PEABODY — After years of building up and knocking on the door, the Peabody girls hockey team finally made a splash in the postseason. With a 2-0 victory over No. 22 Winthrop in the preliminary round of the Division 1 tournament at James McVan/Louis O’Keefe Rink Wednesday night, the No. 11 Tanners earned their first state tournament win in program history. Peabody coach Michelle Roach, who has been at the helm for four years, attributed the win to her team’s tireless work over the years.
“It means a lot to all of us but I’m especially happy for these girls who have worked so hard over the past few years,” said Roach. “We set so many goals for ourselves this year and we really wanted to reach them, so to start knocking items off our list has been really great for us.”
In somewhat fitting fashion, it was three of the longest-tenured veterans who won this one for the Tanners. Senior Kathryn DiGiulio scored both goals for Peabody, while senior Jessica Robert added one assist. In net, senior goalie Abby Buckley had one of her best games of the season with a 25-save shutout.
“I think Kat probably had one of the best overall games out of anyone tonight,” said Roach. “And Abby just had a typical Abby Buckley night where she stood on her head. I think it’s really special for those girls because of how hard they’ve worked. They’re the backbone of our team and I couldn’t be happier for them.”
Winthrop certainly had its chances throughout the game, including a pair of breakaway opportunities and a couple of wide-open nets. But a combination of bad bounces and big plays by Peabody kept the Vikings off the board.
“It just wasn’t our night out there, and Peabody played a really great game,” said Winthrop coach Anthony Martucci.
Winthrop freshman goalie Summer Tallent had a solid game, notching 21 saves.
The first period saw the Tanners outshoot Winthrop 12-5. After coming close to a goal several times, including on a power play, Peabody finally broke through with just over a minute left in the period. As Winthrop was trying to clear the puck out of its own zone, Robert stepped in, took control of the puck and sent it down behind the net. DiGiulio took it from there, quickly circling around the net and firing a shot past Tallent to give Peabody the 1-0 lead.
It was a very similar story in the second period, except this time it was Winthrop that outshot Peabody. Both teams got a chance on the power play as well, but neither could cash in. Then, with under two minutes to go in the period, Peabody made its move. After making a steal in the defensive zone, DiGiulio raced up the ice in a two-on-one with Jen Flynn. As they came into the Winthrop zone, DiGiulio faked a pass to get enough room to shoot and fired a shot from the right circle to put the Vikings up 2-0.
Winthrop got another power play chance in the third period, but once again the Vikings couldn’t cash in. And although Winthrop went on a torrid run of scoring chances in the final few minutes of the game, Buckley and the Tanners stood tall and skated away with the shutout win.
For Winthrop (10-7-2), this season was another step forward for a young team that had more eighth-graders than seniors.
“This was just another building block as we make this program better and better,” Martucci said. “We have a very young team, and getting experience in the state tournament like this can only help them in the long run. But the future is bright for us with a number of young players who will be returning next year, so we’ll work hard over the offseason and hopefully get our shot next year.”
As for Peabody (16-4-2), the road only gets tougher as the tournament goes on. Next up for the Tanners will be a date with No. 6 St. Mary’s (17-2-2), the school Roach played at as a student-athlete and a team that Peabody has already lost to twice this season (4-1 on Dec. 12 and 5-0 on Jan. 9).
“I got my start in Connery Rink, so it’s only fitting to be going back there,” said Roach. “St. Mary’s is a very good team and we know we have our work cut out for us but we’re confident. I think they’ve only scored one or two even-strength goals on us, so we just have to focus on staying out of the box and playing clean hockey.”
Peabody and St. Mary’s will drop the puck Saturday (TBA) at Connery.