By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury/Westborough – It has been nine years since inception and the almost incomparable success of the Shrewsbury High School (SHS) girls’ varsity ice hockey team has remained consistent throughout.
In that time, there have been seven central/west titles, 100 team wins realized capped by an earlier season victory over Algonquin Regional High School and a staggering 100 points and 100 goals for sophomore Delaney Couture who continues to amaze with her almost unparalleled offensive proficiency.
And SHS can boast another unique attribute as well – one head coach through throughout the program’s existence.
Head coach Frank Panarelli has guided the program to post-season competition in each of his years behind the bench, with a number of his former players going on to compete at higher levels, a further tribute to the program’s success. There have been ups and downs, but very few of the latter except for a first-round playoff knockout a season ago despite an 11-6 record that had them positioned as front runners. With playoffs looming in a very short time, this 2016-2017 squad has vowed that history will not repeat itself.
At 14-2, these Colonial skaters have largely had their way with oncoming competition. Their only losses came at the hands of two of the state’s finest. Holy Name High School (Hingham) is ranked top in Division 2 across the state and the same for Needham High School in Division 1. Despite the standings, Shrewsbury more than held their own in a Feb. 13 matchup with Needham at Westborough’s NorthStar Ice, albeit losing 6-3 with one goal being an empty-netter.
“We had a bit of a lapse in the second period but overall I was pretty happy,” said Panarelli, who is assisted by former St John’s High School goaltender Ray Monroe who won a state championship in 2005. “We got back in the game in the third period and had a chance to tie it up. I was happy with that but I told the girls you can’t play 30 minutes of a game; you have to play all 45 minutes. We didn’t do all that and a good team’s going to take advantage but overall it was a good night for us.”
This year’s team is led by captain Megan Moran and assistant captains Kylian Kelly and Karli Desouza. All are experienced and team-oriented players who Panarelli looks to night after night to provide leadership on and off the ice. Each player recognizes and embraces their roles and their ability to provide unity across the roster shows through.
“We want to make sure that we’re not just a team that can start on top and stay on top but one that can come back from a loss,” said Moran, following the Needham contest. “That’s what makes a team a team. We don’t get mad at each other. We just try to work harder.
“We all work together and just look at each other’s playing time. We’re all friends. There are no cliques on the team. We just hang out together and have a good time.”
“If one person doesn’t do well, we have someone else that can step up and it’s no big deal,” echoed Kelly. “All of our lines work really well together but if somebody’s missing we just keep going. The chemistry on this team is really good. We really work well together.”
Panarelli can justifiably point to his offense as being one of the most prolific throughout the region with six players in the top 10 in central/west scoring. Couture leads all with an astonishing 41 points, nearly double her closest competitor, while Moran, Grace Felicio and Jenna Krikorian have all contributed 19 points each. Lauren Moran has chipped in with 16 points while Kelly has added 15.
“Delaney is a special player for us,” said Panarelli. “She brings so much to the table. Her size, speed and strength can have her dominate the game at times. Sometimes we lean on her kind of heavily but overall she’s a good leader for an underclassman. She gets the team motivated. It’s an overall joy to coach her.”
The team’s first line duties are handled by Couture, Felicio and Lauren Moran with Olivia Cwalinski, Megan Moran and Krikorian anchored as a solid second. Third line duties are handled by Dolly Herlihy, Peyton Brown and Campbell Brown adding ample scoring punch. Sam Ljunggren, Ella Peris, Josie Fitzgerald and Georgia Wildung all chip in nicely for the Colonials.
Blue line responsibilities fall upon Abby Cossette, Lily McManus, Nora Louder, Grace Coughlin, Kelly and Desouza who anchor a sturdy and redoubtable defense night in and night out. Goaltenders Riley MacCausland and Nora Frederick are solid in net as evidenced by their nearly microscopic goals-against-average of 1.55 and 1.00, respectively.
The Shrewsbury program consists of players coming from four different schools (Shrewsbury, Westborough, Wachusett Regional and St. Peter-Marian) as a co-op program. Blending from other schools can sometimes be problematic, but not so this group, said Megan Moran. The cohesiveness has been there from day one.
“We don’t see each other a lot but when we do we have so much to catch up on. We want to be with each other,” she said. “I love this team. I love having kids from different schools. We go and play different sports besides hockey and it can be a really fun time.”