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Globe South High School Hockey

Fontbonne driven to reach top

Off-ice workouts keep team in gear

Senior leadership, including top scorer and captain Taylor Shepherd, has the Fontbonne girls’ hockey team charging towards the postseason tourney. Senior leadership, including top scorer and captain Taylor Shepherd, has the Fontbonne girls’ hockey team charging towards the postseason tourney. (Steve Haines for The Boston Globe)
By Michael Mancinelli
January 20, 2011

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While legs grew heavy and third-period attrition took its toll on the Arlington Catholic girls’ hockey team, Fontbonne Academy was just hitting its stride in their matchup last week.

As the Ducks (7-0-2) sealed a 4-0 win over the Cougars by scoring three unanswered goals in the final six minutes at Shea Memorial Rink in Quincy, it became clear that late-game fatigue isn’t a factor — in fact, quite the opposite.

The Catholic Conference leaders are finding, for the most part, that they have plenty of gas left in the tank at the end of games. They credit their off-ice conditioning program.

Every Sunday morning during the season, trainer Tom Sullivan puts the players through a vigorous workout that includes agility exercises, flexibility work, and light weight training. With the Ducks highly motivated after losing in last year’s Division 2 state final to Winchester, 2-0, the extra work appears to be paying dividends.

“It definitely helps, I think,’’ said Fontbonne captain Taylor Shepherd, a high-scoring 5-foot-6 forward from Quincy. “Staying focused and in shape off-ice is definitely a key because that keeps you from getting hurt. It puts you a step above everyone on the ice. Some teams just practice during the week and go to games, but we put in the extra time and that’s what I think pushes our team ahead of every other team.’’

Sullivan, an assistant hockey coach at North Quincy and a former three-time hockey captain at Babson, said it’s rare for a girls’ hockey team, such as Fontbonne, to put in the off-ice work as a group, especially during the season.

“It’s rare if you look at my clientele breakdown, only 20 percent are female,’’ said Sullivan, who specializes in training hockey players through his Weymouth-based company, Sullivan Training Systems.

“It’s great to get girls on a program. There are a lot of places they’d rather be on a Sunday morning. They show up and work hard when most high school kids will sleep until noon. They’re hard-working girls.’’

After the Milton school won the Division 2 state crown in 2009, Ducks coach Robert Huxley wanted to implement strength and conditioning training to keep the team on top. His connection with Sullivan came through his oldest son, Shawn, who was a classmate at Thayer Academy.

“They’re hearing a different voice,’’ said Huxley, about the benefits of the workouts. “They understand it takes more than just playing the game. You have to put the extra time in off the ice. They do a lot of plyometrics. A little bit of weight lifting, very little. It’s mostly plyometrics, stretching, hip flexors, that type of thing.’’

The workouts make the girls better athletes but also build cohesiveness and unity on a team with players from 14 different communities.

So far the work has made Fontbonne stronger while adding an extra dimension of skill to an already talented roster. Led by Shepherd, the leading scorer in the Catholic Conference with 20 goals in nine games, the Ducks’ work ethic stems in large part from their loss in the championship game last year.

“It’s definitely sitting in our stomachs,’’ said Shepherd, who plans on playing hockey at either Providence College or Salve Regina University next year. “The fact that we lost, the fact that we went all that way to lose, is kind of like the worst part. We’re definitely ready to come back and hopefully get back there at some point.

“It’s going to take coming out to practice every day, ready to play 100 percent. You can’t do 110, you can’t do 105, you can only give 100 — Coach says that all the time. If we come ready at practice, we skate hard, we do what we need to do — it’s going to transfer into the games.’’

At the midway point of the season, Huxley said he feels confident the Ducks can make another championship run. He said his senior leadership, including Shepherd, captain Meghan Collins of Stoughton, goalie Samantha Curley of Dorchester, forward Paige Frabetti-Merlino of Brockton, and defenseman Michelle Barrett of West Roxbury, has been tremendous.

“I think they’ve got the determination and the heart for it,’’ Huxley said. “Everybody played today, which is good. So I have depth. I think it’s going to take killer instinct. With girls, it’s so difficult to get that into their minds. I think they do [have that killer instinct]. The top two lines can really go hard. The other girls are right behind them. They’re anxious, they’re all hungry to get to the puck, and they want opportunities.’’

Both of Fontbonne’s ties were against Austin Prep (2-2-2).

Xaverian’s Hall nets game-winner Xaverian (6-0) won its Catholic Conference opener Saturday afternoon in dramatic fashion with a 3-2 win over Catholic Memorial. Senior forward Ryan Hall scored the game-winner. It was the second straight conference loss for Catholic Memorial (5-5), which lost to Malden Catholic (7-2) earlier in the week.

Looking ahead to potential Super 8 seedings, Hingham (6-1-3) skated to a 2-1 win over Malden Catholic before losing to Reading, 3-2, on Monday.

Notes from the rink Southeastern/West Bridgewater (7-1) took sole possession of first place in the Mayflower Athletic Conference with a 6-1 win over Diman Vocational (Fall River) Saturday. Junior defenseman Caiden Thom contributed a hat trick to the win. . . . Big Three front-runner Brockton (5-2-1) pounded league rival Durfee with 58 shots en route to a 5-1 win. With only winless New Bedford and one-win Durfee also in the league, the Boxers will look to run away with the league title. . . . Prior to last night’s matchup, both Weymouth (9-1) and Braintree (7-2-1) were 7-0 in Bay State Carey play. . . . In the Southeastern Mass. Girls Hockey League, Duxbury (7-1) still hasn’t lost since an early setback to St. Mary’s.