PEABODY — The Bishop Fenwick girls hockey team, showing no signs of rust after a seven-day layoff, returned to action Sunday at James McVann-Louis O’Keefe Ice Rink and came away with a hard-fought 3-1 win over visiting Northeast Hockey League foe Medford.
With the win, the Crusaders improved to 7-2 and are off to their best start in program history.
“This is the best start by far in the history of Fenwick girls hockey and we are in uncharted waters,” said Fenwick coach Doug Anderson. “We are in a great place now. We had eight games in December, but now we are in our second week of three in a row when we have only one game. It’s tough during the holidays because the girls’ routines are different, but no we are through the holidays and back to a normal routine.”
Seven Crusaders notched points in the game. Sophomore right winger Gabby Davern led the way, scoring the game-winning goal in the second period and also assisting on the Crusaders’ first goal, scored by senior captain, center Jill Mattucci. Freshman defenseman Lauren Diranian also was credited with an assist, while senior captain and left winger Lexi McNeil and freshman defenseman Grace Morey picked up assists on Davern’s goal.
Sophomore forward Olivia LoJacono (from freshman forward Emma Perry) scored an all-important insurance goal with 3:51 to play in the game.
“Olivia’s goal was just a huge goal for us,” said Anderson. “She’s played a lot of hockey for us and has been a little snake bit, but she has great speed and really worked hard in the crease. Both the second and third goals were right there in the crease so we did a good job staying with it and being persistent.
“We were a little sloppy at times and the second period was not our best, but our defense, which is very young, played unbelievable today.”
Anderson highlighted the strong play of Diranian, a Lynnfield resident, and junior goaltender Daphne Jalbert.
“Their number nine (Brenna Forbes) is a terrific player, but Lauren made a couple of great plays to stop her,” said Anderson. “She needs to get a little stronger but she played a great game. Daphne continues to make the big saves when called on. Today she had to do that a little more than we would like, but she was strong.”
The Crusaders got off to a great start, taking a 1-0 lead on Mattucci’s goal just 2:41 into the game.
The Mustangs (2-5-1) picked up the pace toward the end of the period, putting more pressure on Fenwick’s defense. With three minutes to go, defenseman Abigail Vigliotte fed Forbes in front, but Jalbert was there to deny her. Seconds later, Vigliotte weaved her way from the Mustangs’ blue line into the offensive zone, where she swooped around to her left to open up a shot, but Jalberg again made a big save.
Medford kept up the pressure the rest of the period and unleashed a flurry of shots, but Jalbert denied them all.
Medford right winger Elizabeth Lazzaro finally broke through at the 12:04 mark of the second period, poking a loose puck home in the crease (from Forbes) to tie things at 1-1.
With 4:29 left in the period, the Crusaders went on the power play. They needed only one minute to cash in when Davern slammed home a rebound off a Mattucci shot with McNeil also picking up an assist.
Both teams had plenty of scoring chances in the third period, but both goaltenders stepped up.
Medford senior captain Terrell Pesaturo kept it a one-goal game despite being under tremendous pressure in the later stages of the game. The Mustangs played four of the final 10 minutes down a man, but Pesaturo repelled several quality scoring opportunities by McNeil, Diranian and Mattucci.
With 3:51 left, Perry fed LoJacono in front of the net. Her initial shot was saved, but the rebound popped loose in a scrum where LoJacono poked it home under Pesaturo’s pads.
Medford coach Rayanne Forbes pulled Pesaturo with a minute to go, but it was too little too late.
“It was a tough turnaround having played last night here, but we played hard,” Forbes said. “Credit to Fenwick as it was a great back-and-forth game. Their goaltender was very good as she didn’t give up many second chances.
“We started a little tentatively in the first period, but we had to do a little adjusting as we were down our second line center,” Forbes said. “But I’ll take this performance any game going forward as I can’t get much more from them that what they have given the last couple of days.”
Anderson said he knew that Medford would be a formidable foe.
“Medford played inspired hockey today and they were heavy on the puck,” Anderson said. “Back-to-back games are tough and they were down a few players, but she (Forbes) does a good job with them. They are a good team and they play in a very good league.
“They won more battles and appeared to want it more, especially in that second period. After that period we talked and then just dug our heels in and had better puck movement and maintained momentum.”