SHREWSBURY – For more than a decade, the Shrewsbury girls ice hockey team has enjoyed the type of regular-season success most clubs just dream about.
But year-in and year out, the post-season journey’s that began with lofty dreams, ended with losses in the first or second round.
All that changed in 2022, with a trip to the Division 1 Final Four, where the Colonials dropped a heartbreaking 2-1 decision to Arlington High.
What helped Shrewsbury make the jump into the top tier of the state? The most discernible reason is the Colonials’ switch to the Merrimack Valley Conference/Dual County League. Shrewsbury found itself playing a significantly tougher regular season schedule, providing just the right preparation for the state tournament.
“Joining this league last year was the best thing we ever did,” said Shrewsbury Coach Frank Panarelli. “These games in this league are real tough games.”
Shrewsbury carried the momentum of its 2022 tournament run into the start of this season. The Colonials won their first 10 games – allowing just nine goals along the way – and their lone loss came against Haverhill on Jan. 28.
Senior Captain Taylor Ryder scored the lone goal for Shrewsbury on a penalty shot midway through the second period. The goal was Ryder’s eighth of the season, tying Maddie Mrva and Katie Vona for the team lead.
Methuen/Tewksbury was able to grab a lead with a power play goal but further damage was avoided thanks to the strong play of junior goalie Risa Montoya, who notched 15 saves.
Shrewsbury dominated the second and third period, as well as the five-minute overtime, and outshot the Red Rangers, 28-16. But the Colonials were stymied by goalie Taylor Bruno.
“I thought we played well in that second and third period. We had a lot of chances, and in the overtime, too,” said Panarelli. “I thought we’d finish it off. But their goalie made some nice saves.”