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Local skaters lift Holy Cross squad

Holy Cross freshman Francesca Panarelli of Shrewsbury and the Middlesex School has scored 13 points as a defenseman. Holy Cross freshman Francesca Panarelli of Shrewsbury and the Middlesex School has scored 13 points as a defenseman. (Photos by Peter Cooke)
By Marvin Pave
Globe Correspondent / January 26, 2012
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Not surprisingly, there’s a hockey theme at Shrewsbury’s Lakeside Bar and Grille, which is owned by Frank Panarelli and his wife, Pamela.

A Holy Cross banner is prominently displayed, as well as a photo of the couple’s daughter, Francesca, who is a freshman defenseman on the Crusader women’s ice hockey team. The photo dates from her days as a member of the national champion Assabet Valley girls’ team.

The restaurant is a popular destination for the Holy Cross team, which gathered at Lakeside after a charity fund-raising walk and a birthday party for a teammate.

Panarelli is one of 17 first-year players for the Crusaders (12-1-2 overall, 9-1 ECAC), who will host Plymouth State tomorrow and Southern Maine on Saturday.

The 5-foot-3 Panarelli, one of seven local players skating for Holy Cross, has collected 13 points in 15 games.

“I usually go up against bigger forwards, so I’ve worked on my strength and quickness to keep up with the pace and demand playing in college,’’ said Panarelli, who graduated from Middlesex School in Concord and attended the USA Hockey development camp from age 14 to 17. “I also try to watch as much hockey as I can, focusing on the defensemen and what works for them.’’

Her father, the varsity girls’ hockey coach at Shrewsbury High, and her brother, Nick, both were forwards for the Colonials under coach Phil Irving, now retired.

“I scored a goal in Coach Irving’s first game, and Nick scored in Coach’s 500th game,’’ said Frank Panarelli, whose Shrewsbury girls were 7-4-1 through last weekend.

“It’s been fun to see Francesca play and develop. I invite her to our hockey practices to help our defensemen, and also serve as a role model for our girls who hope to play in college.’’

Holy Cross freshman forward Rebecca Fleming of Newton is also among the team’s top scorers, with 6 goals and 8 assists. She was named ECAC East Player of the Week after her first career hat trick and two assists against Salve Regina earlier this month.

Fleming, who played at Lawrence Academy in Groton and Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut, said being part of such a sizable freshman contingent on the Holy Cross squad provides competition for playing time as well as camaraderie.

“Our upperclassmen are our core, and we roll out four lines because of our depth,’’ she said. “We also have a fifth line in practice. It’s nice to think that we have a talented group that could be here for four seasons.’’

Panarelli and Fleming are joined by junior forward Rebecca O’Quinn (3 goals, 8 assists), sophomore defenseman Emily Sullivan (5 assists), and her twin sister Kylee (1 goal), all of Arlington; freshman defenseman Jessica Frascotti of Needham (2 goals, 3 assists); and freshman forward Kate Reilly of Natick.

“Having so many freshmen is an indication of the expansion of girls’ hockey programs at the club and high school levels, and the talent upgrade because of that,’’ said Holy Cross coach Peter Van Buskirk, who guided the Hudson High School boys to a Division 1 state title in 1978, “but I didn’t quite expect that so many would play key roles for us so soon.

“Rebecca has good vision on the ice, makes good decisions, and has a very strong shot,’’ he said of Fleming, and as for Panarelli, he noted, “I can use Francesca in all situations because she’s so solid offensively and defensively.’’

He added that O’Quinn is an excellent skater, center, and special teams player who is having her best season offensively. Frascotti teams with Panarelli on the blue line and has been a major contributor. Emily Sullivan has earned a spot in the defensive rotation, Kylie Sullivan is a solid fourth-liner, and Reilly is part of the numbers game among the freshmen.

“For all of our freshmen,’’ said Van Buskirk, “practicing and playing is the best teacher.’’

Headliners

Belmont High School graduate Chris Stadler, a sophomore runner on the cross-country team at Haverford (Pa.) College, has been named to the All-Centennial Conference second team and the conference’s academic honor roll. Haverford won the conference and NCAA Division 3 Mideast Region titles and was second at the NCAA championships. Stadler also runs the 3,000 and 5,000 meters for the Fords’ indoor and outdoor track teams . . . Dover’s Patrick McLaughlin, a senior two-way lineman at St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, has committed to Williams College. McLaughlin is the only grandchild of the late and legendary Boston College hockey coach John “Snooks’’ Kelley, for whom the BC rink is named . . . Last weekend’s Bates College Invitational featured strong performances from several area women on the host squad. Kallie Nixon, a sophomore from Medfield, won the 3,000 meters; junior Lisa Reedich of Harvard was second in the 800 meters; senior captain Lizzie Carleton of Westborough was part of the victorious 4x200 relay unit; and freshman Quincy Snellings of Lexington ran on the winning 4x400 relay squad. Bates, a Division 3 program, placed second overall behind Division 1 University of Maine.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com

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