Sports

Senior goalie Abby Buckley helps lead Peabody to historic run

Senior goalie Abby Buckley has been a key piece to the success the Tanners have earned over the past four seasons. (Item File Photo)

PEABODY — There isn’t much that Peabody/Lynnfield/North Reading senior goalie Abby Buckley hasn’t seen in her four years between the pipes for the Tanners. From the lows of missing the tournament entirely as a freshman to the highs of a 38-save shutout against St. Mary’s in the first round of the Division 1 tournament Monday, every experience has helped turn Buckley into the player she is today.

“It’s just been awesome because every year we’ve gotten better and better,” Buckley, who attends Lynnfield High, said. “Especially seeing from my vantage point in net, seeing everybody get better over the years and seeing new players come in and contribute has just been great.”

Buckley has been the Tanners’ starting goalie since her freshman year, when she beat out three other goalies to earn the job. With Buckley in net and coach Michelle Roach in place, the Tanners went through the ups and downs of any young program under a new coach. Peabody went 6-12-2 and missed the tournament that first year, but followed it up with a 9-9-3 record and a tournament berth in Buckley’s sophomore year. The Tanners improved a bit more last year, going 11-8-2 and getting back into the tournament but getting eliminated by St. Mary’s. This year, the Tanners went 14-4-2 in the regular season and then rattled off three straight tournament wins, including getting revenge on St. Mary’s in a 4-0 shutout.

Through it all, Buckley and the team have grown by leaps and bounds both on and off the ice.

One special group for the Tanners is the group of four seniors, who’ve been with Roach since she took over the program in 2015. Buckley, Kathryn DiGiulio, Jessica Robert and Charlotte Grant have seen it all with the Tanners, and their experience is paying off this season.

“It’s special to have that ‘core four’ group of people,” said Buckley. “We’ve grown so much together over the years and gotten better both on and off the ice, so it’s been great.”

“It’s a special group for me because it’s my first class,” said Roach. “For Abby, we carried four goalies in Abby’s freshman year and she won the job and has kept it since. She’s really grown from a player into a leader over the years. She’s always working hard and always trying to get better, and it’s shown out there on the ice.”

The highlight of the tournament for the Tanners, thus far, was the win over No. 6 St. Mary’s in the first round of the Division 1 tournament. Buckley made several momentum-changing saves at crucial points in the game.

“It honestly felt amazing,” Buckley said of her performance. “Seeing where we’ve come since my freshman year, getting an accomplishment like that means so much. It felt awesome, especially getting it against St. Mary’s who shut us out in last year’s tournament.”

Roach, who played hockey for the Spartans when she was in high school, had nothing but praise for Buckley’s performance.

“St. Mary’s is a team that can put pucks in the net, and Abby certainly wasn’t happy with the previous two games against them (a 4-1 loss and a 5-0 loss),” said Roach. “One of her personal goals was to come in and protect her net, and she did an incredible job of that. To come out of there with a shutout, it was just so impressive.”

That win put Peabody into the quarterfinal round, where the No. 11 Tanners will now face No. 3 Methuen/Tewksbury.

“We’re expecting a pretty difficult game, because they’re the No. 3 seed for a reason,” Buckley said. “But in the tournament it doesn’t really matter what your seed is, it’s about the momentum you bring into the game. So we’re just going to go out there and play our game and see what happens.”

While the turnaround is a bit quicker than Roach would like, she notes that Peabody is trying to ride the momentum of Monday’s win right into the quarterfinal game.

“Methuen is a really good team and they’re well-coached, and we’ll have our work cut out for us,” said Roach. “But we had our work cut out for us against St. Mary’s too, and we came out with the win. So we’re just going to try to take that momentum and bring it to the rink with us Thursday.”

Peabody and Methuen/Tewksbury will drop the puck Thursday evening (5:30) at O’Brien Arena in Woburn.

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