WHSL went 11-10 this season and made the tournament for the first time in three years.
Coming into the season, Whitman-Hanson/Silver Lake high school girls’ hockey head coach Kevin Marani had an idea of what it would take to jumpstart his team.
“We just need that signature win — that one signature win that we know we can do. And once that happens — winning is contagious,” said Marani back in December.
He was right. After an 0-4 start to the season, the co-op shut out Plymouth, 5-0, and finished the season winning 11 of its last 16 games for its first tournament berth in three years.
“When we started off 0-4, it was almost like, ‘Here we go again,’” Marani said. “I think the signature win was against Plymouth. They were good and we gave them a good popping and I think at that point they were like, ‘Ya know what, we really can, we can believe in ourselves,’ and they did.”
WHSL fell to Waltham, 5-3, in the first round of the Div. 1 tournament.
“Just making the state tournament is huge for this program,” Marani said. “What happens is little girls start watching you and want to be a part of the success.”
Senior captain Alyssa Murphy (Kingston) was a huge part of WHSL’s success. The Western New England bound-forward finished the year with 31 goals and eight assists. She was named a Patriot League All-Star.
“She reminds me a lot of Mel [McAleer],” Marani said. “She just made every single person on that team better. She had that leader’s attitude. She’s a great leader and a great captain with all the skills in the world. It was always team first.”
Freshman Shea Kellleher (Kingston) was also a league all-star after finding the back of the net 13 times to go with 14 assists.
“She is really, really good,” Marani said.
Junior captain Emily McDonald (Whitman), who was Kelleher’s linemate, scored nine goals, but her coach said it could have been a lot more.
“She was snakebitten this year,” Marani said. “She played crazy good. Her and Shea are a great combination together. She should have probably had 20 goals.”
In net, junior Kat Gilbert (Halifax) was a rock yet again this season.
“I knew she had it in her,” Marani said. “She worked her butt off all offseason. She is the most improved player in the league by far. It was just confidence and concentration. The sky’s the limit for her. She can be the best goalie in the league, I truly believe that.”
Fellow junior Caleigh Tompkins (Kingston) was the backbone of WHSL’s defense. And with 11 rising seniors set to return next season, Marani has set the expectation high.
“If we don’t make the state tournament, it’s going to be a disappointment,” Marani said.
*This article will run in the Express’ print edition at a later date.