By Bob York
The good news was plentiful: The Deerfield Academy girls hockey team won more games than it lost this season. It won more than twice the number (six) of games it won last season. It reached double figures in the win column for the first time in recent memory with 14. The bad news: It ended up needing 15 to earn a spot in the tournament.
“We ended up just one win shy of qualifying for a tournament berth,” said coach Genevieve Triganne, whose club finished No.10 in the final Western Division standings of the New England Prep School Athletic Conference Girls Hockey League with a final showing of 14-9-2. Unfortunately, however, the tournament committee just takes the top eight teams.
“We came a long way in just one year,” said Letourneau. “And although it was frustrating to come up a little short of making the tournament, I don’t think you’ll find anyone on this team who won’t admit that they’re both very happy with the way things went this season and very proud of the team’s accomplishments.”
The Big Green mentor also admitted that she wasn’t overly surprised in the resurgence this winter’s crew put into the program.
“We had a number of key people returning from last year’s team (6-10-2) and some talented new people coming aboard,” said Triganne, “so I felt if everyone worked hard and jelled together, we could do pretty well for ourselves.”
And the Big Green did do pretty well for itself — right from the outset. In fact, it enjoyed one of its best starts ever, as it opened with a 6-0-1 record to equal last winter’s win total by Dec. 16.
One big difference between this year’s team and last year’s was its scoring output, as this winter’s squad nearly doubled its goal total from a year ago, netting 60 compared to the 38 it tallied a year ago.
And as usual, Jamie Haddad (12) led the way in the scoring department as she has done during each of her four years at Deerfield. This season, Haddad, who was named the team’s Most Valuable Player and who will be playing her collegiate hockey a Yale, led the charge with 38 points on 28 goals and 10 assists.
Those hefty figures will go a long way in explaining the boost in the Big Green scoring output from a year ago, as Haddad more than doubled her output from last season when she topped the charts with 11 goals and six assists for 17 points.
“I changed my style of hockey this season,” explained Haddad. “I began focusing on shooting the puck a little more than I had in the past and it not only helped my game, but I think it got the whole team thinking about being more offensively minded.”
As it turned out, the Big Green ended up with three players surpassing last year’s high-water mark in scoring of 17 points. In addition to Haddad, Anna McDonough (12) finished with 22 points on eight goals and14 assists, while Kayla O’Connor (14), who finished tied with Haddad for the team point lead last year as a freshman (7-10—17), upped her count to 18 this winter, netting six goals and assisting on a dozen others.
Mettler Growney (13), who was voted captain of next year’s team while Hannah Insuik (13) and Elana Van Arnam (13) were elected assistant captains, posted eight points on four goals and four assists, while Katherine Jackson (15) collected three goals and six assists for nine points.
While Deerfield’s offensive production showed improvement this winter, it was the same old story for its defense: stingy. This proved to be another typical Big Green team when it came to giving up goals – it didn’t. It allowed an average of just 2.2 goals per game, as goaltending and a blue line crew made life tough for offensive-minded opponents.
That area of blue located in front of the Deerfield goal – known as the goal crease – has become hallowed ice for the Big Green. It has not only had some outstanding goaltenders protecting the pipes of late, it’s been blessed with some of the best talent in the country standing between them.
Molly Schaus, who went on the play at Boston College and earned a spot on the 2010 United States Olympic Hockey Team, began shrinking the Big Green goal when she came here in 2002. From there, Amanda Rothschild (07), who also went on to BC, took her turn in the Deerfield goal, then Kayla Lessard (09), who plays at Bowdoin, got her chance. Shenae Lundberg, (11) who just wrapped up her freshman season at Union College, was next as she spent her holiday break during her senior season at Deerfield helping the USA Under 18 Team win a gold medal at the World Games in Sweden.
Now, for a team that often suited up just one goalie for the simple fact that it had no backup, Deerfield is enjoying an embarrassment of riches. It’s not only has two goalies on the team – it has two outstanding goalies on the team. This dynamic duo consists of Hannah Insuik (13) and Sammy Hirshland (13). Insulik posted a 1.31 goals against average this winter, as well as a .929 save percentage and five shutouts. Hirshland, meanwhile, allowed 2.72 goals per game with a .901 save percentage and a pair of shutouts.
Julie Wardwell (12), who won the team’s Seventh Player Award, headed up a deep, but youthful defensive unit and still had time to crank up a little offense as she produced 11 points on two goals and nine assists. Joining her back on the blue line were Ryan Logie (13), Elana Van Arnam (13), Kelsey Gallagher (13), Kylie Davis (14), Maryanne Iodice (14) and Julia Hamilton (14).
“I’ve gotta say that girls hockey has made a huge improvement over the past year,” said Haddad, of a program that saw its JV team go 8-0-4 on the season, “It’s something we had all hoped for, but didn’t expect.
“I think there were two keys to our success this season,” she added. “One was the team chemistry … everyone got along really well. The other was the great start we got off to. Everybody … the older players and the new ones … stepped up and played hard. We won our first six or seven games and that gave us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.
“Another thing that helped us this season was that we very often scored the first goal of the game,” added Haddad. “Last year, we didn’t and it seemed as though we were always fighting our way out of a hole to get back in the game … this year we didn’t have to worry about that sort of thing.”