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In Game Dedicated to Player Lost to Suicide, Marblehead Girls Hockey Dominant in Shutout Win Over Newburyport

By Dwight Robson, Marblehead Beacon Contributor


After a rocky start to their 2022-2023 season, the Marblehead High School girls co-op hockey team (in which multiple towns are represented) has caught fire and won three straight games, including a 3-to-0 shutout of Newburyport last Saturday at the O’Keefe Athletic Center at Salem State University. With two more games looming this weekend, the 4-6 Lady Magicians will look to extend their winning streak and get back to .500 for the season.


Marblehead dedicated the game to mental health awareness in honor of Rachel McKay, a former co-captain of the Magician hockey team and a teammate and friend of Marblehead Head Coach Brittany Smith.


McKay’s parents, Deborah and David McKay of Marblehead, were on the ice prior to the start of the game to speak briefly to the crowd about their cherished daughter and the importance of mental health awareness, and drop a ceremonial puck. More than $10,000 has been raised to date in Rachel’s honor for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The McKays also have established a scholarship in Rachel’s name awarded annually to two female Marblehead High School athletes in recognition of their dedication to the sport and their teammates.


“[Rachel and I] played Islanders club hockey together, Marblehead High School hockey together, and competed against each other at our respective colleges,” Coach Smith told Marblehead Beacon. “We had been friends for many years and after hearing about her passing, I knew I wanted to honor her in some way. She was an amazing friend, teammate, sister, and daughter. Her parents, Dave and Debbie McKay, and her sister, Halle, were excited and honored that we would host a game in her honor.”


In earning the victory against the Clippers, Marblehead played a strong team game, with 8th grade netminder Liv Doucette of Hamilton-Wenham turning away 19 (unofficially) Newburyport shots and Ava Vautour (Hamilton-Wenham), Teyah Fleming (Manchester-Essex) and Samantha Demady (Swampscott) all potting goals for the Magicians. 


Coach Smith was quite pleased with her team’s performance. “We had an amazing game,” she said. “We played 45 solid minutes. We were smart with our puck decisions and played a team game.” 


From a scoring standpoint, the game started slow as an entertaining first period ended with neither team putting a puck in the back of the opposing net. However, both squads pushed the puck from end-to-end, with Marblehead holding a slight advantage in shots on goal. The Magicians had the only power play of the opening stanza, after a hooking penalty on the Clippers’ Riley Freeman. Both goalies were tested by quality scoring chances, including one by Marblehead’s Sophie Zerilli (Hamilton-Wenham) and another by Newburyport’s Delaney Belanger on a break that required an excellent save by Marblehead’s Doucette.   


The Clippers had a great chance to get on the scoreboard first in the second period on a shot in close by freshman Olivia Wilson, but again Doucette was up to the challenge. Moments later, the Magicians took advantage of another power play opportunity when junior Ava Vautour was able to put the puck behind Newburyport senior goalie Teagen Wilson. Hannah Tsouvalas (Hamilton-Wenham) and Paige Waldman (Marblehead) earned assists on the goal.


The play was physical throughout the game but became particularly chippy during the second period. After a shot by Zerilli was tied up by the Clippers’ keeper, the two teams engaged in extensive pushing and shoving. Three roughing penalties were called, including two on the Clippers that gave Marblehead another power-play opportunity. Newburyport came close to evening the score on a shorthanded effort by sophomore Jenna Oliver, who played a terrific game and had several quality scoring chances. Soon thereafter, Marblehead’s Fleming made the play of the game when she streaked up the right side under pressure by a Clipper defender, cut over to the left, and backhanded the puck past Wilson to give the Magicians a 2-0 lead.


Marblehead extended its lead five minutes into the final frame when sophomore Sam Demady pounced on a rebound of a wrist shot by Melanie Early (a 7th grader from Manchester-Essex) and backhanded it into the Clipper net, making the score 3-0.  


“Sam had her first goal of the season, which was so great to see,” Coach Smith said. “She got that by going hard to the net for a rebound. She was in the perfect place at the perfect time with her stick on the ice.”


With a comfortable lead and time winding down in the third period, the Magicians undoubtedly wanted to help goalkeeper Doucette earn the shutout. And she did, but not until Marblehead had to survive a shorthanded situation after a roughing penalty sent a Magician to the sin bin. Before the final horn sounded, Doucette was forced to turn away a couple more high-quality chances, including a tough wrist shot in the final minute of play from Newburyport freshman Olivia Wilson.


Next up for the Magicians are non-league games this weekend against Pope Francis (Saturday, 12:00 pm, Smead Arena in Springfield) and Leominster (Sunday, 10:30 am, O’Keefe Athletic Center at Salem State University).


Asked to preview her next two opponents, Coach Smith said, “Pope Francis…is a solid D1 program. We beat them last year, but they ended up only losing a small handful of games. They are a big team with solid skill. Leominster is Sunday. We lost to them last year, but it was one of our worst games. They are a feisty, small team looking to get scrappy goals. We have to have a solid D zone to shut them down and make sure to capitalize on offensive opportunities.”