It was supposed to be their year.
The Charlestown Townies U12 girls team had all the pieces in place this year for what looked to be a championship run for the State Tournament and the League title. That came after many years of the tight-knit group of girls getting pummeled at the U10 level and not even winning a single game one season. However, year after year they put in the hard work and got better each year. This year, with several 12-year-olds who had played together for years really gelling in a special way, Coach Derek Arsenault and Assistant Coaches John Sutich and Kenny McConnell could see they had a dream season on their hands.
They were seeded #1 in their tier for the State Tournament, which was to be held this coming weekend in Springfield, and they also had the top seed for their League playoffs the week after.
They sat at a remarkable 24-2-4 record.
They had scored 132 goals on the season, and only 39 had been scored against them.
Then came COVID-19, and that pretty much ended it those dreams abruptly. Sadly, it wasn’t just the culmination of many months of play that were foiled, but many years of building up a team of girls who were close, talented, and ready to succeed after years of work.
“We were really in position to give it as good a run as we could,” said Coach Arsenault. “We were the number one seed in that State Tournament. We would have been the first seed in our League playoffs. We had a really great team that came together. Everybody looks forward to that weekend at the State Tournament, as much the parents as the kids. The parents are all friends too. There has never been any drama on this hockey team. The girls get along on the ice as much as they do off the ice. The timing of this was as bad as it could be for this team, these girls. It’s sad because unfulfilled potential is one of the worst things in life. But it’s all out of our control.”
That was something the girls on the team all agreed to as well – the idea of unfulfilled potential.
“A lot of us have played for four or five years together and had a very close bond,” said player Annie Driscoll. “This was one of our last years that we were going to be able to play together. We worked very hard to reach a goal and we weren’t able to play for it. It was harder because it was all out of our control. I found out at home and I was already upset because we had found out my brother had gotten off from school. Then my mom came in and said States were canceled. I cried a little bit. I was mad too.”
Said Coach McConnell, “This team had a very good year and it’s unfortunate it ended this way. We tried to see if maybe they would come back and play the Tournament in the summer, but it wasn’t in the cards. It’s a circumstance you just can’t control. We understand the decision, but it’s a little sour for us.”
McConnell noted the season started 22 weeks ago, and the girls have practiced twice a week every week, and played one or two games a weekend in that time also. That, he said, is over 80 hours of ice time and dedication to the goal of winning States and the League. To have it suddenly ripped out from under them, he said, was hard for the girls to process.
“There were tears; it was tough to accept,” he said.
It Was Their Year
The U12 team was one of three girls’ teams that were headed to Springfield this weekend for what is typically the capstone on the season for those teams that won their district playoff in January. A record number of CYHA teams – five in all – advanced to the Tournament this year, with three of those teams on the girls side. (The co-ed teams played their State Tournament two weekends ago, and got it in before the shutdown).
Most had been looking forward to it for several months, but no team was anticipating it more than the U12 team. Last year, they had done well all season, only to get to States and perform disappointingly. That also came after many years of the core of the team – Brianna Dacey, Anna Corcoran, Kate Frawley, Annie Driscoll, and Rory McConnell – getting beat badly for years as they played up in the U10 level at the age of 7.
This year, the team had solidified its talent and showed more perseverance. Things likely could have been different this time.
“It’s particularly sad for the U12 girls that have to move up next year,” Arsenault said. “We’ll be good, but it will be harder to compete against the second-year U14s. Those five girls started playing in Charlestown U10 at the age of 7. They got destroyed the first year. The League gave them the first and only ‘Most Improved’ trophy because they didn’t win a game and stuck it out anyway. They didn’t quit or leave the Charlestown program. They just worked harder and harder. This year was looking to be the reward for that hard work. It was going to pay off in a state championship.”
Rory McConnell said it was very hard for the team – many of whom have played together since the age of 7 and most all of whom have played together for at least five years.
“It was sad when we found out we couldn’t make it to States because it got canceled,” she said. “We came a long way from when we first started. I felt like we could have gone really far in States. I feel like all of the hard work, and playing three years of U10, was going to pay off and we could go far.”
Player Olivia Arsenault said she wanted to be able to avenge last year’s disappointing performance at the end of the season. She had been looking forward to re-writing that script, but it wasn’t to be.
“Last year, the way we played at States was very disappointing and this year was going to be when we made up for that and have a great year,” she said. “Then came everything with the Coronavirus. When they finally announced it, we were really, really sad about it. A lot of us played together for four years and we got really close.”
Other teammates also added their thoughts.
•Brianna Dacey – “We’re a really close team. We played together every year and I’ve known these girls for half of my life. We go to dinner after practice, we have sleepovers, and go to tournaments together. We always look forward to going to States together. It’s unfortunate this happened this year because we know we could have gone all the way this year in States and the Playoffs. I’m really upset about it.”
•Erin Flaherty – “We were very close and we had a lot of success throughout the year. I just want to give a big thank you to Coach Derek, Coach Kenny and Coach John for helping us.”
•Goalie Katlin Sacco is the newest member of the team, having joined last year. After having played for several other teams in the past, she said the chemistry with the Charlestown U12s was amazing.
“This team gets along a lot better than any team I’ve been on, whether on the ice or off the ice. Every player was ready to play and it was everyone playing as a team. There wasn’t one person who took over. Next year, I’ll be a U14, and I’m just glad I had this opportunity to join Charlestown because it’s more competitive than the other teams.”
Thanks to the Coaches
By and large, all of the girls and the parents on the team had one thing to say – thank you. That appreciation went to the three coaches who put many hours into helping the team – realizing last November that they had a group that was committed and ready for a championship run.
For Coach Arsenault, he said there was one thing he dreamed of doing, and that was putting the five girls who started at 7 on the ice together in the championship game to finish out what they started long ago.
“I had this idea as the season went on and we got better that maybe we would be up a couple of goals in the championship game and I might be able to get all five girls from the original team on the ice to celebrate together at the end of the game,” he said. “That’s a dream we won’t be able to get to yet because of these circumstances that are just out of our control.”