Ursuline Academy let a late one-goal lead slip away in a 3-3 girls’ hockey tie against Brookline last Saturday afternoon at Conte Forum. Yet there were sounds of celebration coming from the Bears’ locker room after the game.
Second-year coach Tom Keady told his team the 3-3 performance was the epitome of “Ursuline hockey.”
Sure, it was one point instead of two, but against a Division 1 school, and the Bears (12-2-3) already have qualified for the D2 state tournament after fall one point shy of a berth in 2019.
“People are scared to play us, in a way,” said Bridget Popkin , a senior captain from Walpole. “Usually, people are like, ‘Oh, we’re playing Ursuline, whatever.’ But now, it’s like, ‘We have to step up for Ursuline.’ And that’s a big deal.”
For Popkin and fellow captains Sarah Manning (Natick) and Mary Kate Rusnock (Milton), the success isn’t surprising — it’s exactly what the Bears deserve.
“Ursuline hockey is about working hard and hustling,” Popkin said. “You just put everything you have on the ice.”
Added Manning: “It’s really just playing with confidence, and playing how you know how to play. Everyone’s doing their job. Most games, when everyone does their job, we do well.”
It might seem surprising that a small, all-girls Catholic school in Dedham can find the talent among its roughly 400 students to field a competitive hockey team. For the Bears, ranked 19th in this week’s Globe Top 20, it sometimes has less to do with talent and more to do with the atmosphere surrounding the program.
On non-game days, Ursuline practices at 6 a.m. at the Jim Roche Community Arena in West Roxbury, tightly squeezed in before the homeroom bells ring at 8. That translates into showers, breakfast, and rides to school together for the 20 student-athletes on the roster.
Between spending the day together in classes and eating lunch together, or lengthy road trips out to Martha’s Vineyard for the Nan Rheault Tournament, the Bears have become a family.
It is what attracted Manning, who transferred from Natick as a sophomore, and Lucy Reardon, the Bears goalie who stepped up to join the team last year.
“Different sports, you go to practice at 3 p.m., but getting up at 6 just shows how everyone loves it,” said Reardon, a junior from Milton. “Everyone wants to be there, and I think that makes a big difference, whether you want to be there and just do it for fun. Everyone here loves the sport.”
With three games remaining in the regular season – two against King Philip and one against Leominster – Ursuline finds itself in a unique position, having already qualified for the tournament, and in a good position for seeding. The Bears last qualified for the tournament in 2017, as a 16th seed (11-6-3), but have not won a postseason game since 2011.
“It’s always been our goal to make [the] tournament, and we’ve worked so hard for that,” Popkin said. “This year, since we made it so early, I think our goals have switched so much, from making it to tournament and now gaining points. We’re working hard to get a good spot in the seedings.”
■ The Walpole boys’ and girls’ hockey teams are pairing up to pack Rodman Arena on Wednesday night and raise awareness for ALS.
Tara Pacella, mother of Sophia , a senior captain on the girls’ team and David, a sophomore goalie on the boys’ squad, recently was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. There will be a chuck-a-puck contest during each game, with proceeds supporting 4YouIWillFight, a foundation started by the Pacella family.
The Rebels will host Bay State Conference rival Milton in both games, with the boys dropping the puck at 6 p.m. and the girls following at 7:45 p.m. It also is senior night for Sophia and five others on the girls’ team.
“You get a lot of people that say the same about where they’re from, but Walpole, in my time here, is a real close-knit community,” said Walpole athletic director Ron Dowd, who also is the boys’ hockey coach.
“When someone is in trouble, they really rally behind the family. I’ve seen it in my time as an AD and it makes me proud to say I work in a community that does that.”
Those interested in donating can go to @4youiwillfight on Instagram.
■ The family of Madeline “Maddie” Bain, a 14-year-old West Bridgewater freshman who died unexpectedly in January of 2019, has created a scholarship fund in her name.
A GoFundMe page was set up by Elizabeth Trahan Bain, Maddie’s mother, and as of Tuesday afternoon it was within $100 of its $5,000 goal.
Bain helped spearhead the girls’ co-op between West Bridgewater and East Bridgewater and scored the program’s first goal.
“We have developed the Maddie Bain Scholarship Fund to give others the opportunities that Maddie had and also to have the funds to reach the dreams she was not able to complete in her own short life,” her mother wrote on the Fund’s page.
Those interested can visit the GoFundMe site at www.gofundme.com/maddie-bain-scholarship-fund
The Brewins Youth Hockey organization is holding a Skate for Maddie fundraiser Feb. 19 from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Bridgewater Ice Arena to support the fund as well.
Games to Watch
Wednesday, No. 15 Methuen/Tewksbury at No. 1 HPNA (at Veteran’s Memorial, Haverhill, 5 p.m.) — The Red Rangers are one of just two squads this year to manage a tie against the unbeaten Haverhill/Pentucket/North Andover co-op, skating to a 2-2 draw on Jan. 11.
Wednesday, Peabody/Lynnfield/North Reading at Winthrop (at Larsen Rink, 6 p.m) — The winner takes home the Northeastern League championship. The Tanners skated to a 7-1 win on Jan. 4.
Saturday, Falmouth at No. 11 Dennis-Yarmouth (at Tony Kent Arena, 4 p.m.) — Points for the Dolphins would go a long way toward locking up a Cape & Islands League title, but Falmouth worked a 1-1 tie against D-Y on Jan 22.
Saturday, No. 2 St. Mary’s Lynn at No. 4 Austin Prep, 4 p.m. (Connery Rink) — It’s a pivotal matchup atop the Catholic Central League between two top five teams that played to a 3-3 tie in the season opener on Dec. 14.
Saturday, No. 13 Belmont at No. 7 Arlington, 6 p.m. (Ed Burns Arena) — The Spy Ponders’ fate in the Middlesex Liberty could come down to their league finale against the Marauders. The two teams played to a scoreless tie on Jan. 15.
Jenna Ciccotelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.