Brunswick’s Celeste Brailard, left, and Winslow/Gardiner/Brewer/Messalonskee/Lawrence/Erskine Academy’s Katherine Nichols tangle during a hockey game Saturday at The Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The 2021-22 high school girls ice hockey season began on Friday, officially ushering in the start of the high school winter season. Newness is always abounding in girls’ high school hockey, and this year is no exception.

Among the new highlights, a new coach leading the Winslow/Gardiner/Cony/Messalonskee/Lawrence/Brewer/Erskine Academy co-operative team, which grew bigger over the offseason, along with Lincoln Academy joining the longtime co-op of Mt. Ararat/Morse/Lisbon. Overall, just five schools (Brunswick, Falmouth, Greely, Lewiston, and Scarborough) remain throughout the state by themselves without merging with another program.

While ice time remains an issue and numbers remain down, coaches are optimistic heading into the first traditional campaign since the 2019-20 season.

“Everything has been on the fly, we’ve had to travel around to get on the ice,” said Eagles head coach Jeremy Saxton. “Given that, the girls have adjusted quickly with the limited practice time that we’ve been able to have.”

The limited practice time didn’t seem to make a difference in the Eagles’ first game on Friday, a convincing 5-0 win over Biddeford/Thornton Academy/Wells/Sanford at The Colisee in Lewiston. Sarah Moore picked up right where she left off last season with a three-goal performance. Megan Reed and Caragh Beasley each added a goal.

“I expect them to find out how to play with each other in this one,” said Saxton before Friday’s game. “Our leaders will emerge and we’ll get in our groove.”

Bill Boardman, the new coach for the Black Tigers, says his team has been adjusting to the grind that the season brings.

Brunswick’s Lily Hattrick, left, watches as Winslow/Gardiner/Brewer/Messalonskee/Lawrence/Erskine Academy’s Kaylyn Bourque shoots and scores her first goal during a game Saturday at The Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“The girls have been working hard, we’ve had to adjust to adding some new players to the mix,” Boardman said.. “We have a good mix of experienced players along with newer players.”

Boardman says he returns just one senior to this years’ team but has a group of “talented” underclassmen who should see good amounts of playing time.

Last season, teams were permitted to play up to 10 games with no fans in attendance. There was no Maine Principal’s Association sanctioned postseason held, and the season lasted less than two calendar months.

Boardman is hoping this year will look different than how last year unfolded.

“We’re all hoping to have that normal regular season with a postseason,” he said. “I want the girls to experience what high school hockey is all about, and that’s something we hope we get the chance to do this season.”
The Black Tigers opened their season on Saturday against Brunswick at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell.

In Class A, area teams of Winslow/Gardiner/Cony/Messalonskee/Lawrence/Brewer/Erskine Academy, St. Doms/Gray-New Gloucester/Monmouth Academy/Winthrop, Mt. Ararat/Morse/Lisbon/Lincoln Academy, and Brunswick will play in the nine-team conference. Other Class A teams consist of Biddeford/Thornton Academy/Wells/Sanford, Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland, Gorham/Bonny Eagle/Massabesic/Westbrook/Fryeburg Academy, Greely, Lewiston, and Yarmouth/Freeport.

Class B is much smaller, with just six teams from the Southern area of the state: Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland, Cheverus/Old Orchard Beach/Kennebunk/Windham, Falmouth, Portland/Deering, Scarborough, and York/Traip Academy/Marshwood.

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