WEST SPRINGFIELD – Seven games into the 2019-20 regular season, the Longmeadow-Westfield girls ice hockey team is still unbeaten.
Longmeadow-Westfield opened the season with a five-game winning streak with wins over Shrewsbury, Auburn, Leominster, Methuen, and North Quincy. During that stretch, the Lancers outscored the competition 31-3.
Since then, Longmeadow-Westfield has posted consecutive 3-3 ties against Saint Peter-Marian (Jan. 2) and Dennis-Yarmouth (Jan. 4). So what’s been the difference over the course of the past week?
“We played a mixture of some really good teams and some teams that were weaker (early on),” Longmeadow-Westfield girls ice hockey head coach Melissa Vandermyn said. “The girls were jelling well and understanding the system. The lull around the holidays kind of hurt us. We couldn’t really fix what we were seeing.”
The team’s starting center, senior Jordan Kowalski (Westfield), and forwards Ashley Barron (Longmeadow) and Lexi Pfalzgraf (East Longmeadow) have fueled the offense through the first seven games. Kowalski has seven goals and six assists. Goalie Mackenzie Rae (Westfield), who allowed a total of just three goals in the first five games, has been solid in between the pipes. Thus far, Rae has compiled 113 saves on 122 shots for a 92.6 percent save percentage.
While this year’s team carries a bit more inexperienced underclassmen and a few new upperclassmen – Westfield senior Alyssa Warren returns after missing all of last season with a hip injury – there have been some lightning-in-a-bottle moments like when Southwick’s Kayla Russ has stepped on the ice.
“Kayla is hands-down the fastest player on the ice,” coach Vandermyn said, also noting her outstanding forechecking. “I haven’t seen anyone be able to match her speed this season.”
This year’s version of the Lancers features a strong contingent of players from the Whip City. In addition to Kowalski, Rae, and Warren, Westfield natives Samantha Scanlon, Madison Fox, Camryn Scanlon, and Anna Chrisanthopoulos also make up the current roster.
There are other rostered players who hail from Agawam, East Longmeadow, Minnechaug, South Hadley, and, of course, Longmeadow.
Longmeadow-Westfield came together earlier this season to defeat defending Division 1 state champ Methuen-Tewskbury, 2-1. It was sweet revenge for the Lancers who were eliminated by MT 9-1 in the 2018-19 state semifinals.
Does Longmeadow-Westfield have what it takes to go even further this season? Their head coach believes so.
“The majority of our players have been in this system,” coach Vandermyn said. “We have a lot of depth and a lot of talent. …Once we get back in the swing this week … it should help revive us a little bit and get us back on track. …It’s going to take a lot of mental toughness, but it’s a reasonable expectation that we can go even further than last year. The girls know what it takes and they’re ready to work.”
Vandermyn said their two recent ties were due to a lack of communication, mental breakdowns, and penalties. The Lancers plan to fine-tune their effort beginning Tuesday when they travel to Winthrop’s Lawrence Larsen Rink for a contest. The puck drops at 6 p.m.
BOYS ICE HOCKEY
Morris solid in defeat
Belchertown 3, Southwick 1
Belchertown received goals from three different players (Chris Buffone, Cody Samson, Francis Henderson) to turn back Southwick Saturday.
Noah Durfey scored the lone Southwick goal. Rams goalie Andrew Morris saved 27 of 30 shots.
“The kids played great,” Southwick boys ice hockey head coach Chris D’Angelo said. “Just a couple minor mistakes that Belchertown capitalized on. They move the puck real well. Was a good back and forth game.”
Bombers tired, tied
Westfield 1, Marlborough 1
Westfield bounced back from a 5-1 loss to Worcester Academy on Friday with a tie against Marlborough the following day.
It has been exhausting start to the season for Westfield (2-5-2), which has already faced tough independent foes (Hudson, Dartmouth, Revere, Gloucester, Beverly, Worcester Academy, and Marlborough).
Westfield returns to the ice Jan. 10 on the road against Longmeadow at the MassMutual Center. The game is at 4 p.m.