has strengthened our relationship a lot.”
■ The Plymouth South/North team attended a vigil Sunday at Brewster Gardens in Plymouth, honoring Claire Zisserson and Kendall Zemotel, the 13-year-olds from Plymouth involved in a car crash in Pembroke Dec. 29. Zisserson died from her injuries, and Zemotel is in serious condition.
“When something like this happens for a family, everyone wants to come together,” said Plymouth South/North coach Michael McCosh. “We’re a team, [but] we actually consider ourselves a family. We look at this as a family obligation. We just want to help the families out. A vigil like this, it definitely helps out.”
The team attended the vigil in its entirety, lighting candles and showing support.
“We just wanted to be here to support this family, even though not many of us personally knew them,” said Plymouth South senior Rebecca Sylvestre, a team captain.
■ A few freshmen put together memorable performances last week: Methuen/Tewksbury’s Riley Sheehan had a pair of goals, including the first of her career, as the Red Rangers defeated Acton-Boxborough, 5-2, on Saturday . . . Zoe Elwell (Bishop Fenwick) netted her first tally in a 5-2 win over Beverly Sunday . . . At Matignon, Danielle DeJon earned the win in her first career start, a 3-1 victory over Arlington Catholic.
■ Girls hockey fans on the mainland will get the chance to take in island hockey this weekend: Martha’s Vineyard will travel for a pair of neutral-site games on college campuses in the city. The Vineyarders will play Fontbonne Saturday (3 p.m.) at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena before taking on Brookline at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena Sunday at noon.
Games to watch
■ Wednesday, No. 8 Lexington at No. 12 Arlington (at Ed Burns Arena, 4 p.m.) — This contest might go a long way in determining Middlesex League tiebreakers.
■ Wednesday, No. 9 Peabody vs No. 10 Bishop Fenwick (at McVann/O’Keefe Rink, 5:15 p.m.) — A crosstown rivalry featuring ranked foes.
■ Saturday, No. 4 Canton at No. 17 Waltham (at Bentley Arena, 2 p.m.) — Will either team find the back of the net in a battle between two of the state’s best defensive teams?
■ Saturday, No. 1 Braintree at No. 15 Needham (at Babson Rink, 7 p.m.) — The top-ranked Wamps could have their hands full against the Rockets’ stout defense.
■ Monday, No. 3 Austin Prep at No. 19 Hingham (at Pilgrim Arena, 5 p.m.) — The Cougars make the trek down to Hingham.
Saturday, No. 3 Austin Prep at Notre Dame-Hingham (Rockland Ice Rink, 3:40 p.m.) — Last year’s state runners-up face off in a matchup between two squads desperately searching for a real spark.
Dan Shulman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lenny Rowe and Jenna Ciccotelli also contributed.