Shrewsbury girls hockey looks to match last year’s success

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Shrewsbury girls hockey looks to match last year’s success
Shrewsbury High Coach Frank Panarelli and his captains pose with the Division 1 Girls State Hockey Championship. Photo/Bill Gilman

SHREWSBURY – Since winning its first-ever 2023 Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 championship in March, the Shrewsbury Colonials girls ice hockey team has been busy.

The team visited the State House, Fenway Park and Polar Park, and it dropped the ceremonial puck at a Worcester Railers game. Throughout the last few months, the team has taken every opportunity to celebrate its title-clinching win against St. Mary’s High (Lynn) at TD Garden.

However, as the new season is fast approaching – the first official practice was scheduled for Nov. 27, and captains’ practices are well underway – Shrewsbury is refocusing and looking forward to the upcoming season and the opportunity to become back-to-back state champions.

“They’ve been working really hard,” said Head Coach Frank Panarelli. “[The players] know that [the championship] was great. It’s over. Let’s concentrate on this year.”

After graduating several seniors – including Telegram & Gazette Girls Athlete of the Year Maddie Mrva – Shrewsbury’s team will have some shuffling. Yasmine McKenzie, who scored the go-ahead goal in March’s championship game, has since transferred to another school and will not return to Shrewsbury’s team.

“We need girls to step into bigger roles… We’re going to have a target on our back, which we’re kind of used to because we’ve had some pretty successful teams. We seem to get everyone’s best game,” Panarelli said.

He noted that Shrewsbury plays in “probably the best league in the state.”

Shrewsbury’s team will have plenty of familiar faces and important contributors returning. Marisa Montoya – the team’s goalie and now-senior captain – returns to the net. Panarelli said that “it all starts with [Montoya],” mentioning her “fantastic” play in the championship.
Bridget McLaughlin, Paige Umile, Kealy Fay, Mia Ryder, Blaire Fay, Lauren Albertson, Natalie MacCausland, and Sadie Cusson are among those returning to the team.

Panarelli said that the team has a “good balance” of returning players and rookies.

“Hockey is a small world, so at one point, some of these kids always seem to have played with each other. They know each other a little bit,” he said. “Our first scrimmage, I always make it a good bus ride – this year we’re going out to play a scrimmage at Malden Catholic. It’s a great bonding experience. We’re on the bus for the first time, all the new freshmen… It’s a great bonding thing before the season starts.”

Although Shrewsbury found great success last year, Panarelli said the team will remain focused.

“Our main goal before every season is to make the playoffs, make the tournament. That is where I’m starting out on our first day of practice. That’s going to be our goal – let’s make it to the tournament. There’s going to be no talk of championships,” he said.

The Colonials’ season will kick off against Billerica on Dec. 14.

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