FRAMINGHAM – After a stunning, overtime win against long-time rival Natick, the Framingham Youth Hockey Program is sending its girls league Flyers team to States for the first time.
The U19 A team, comprised mostly of Framingham High varsity hockey players, will compete against the best programs in Massachusetts this weekend at Veterans Memorial Arena in Waltham.
The youth hockey girls program was re-born several years ago when a group of parents, coaches and volunteers realized that while more girls were enrolling in the hockey program, they were not necessarily sticking with it. That group did the work to create a new program starting with one team – and many of those original players are playing in States for the first time.
“I remember when this all started as a simple question of “why” aren’t there any girls hockey teams in our program,” said Pam Chalmers, one of the founders of that first team. “That question sparked a movement where a daring group of young girls and some very dedicated coaches worked tirelessly to prove that we “can” make this happen.”
The program has been nurtured by Framingham Youth Hockey coaches and board members Kevin Houlker and Jeff Quinn.
The vibrant program has now grown to 8 separate teams across 5 age groups, plus a large number of younger girls in the FYHP Learn to Play Program.
“Winning District 8 is a huge achievement,” said Quinn, who is also an assistant coach on the U19 A Team. “We have helped hundreds of girls learn about and play the sport who otherwise would never have had the opportunity in Framingham.”
“I’m very proud to have accomplished our goal of multiple girls teams playing youth hockey for Framingham at every age level in such a short period of time,” said Houlker, who is also a U19 coach. “Congrats to the 19U A team and thank you to all the players, coaches and parents who support our program”
It’s an opportunity that seemed unlikely only a few years ago.
“Many of these players started on co-ed teams and we risked losing them,” said Franklin, who is also an assistant coach U19 A team. “But they really started to shine once they began to play on a female and transgender team in a girls league.”
“I just feel so proud and happy for these players,” said assistant U19A Coach Blaise Tersoni. “They’ve worked really hard. Hockey’s not an easy sport to play – it takes a lot from players, parents, volunteers to make it happen. For them to beat their biggest rival, at home in front of parents, friends, classmates, to go to States for the first time ever, it was really special.”
The U19 A Team won the District 8 Championship against rival Natick at Loring Arena in dramatic fashion last Sunday.
Framingham had the lead for most of the game, with two goals from Framingham High senior Rachael Neiberger and a top shelf snipe from junior Ryen Taylor.
Tough defense and stout goaltending from both junior Mikal Franklin and freshman Liz Luong, kept Natick at bay; but the Comets were able to tie it up with about a minute left in regulation. That meant a three-on-three sudden death overtime period.
“Our kids had played so well. I could tell they felt confident,” said Head Coach Mike Clark. “We practice hard, we prepare for situations like these. So I sent my first three players out there with a simple message: Do what you’ve been doing all year, and go win it.” About a minute into OT, junior Molly Clark blocked a shot from the blue line, chased down the puck in the neutral zone, and went in on a breakaway.
It wasn’t easy to watch his daughter with the puck on her stick and game on the line.
“It was an aggressive play, but she was able to get separation, go in alone, and finish it, ultimately knocking in her own rebound. It was an incredible feeling to see her get it done,” he said.
Many Framingham Youth Hockey midget players (high school aged players) were at Loring that night preparing for their Sunday night House League games. Like so many times before, old barn erupted as they watched their friends and classmates beat Natick – which is always a thrill – in sudden death. This time through, it was history in the making.
Ticket to States: punched.
According to Clark, the team is solid up and down the lineup.
“Our forward group can compete with anyone. Whether they are grinding it out on a tough forecheck or showing offensive creativity, they get it done. Ava Sullivan, Sophia Tersoni, Molly Clark, Maggie Robinson, Mason Puumala, Amber Welch, Rachel Neiberger, Brooke Anderson and Zoe Yale have been tremendous all year,” said Clark.
“Our defensive corps is equally formidable. We’ve encouraged them to play offensively and they contribute on the scoreboard, but they can also shut down the best of the best. Ryen Taylor, Alix Russo, Charlotte Felz, Peyton Wolfe and Katie Quinn have been a force and I expect that to continue this weekend,” said the head coach.
“The backbone of our team has been the goaltending tandem of Liz Luong and Mikal Franklin, two of the best goaltenders in the state in my opinion. We are blessed with two outstanding players at the most important position on the ice, who constantly support each other and give our team a chance to win every game we play,” said Clark.
“Our dedicated strong coaching staff brings so many years of experience to the table. We couldn’t have come this far without Blaise Tersoni, Josh Franklin, Jeff Quinn and Mara Yale – all outstanding coaches who continue to place our players’ development as their top priority. They are truly the unpaid professionals who some of the best in the business,” said Clark.
The Framingham U19 team plays at 5:20 p.m. Friday at Ryan Arena in Watertown taking on the Stoneham Spartans.
The tournament moves to Veterans Memorial Rink in Waltham on Saturday where the Flyers will take on Milton at 8:10 a.m. and MassBay at 6:10 p.m.
Should they advance to the semi-finals, they would compete Sunday morning and afternoon in Waltham.
Photo and report submitted to SOURCE