The road has not always been a smooth one so far for the Dover-Sherborn/Hopkinton High School girls ice hockey co-op, but the team has been able to handle the challenges that have come its way with poise, much to the delight of coach Nick Grout.
The biggest challenge has been inexperience at the goalie position. Just weeks before the season, there was no one in the program with any experience playing perhaps the most important position on the ice. But Dover-Sherborn’s Diana Peña and Hopkinton’s Emma Champlin have been willing to give it a try. Peña primarily plays in games while Champlin has filled in in practice, Grout said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these two kids for taking the shots and getting in there and staying positive and still smiling,” Grout said. “They have 15 other kids in front of them working their tails off day in and day out, and they are doing everything they can to limit shots and help out their goalies.”
The team’s hard work seems to be paying off. After a couple of lopsided losses to begin the season, the team more than doubled Leominster’s shot total in a tight 3-2 loss. Grout said he is looking forward to the second half of the season and the chance to play some of these opponents a second time.
“We are improving day after day,” he said.
The team also is getting healthier. Hopkinton juniors Kaley Merkle and Hailey Cox are both back on defense after missing time due to injuries, Grout said.
“They are going to be huge players to have back,” he said. “They both looked great in their first games back from injury.”
Senior captain Morgan Fraser, another HHS student, has provided a spark on offense with four goals heading into the new year.
“She has come a long way,” Grout said. “I coached her during her freshman year and she is a completely different player than what she used to be. She is seeing the ice at least 50 percent of the time during games.”
The squad also has relied on Hopkinton junior Gillian Wenrich, who saw increased ice time while her classmates were sidelined.
“She has played a lot more than she had the past couple of seasons,” Grout said. “She is doing a great job holding down the fort on the back end.”
Grout is back at the helm after a two-year hiatus. He coached the program for nine seasons prior to stepping aside. He said this team “has way more depth and talent than any team I have had in the past.” Getting the goalie position shored up will make a big difference during the second half of the year, he added.
“We’ve always had a team that has 50 percent of our players learning to skate and, by senior year, you hope to have them on the ice for a full shift,” he said. “These girls have been amazing. They show up ready to work hard every day.”
Emblematic of the team’s attitude is Peña, the goalie.
“She always has a smile on her face,” Grout said. “She tells me she’s having fun, and that’s the ultimate thing.”