AUBURN — Maine high school girls’ hockey teams scored goals at an incredible pace last season, with state champion St. Dominic Academy leading the way.

The other team that calls Norway Savings Bank Arena home hopes to slow down that pace this year, thanks to a defensive corps that Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland coach Shon Collins called “the best … there is, top to bottom, out here.”

Collins can back up that claim with experience — that is, the experience that his four defenders bring into the 2016-17 season. That core four is made up of seniors Ally MacKenzie, Angel Drouin and Kaylee Younk, and junior Sam Martineau.

“We have a strong four right now,” MacKenzie said.

“We’ve had very good chemistry,” added Drouin.”Me, Ally and K-Yo have been playing together since about U-10, and then we have Sam here, who has been playing with us since (her) freshmen year. And we’ve all been working well together ever since.”

The same four started the season together last year, but Younk left a few games in after switching schools. That made having to face some of the state’s best attacks more difficult for the remaining three players.

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“I got a nice workout,” MacKenzie joked. “And especially when one of the three defensemen got a penalty, I really got my workout for the day. I’d be on the ice for about 10 minutes at a time.”

“It was devastating,” Martineau added with a chuckle. “It was awful.”

Martineau can laugh now looking back, but she was still a a young sophomore when she was suddenly thrust into more playing time with Younk’s absence.

“She had been getting a regular shift before that,” Collins said. “But really, I think she felt a little overshadowed by the seniors. Justifiably so. They’ve played travel (hockey) their whole lives, they’re all excellent players. And that allowed her, I thought, to really kind of step out of that shadow. We had to have her out there. You can’t run (just two on) defense. So I thought it was great for her, her confidence.”

Younk admitted that her defensive mates begged her “a little bit” to come back. But really, Younk wanted to return on her own, too. She missed her teammates just as much as they missed her.

“I was always hearing that they were working hard, and they were tired, and how they wished I was back,” Younk said. “And I had missed them, playing with them a lot. That’s the reason I came back, because of them.”

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What transpired with the Red Hornets’ blue line last year is part of what makes this year’s defense so potentially strong. Martineau now has exponentially more experience, and Younk is now reinvigorated to lace up her skates for the Red Hornets.

“It’s huge,” Collins said. “(Kaylee) is an excellent player, very smart. She’s gritty and tough. She brings a little bit of physicality out there at times that we need. She gives us a little more of that grit and attitude that we really need. Plus just her skating, passing, vision of the ice, all those things.”

The defense will have to step up early in the season, as freshman goalie Maranda Guimond figures out the varsity game.

“She does have the confidence there,” Drouin said, “but being a freshman, coming in with all sophomores, juniors and seniors, that’s probably going to be a little bit harder for her transition-wise, especially because she’s actually one of the littler goalies we’ve ever had.”

Despite her youth, Collins thinks Guimond can turn into a valuable asset between the pipes for the Red Hornets.

“Even though she is a freshman, she moves so well and she can make a lot of plays you wouldn’t expect her to make,” Collins said.

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“I think the biggest thing is just making sure she has the confidence to tell us to move, like if we’re screening her, and just building her confidence as a freshman,” MacKenzie said. “But I think she has it. She’s athletic.”

Collins said it’s up to his defensemen to be the vocal ones early in the season while Guimond finds her voice.

“It will be very important to communicate anyway,” Younk said. “But I think we’re going to have to communicate more this year since we have a lot of responsibility on us.”

Communication will be key against the likes of St. Dom’s and Greely, Scarborough and Falmouth. So, too, will gap control, according to Collins, who said there were far too many times last year where his defense simply gave those teams free entry into the zone.

No more this year. Not with such a stout defensive corps.

“With the defensive group that we have this year, our goals-against should be minimal,” Collins said. “If we come out and play the way they’re capable of, game in, game out, I strongly believe if you look at the group we have, I don’t see any other team that has that much depth and strength at defense.”

That defense will get some tests early in the season. Scarborough comes in the third game of the season, on Dec. 7, and the Red Hornets clash with St. Dom’s a week later.

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Winter Preview

Girls’ Hockey: Defense the key for Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland


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