AUBURN — During St. Dom’s girls’ hockey practice on any given day, there could be either laughing or bickering.

Or both.

Such is life in a close-knit family. And while the Saints all consider themselves “family,” there are two true familial bonds among the team’s members — a pair of sisters, and a pair of cousins.

Some of what has given the currently undefeated and defending state champion Saints solid team chemistry has to do with biology and genealogy as much as chemistry. Sisters Katya and Dasha Fons and cousins Callie and Madison Samson bring plenty of energy to the squad.

“They obviously come with different groups, so being related allows them to connect with those groups,” St Dom’s coach Paul Gosselin said. “So it brings a little bit more cohesiveness to the team. Hockey kind of brings them together. They don’t all necessarily have the sames likes and dislikes, but when they get together with hockey and they’ve got connections, it makes it that much stronger.”

This is the second year both Fons sisters and the Samson cousins have been on a team together. Katya, a junior, is a couple years older than sophomore sister Dasha, while Madison Samson started playing hockey for the first time last year.

“It was different and kind of difficult adjusting to the team,” Katya said. “My sister played with the girls for Gladiators, but I didn’t really know them besides doing Rousseau’s (Clinics) with them. It was hard adjusting, but once I got adjusted it was fun, and it was nice to be part of a team where everybody wants the same goal.”

Madison Samson was pulled along for the ride of last year’s state title run.

“They said they needed numbers, and I don’t play a winter sport, so I said, ‘Why not?'” Madison said. “I went in when the team was up by at least five. I didn’t get many shifts, but this year it’s been a little bit different.”

Madison Samson has seen increased playing time, and has been an addition to the team’s offense.

“We get so happy on the bench when she scores. I’m probably the loudest one on the bench when she’s out there,” Callie said. “When we’re out on a shift together I’m always talking to her, trying to set her up as much as we can.”

Dasha Fons also appears on that line, which is a new wrinkle from last year, when she was part of a defensive pairing with her sister.

“Definitely last year it was kind of frustrating to play with her on defense,” Katya said. “But this year I kind of miss playing with her because she understood, she knew what my mistakes were, my weaknesses, and she picked right up on them. So it’s kind of hard adjusting to the play with Izzy (Frenette) and Emma (Theriault), but I definitely miss playing with her on defense.”

“It can be a little frustrating sometimes, but in the end I think it’s good, because for our lives, since we’re so far apart in age, we’ve never really played together on a team before,” Dasha added. “So being on a high school team it’s kind of fun.”

The Samsons have had a similar experience with the Saints.

“Growing up, we didn’t play on a lot of sports teams together. She played soccer and I played field hockey,” Callie said. “So it was definitely new playing with her. We had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs.”

There’s also the not-so-fun times between relatives, as Gosselin was quick to point out.

“Being close relatives, you know how sisters are, they can get along one minute, argue the next,” Gosselin said. “The good comes with the bad, and we work through it.”

Gosselin added that winning “temporarily” fixes any bickering.

“We don’t really offend each other when we give each other harsh criticism,” Katya said. “And it’s definitely something like in 20 years we’re going to look back and laugh, and remember the fun moments that we had together.”

That sibling criticism sometimes extends beyond the girls’ locker room. Callie Samson’s brother Connor is a senior on the St. Dom’s boys’ team.

“My brother, all I hear at home is, ‘Why’d you do this? You should have done this.’ He’s just trying to be helpful, like a big brother,” Callie said.

“Our family is very competitive,” Madison said. “But we’re very supportive of each other.”

That family-like support is something the Saints have in their locker room, aided at least in part by two sets of a relatives on a relatively small roster. The Saints go on trips together, and have weekly team dinners.

“When you have a sibling group on a team, it sort of helps yourself, like it helps knowing someone that knows you. You know that someone has your back,” Dasha Fons said.

“When you have chemistry with everybody, it just helps the team dynamic a lot,” Callie Samson said.

The Saints will start their run to a second straight state championship on Saturday when they host Brunswick in a regional semifinal.

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Cousins Madison and Callie Samson and sisters Katya and Dasha Fons bring warmth and camaraderie to the St. Dom’s girls hockey team.

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