The defending state champion Mount St. Charles hockey team has won its first five games this season.
WOONSOCKET --- Offensively, Mount St. Charles Academy is sixth out of the stateâs nine teams in goals scored, and defensively, the Mounties are one of four teams to have surrendered fewer than 10 goals.
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But thereâs one huge reason why the Mounties are sitting atop the standings with a 5-0 mark and looking like a potent squad in excellent shape to defend their state championship come March.
âI think we have the depth that any team in the league would envy,â offered MSC coach Steve Shea. âI feel like we have depth at every position, which is very nice to have.â
Shea is in his first season as the Mountiesâ head coach, but heâs certainly no stranger to the success of the girlsâ program, which has won five of the eight girlsâ championships and averaged more than 14 victories in each of the last six seasons.
Shea, who is an English teacher at MSC, had been an assistant coach for the past few seasons with the Mounties and former head coach Amy Maguire.
âAmy set the winning tone,â added Shea. âShe taught the kids what it takes to win, and weâre just trying to follow up on that and implement some new things.â
Shea came into the season minus the services of five players to graduation, including a pair of two-time All-Staters in forward Katie Loiselle and goalie Kayla DiLorenzo, but he welcomed back the rest of the squad and added a few promising freshmen to the mix.
âWeâre very happy with our season,â said Shea. âOur goal is to get back to the state championship (series) and win that. Itâs tough every season and itâs always a new challenge, but weâll do our best.â
Unlike the rest of the league, the Mounties are blessed with four lines, and not only has it been difficult for Shea to get all four on the ice, but itâs been equally tough to distinguish which line is the first, second, or third.
âWe donât really have a first line,â added Shea. âWhen theyâre on the ice, I think youâd be hard-pressed to see whoâs our first line, but weâve been very successful with putting a lot of pressure on teams and getting a lot of shots.â
Traditionally at Mount, the line that sports the white jerseys during practice has been the first line, and the players who have this honor are senior wings Erin Rouleau and Samantha Smith and sophomore center Alisha Sleboda.
Rouleau and Smith had joined classmate BriAnna Narodowy on the âwhiteâ line, but Shea moved Narodowy to center the âblueâ line that has featured junior Cassandra Czarn and freshmen standouts Briana Castro and Danielle Allain.
âSheâs definitely our most experienced player,â Shea said of Naradowy, who has 24 goals over the past three seasons. âSheâs the player that we hope will break out and have a big year for us.â
MSCâs top scoring line, which had scored 10 of the teamâs 14 goals and also added 15 assists, had been the junior âredâ line of center Lauren Levesque and the Shea twin sisters, Caitlin and Allison. Caitlin has scored 25 goals in her two-plus seasons with the team.
Czarn and Allain, who alternate time on the âblueâ line, have also skated on the âgrayâ line with sophomore center Marissa Heroux and freshman Allison Young.
While the Mounties boast the most depth in the league, they also feature the leagueâs finest blueline tandem in senior All-State defenseman Caitlin Bray and junior MaryKate Stimpson. Bray, Naradowy, Rouleau, and Smith are the Mountiesâ captains.
MSCâs second wave of defensemen, junior Lauren Deguire and sophomore Meredith Peppes, are also solid, and junior Kaitlyn Croke has also sparkled defensively.
The starting goaltender is junior Ariana Beauregard, who in four games, has turned away 81 out of 83 shots to lead the division in goals against average (0.50) and save percentage (.976).
Freshman backup Sarah Erban made her varsity debut in the Mountiesâ last game, a 4-1 victory over North Smithfield High last Saturday, and turned in a fine job, noted Shea.
Prior to that victory, the Mounties had recorded a 1-0 triumph over La Salle Academy, another 4-1 decision over the Northmen, a thrilling 2-0 win over Bay View Academy in a rematch of last yearâs state finals, and a 3-1 verdict over the Burrillville-Ponaganset co-op team.
La Salle (5-1), Burrillville/Ponaganset (4-1), and Bay View (4-1) are hot on the heels of the Mounties in the standings, and not far behind that group are the Warwick co-op team (3-1) and the Northmen.
âThere are a lot of tough teams this year,â offered Shea. âNobodyâs going to go undefeated. Some teams have a really good scorer like North Smithfield. Some have a great goalie like La Salle, and some have a little more balance like Bay View.
âLike I said, our strength is our depth, our balance, and the fact that we can literally play four lines. Knock on wood, we could weather some injuries or sicknesses if a couple happened, but we certainly donât want that to happen. As long as we continue to stay healthy and play the way weâre playing, we should be fine.â