Being the parent of a hockey goalie is one of the toughest roles in the rink. Rhonda O’Shea found out the first time she watched her daughter Miranda in the net for the Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester girls’ team.

“The first game, I sat all by myself,” Rhonda said, remembering the grimaces every time the puck got by Miranda. “I felt she was letting the team down.”

Hardly.

Miranda O’Shea, a senior at Freeport High School, had never played hockey before, let alone the vital role of goalie. But she found herself starting on the varsity out of necessity. When new coach Megan Vaughan began practice in early November, she had 12 skaters and no goalie.

“We were in a tough spot,” Vaughan said.

It can happen in high school hockey – and especially in girls’ hockey, where there are few middle school programs – when a team finds itself without someone to fill the most essential position.

“They needed a goalie so I stepped up,” Miranda said.

Miranda has had some highs (two shutouts), but also has allowed double-digit scoring in four games.

The Clippers began 2-0 – including an 8-0 win over Mt. Ararat – but then lost 12-1 to St. Dominic, a powerhouse that is still undefeated.

Miranda can be an intense competitor, and both Vaughan and Yarmouth goalie coach Liz Bergstrom approached her after the game.

“We told her it wasn’t her fault,” Vaughan said. “That was a strong team and we didn’t give her enough support.”

She was grateful.

“My goalie coach said, ‘You’re OK. This is your first time doing this and you’re 10 times better than anyone else I’ve seen for the first time.’ That kept me going,” Miranda said.

And Rhonda O’Shea discovered that a goalie’s mom does not have to be alone.

“All the families are so supportive,” she said. “They say ‘Hey, she’s doing a good job … if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have a team.'”

Miranda has played soccer, basketball and softball. Her best friend, Maddy McCallum, suggested she try hockey.

“I knew she would have a lot of fun,” said Maddy, also a senior on the team. “I also knew we had no goalie this year. I thought she would be really good because she’s really aggressive.”

Rhonda O’Shea vouched for the aggressiveness: “When she played basketball, she fouled out of every game.”

Miranda  volunteered to be the team’s goalie. Vaughan knew she never played hockey before and had her participate in skating drills for a week before getting out the goalie gear. It was all foreign to her.

“I looked pretty stupid getting on the pads,” she said.

And the gear was used men’s equipment, some of it the wrong size.

“The glove was huge and really nasty from all the sweat,” Miranda said. She replaced the glove but found equipment wasn’t her biggest challenge.

“I thought it would be easy (physically),” she said, “but I was bawling my eyes out the first practice.”

Maintaining position as a goalie – knees bent, glove hand up, stick on the ice – was not so easy.

Her legs became used to the grind, and Miranda began to get comfortable. After only a few days of taking shots in practice, she was thrown into a round-robin series of exhibitions.

How would she handle live action?

“The first goal she let in during the round robin, she said, ‘I really didn’t want that to go in, coach.’ Instead of being discouraged, she got fired up,” Vaughan said.

“She’s been fighting hard. … She loves it, and she’s aggressive. In practice, she’s starting to push people out of the way who are in front of the net.”

Besides working in practice, Miranda is doing all she can to learn a new craft. She recently attended a youth clinic for beginning goalies, finding herself towering over 8-year-old boys.

“That’s where I’m at skill-wise,” she said. “I wish I started earlier. I thought if I only played this instead of basketball, I’d be so much better.”

Miranda is getting better. In a recent shutout of Biddeford, “she made some amazing saves,” Vaughan said.

She also made some stellar saves in a recent loss to Scarborough, a deceivingly lopsided 11-5 score.

Regardless of the outcome, the effort has Rhonda O’Shea cheering. Uninformed fans may only see a goalie who sometimes struggles, but her mom knows the girl behind the mask.

“Miranda’s a fighter,” she said.