In the infant world of high school girls’ hockey in Maine, establishing a consistent program is a challenge.
On Wednesday afternoon, the rebuilding team from Cheverus High took on the under-construction squad from the combined program of Portland and Deering high schools.
Cheverus used two goals apiece from Jill Hannigan and Abby Biegel to beat Portland/Deering 5-2 for the City Cup championship at the Portland Ice Arena.
It is the third year the girls’ teams faced each other for the Cup and this was Cheverus’ first title.
The Stags improved to 4-4-1 while Portland/Deering dropped to 0-8.
Hannigan was named the game’s MVP for Cheverus, while defenseman Georgia Drew was the Bulldogs’ MVP.
Both Hannigan and Drew featured something few other players on the ice did: experience.
Thus the challenge for second-year Cheverus coach Amy McNally and first year Portland/Deering Coach Tim Murphy.
“It was shocking to me coming in, how much I had to do,” said McNally, a former University of Southern Maine player.
McNally expected to coach established players, but found herself teaching the game to newcomers. She discovered something else.
“I really enjoyed it,” she said.
McNally takes pride in her top line of Biegel, Katie Randall (who had two assists) and Sam Sessler, all of whom are in their second year of playing.
“Last year I was told they needed players,” Randall said. “I played basketball my whole life but from the first day I loved it.
“And the team is getting better every day.”
The Stags’ top defensive line features Hannigan and fellow sophomore Sophia Giancotti, who also scored Wednesday.
Goalie Delaney Stokes made 13 saves.
Cheverus led 4-0 until Portland/Deering scored twice in the third. Callie Sturgeon’s power-play goal at 8:43 made it 4-2. Biegel made it 5-2 a minute later.
It was a positive, competitive game for the Bulldogs.
“They’re coming along great,” said Murphy, who took over about a month before the season.
Murphy, a veteran coach of college club teams, including the U.S. Naval Academy, recently retired to Peaks Island, where his family often spent summers.
With his new coaching job, he soon learned he has a lot of work to do.
“I was surprised at the lack of continuity of the girls’ program,” he said. “You have to be willing to teach. I want these girls to love hockey and continue with it.”
While Cheverus has 15 players on its roster, Portland/Deering features 26 (five from Deering), which has enabled Murphy to also field a junior varsity team.
On the varsity, Drew, a junior, is the leader, having moved from center to defense. Murphy said sophomore Lauren McIntyre and freshman Lillian Frager are two players that will help improve the program in future years.
Anna Freund and Tara O’Neal share the goalie duties.
While the team is winless, Drew said spirits are high. “Every day we see improvement,” she said.
Both teams have a way to go to challenge for the state championship, a feat accomplished by Cheverus in 2010.
“We recently had our alumni game and it was good to see players from the team,” McNally said. “We want to get back up there again.”
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: KevinThomasPPH
This story was updated at 3:37 p.m. Jan. 17 to correct the name of the Cheverus goalie in a photo caption.