SALEM — The Peabody/Lynnfield girls hockey team’s depth was on display Saturday in its season-opening 6-2 win over host Marblehead/Swampscott at Salem State’s Rockett Arena.
Nine Tanners, including four freshmen, picked up points, with six scoring goals.
Junior captain Sammie Mirasolo had a big day with a goal and three assists. Freshman Sadie Gearan made her varsity debut a memorable one with a goal and two assists.
The game was closer than the score would suggest, but thanks to an outstanding effort in goal from senior captain Abby Buckley, the Tanners were able to contain the Magicians’ top threat, Sydney Cresta, who was denied by Buckley (20 saves) several times on breakaways. Still, Cresta, of Swampscott, scored both Marblehead goals.
“Today was a great start to our season and we knew Marblehead would give us a good test, but Abby was on today,” said Peabody coach Michelle Roach. “She came up with some big saves today, especially on Sydney, who she stuffed a few times on those off rushes when she was in alone. She’s a talented player but when your goaltender can do what Abby did against her, that just gives your team added momentum.”
Despite the loss, Marblehead coach Marisa Maccario, in her first game coaching high school varsity hockey, was pleased with her team’s effort.
“With a whole new staff and just two great weeks of practice, it feels great to have that first game behind us,” said Maccario, who played for then-assistant coach Roach at St. Mary’s. “I thought the effort was there and the girls were prepared to play. We just needed that one extra pass, that one more stride as the puck was there ready to be finished. Our offensive zone played awesome, we just need to pick up the other areas. It was an evenly matched game for the most part.”
The Tanners were on fire from the get-go, needing only 28 seconds to light the lamp on a pretty goal by Paige Thibedeau (from Mirasolo and Gearan).
Marblehead tied the game seconds after killing off a tripping penalty with a little more than four minutes left in the period. Cresta took a pass from Cate Delaney and tucked it past Buckley just inside the left post. Amy Vytopilova also picked up an assist.
Gaining momentum from the goal, the Magicians had several golden chances to score the rest of the period, but Buckley stood tall. She denied Mia Salah on a wrap-around move, then broke up a Cresta breakaway. With a minute left, Cresta played a behind-the-back pass to Delaney, who ripped a shot from point-blank range that was snared by Buckley.
The second period was a shootout with back-and-forth action from start to finish.
A heads-up play by Jess Robert regained the lead for Peabody two minutes in. Marblehead goaltender Grace Bertagna had covered up a loose puck in the crease, but Robert, hearing no whistle, continued to poke at the puck until it crossed the goal line to make it 2-1.
Forty seconds later, Mirasolo tucked home a backhander (from Gearan) to make it 3-1 at the 2:30 mark.
Peabody threatened to put the game out of reach when sophomore Jen Flynn was in the right place at the right time. made it a 4-1 game at the 7:55 mark. Freshman Maria Pearce slid the puck across the blue line to sophomore Reilly Ganter, who dumped the puck into the crease, where Flynn slammed it home.
But Marblehead fought back. After a scrum in front of her net, Bertagna cleared the puck to Cresta at the red line. She snuck past the Tanners’ defense, then slipped home a backhander to make it 4-2 with 4:51 left in the period.
Peabody needed only a minute to answer with a goal by freshman Catherine Sweeney. She took a feed from freshman Anya Pineo and flicked a high wrist shot from the right point with 2:29 left in the period. Mirasolo also picked up an assist.
Both teams had chances in the final period, but couldn’t break through until, with 3:51 to play, Maccario pulled Bertagna. Gearan sealed the win with an empty-net goal from the red line with 2:17 to play.
“I took the timeout to give the girls a breather as we had confidence in the girls that we could take a risk and go for it,” said Maccario. “I knew if we got one, we would get two more, but it just didn’t work out.”
“Our lines are gelling and we had some freshmen in key spots step up,” said Roach. “We ran two lines and our forwards did a good job backchecking and our passing was fantastic. We need to out more shots on net, but we also minimized their ability to capitalize by staying out of the box.”
Marblehead’s next game is against Fenwick Wednesday (4:30) while Peabody is also back in action Wednesday, taking on host St. Mary’s (8).