First-year Austin Prep Cougars coach Stephanie Wood knew that pulling off a win at the No. 4-ranked Hingham Harbormen’s home rink wouldn’t be easy. But Wood’s young team upset an experienced Harbormen squad Saturday night.
“We know that Hingham is a tough team,” Wood said. “They’re a lot more experienced. We’re playing bigger, stronger, more experienced girls, but our younger players aren’t afraid to challenge them.”
The No. 14 Cougars came ready for a battle, and eighth-grader Michaela Boyle got the Cougars (6-3-3) off to a flying start in the first period with an early goal.
“She’s a tough competitor, she’s strong physically and has tremendous offensive ability,” said Wood. “Having her [for four more years] is a huge positive for us.”
Wood’s young team, which includes 15 underclassmen and just five upperclassmen, put together a strong defensive display, too. Then Boyle scored another goal on a power play late in the third period to ice the win.
The youth of the team excites Wood, who is in her first season as the Cougars’ coach.
“It’s a good thing for the direction of the program,” she said. “Some of our younger players have flourished as the season goes on, and they aren’t afraid to challenge other juniors and seniors.”
Thankfully for the Cougars, the team has been learning from the leadership of goaltender Shannon O’Neil.
“Shannon has been the absolute backbone of the team,” Wood said. “The team knows when she’s on her game, she’s really hard to beat.”
Wood’s favorite part of her senior goalie’s game is the way O’Neil plays when the game’s on the line.
“She seems to thrive under pressure,” said Wood. “She made some big-time saves down the stretch.” O’Neil recorded 37 saves in her sixth shutout of the season and will attend Franklin Pierce University this fall to play hockey.
At the beginning of the season, Wood knew changes had to be made in her first year at Austin Prep. The first goal she set at the beginning of the season with her team was clear.
“We wanted to end the two-year playoff drought,” she said. “We need three more wins to qualify for the playoffs, but we’re trying to get the highest seed possible.”
And to Wood, the most exciting part of the season is still to come for her team that benefits and learns from each game.
“We still have nine games left,” she said.
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- Jake Fischer | @GlobeFischer | Boys basketball
- Michelle Fenelon | @michfenelon | Girls basketball
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Boys hockey
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls hockey
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