PEABODY — How do you follow a record-setting year? Peabody-Lynnfield girls hockey coach Michelle Roach has plenty of experience in that department.
Since Roach took over as head coach in 2015-2016, the Tanners have set program records for most wins in a season in each of the last three years (6 in 2016, 9 in 2017 and 11 in 2018); most goals scored in the last two years (54 in 2017, 68 in 2018) and fewest goals allowed (42 in 2017). The team also set program records with two straight tournament appearances and two straight regular-season winning records in 2017 and 2018.
“We have a talented squad this year with 11 returners and 10 freshmen, but we need to have a good initial look at what we have and who works well together,” said Roach. “We’ve switched up the lines completely so it’s just a matter of finding the right chemistry. We’re still trying to evaluate everyone and are trying different pairings and trying to get to our nuts and bolts, get all the players into our system. Right now our only goal is to play our best in every game.”
To keep the line moving, however, the Tanners have some pretty big skates to fill this year, starting with Northeastern Hockey League all-stars Cassie Mirasolo, Mae Norton and Sarah Buckley, who graduated in 2018.
Seniors Jess Robert, Kathryn DiGiulio, Abby Buckley and Charlotte Grant along with junior Sammie Mirasolo will serve as captains.
If there’s one area where the Tanners are blessed with talent and experience it’s in goal with two returning goaltenders and a promising freshman. That crew’s led by four-year starter Buckley, winner of last year’s Carlin Cup MVP Award. Buckley will be backed up by junior Jeny Collins and freshman Audrey Buckley.
“Both Abby and Jeny are fantastic goalies who bring a high level of compete,” said Roach. “They are close to being interchangeable, and Audrey also is skilled, so we know that whoever is in the goal, we can rely on them to get the job done.”
DiGiulio, Robert and Grant are expected to play key scoring roles this season.
The Tanners are fortunate to have two solid defensemen returning this year in junior Carolyn Garofoli and sophomore Reilly Ganter. Both players logged significant minutes last season and look to be a formidable pairing behind the blue line.
Roach said four freshman defensemen are in the rotation mix. They are Ella McTeague , Anya Pineo, Maddie Monkewicz and Catherine Sweeney.
Jen Flynn, Paige Thibedeau and Elise Staunton lead a talented group sophomore forwards who are back for a second varsity season. Flynn was second on the team in scoring last year with 10 goals and 10 assists, while Thibedeau contributed two goals and eight assists and Staunton notched two goals.
While the lines are still a work in progress, it looks like Mirasolo, Flynn and freshman Sadie Gearan will man the first line, while Thibedeau, Robert and freshman Maria Pearce will man the second line. DiGiulio, Staunton and Grant will man the third line.
Other freshmen include Kaila Griffin, Lily Piscatelli and Jenna Mack.
As far as team goals are concerned, Roach said it’s all about being ready to play the Tanners’ best hockey in February as the tournament approaches.
“I don’t really get hung on records, as it’s really about playing the best teams you can so you are playing your best hockey when it counts the most,” Roach said. “We need to challenge ourselves to do that. Last year, we had success but we weren’t satisfied with the way it ended. We have the talent to play up to that challenge but we need to have everyone on the same page. Right now, I am very happy with where we are.
“This is a great group of kids and I am very excited for this season,” Roach continued. “We have a great core group of returners and the freshmen gives us diversity and depth to fill key roles all over the ice in every position.”
The Tanners open the season Saturday against Marblehead/Swampscott at Rockett Arena (12).