WOBURN — Despite the pandemic, the transfers of some of its best players, and of course, graduation, the Woburn High girls' hockey team has somehow found a way to win its last game of the season, four of the past five years.
The Tanners won two MIAA Div. 1 state championships in 2017-18, reached the final in 2020, before the Covid outbreak forced them to share the state championship with Austin Prep. There was only the Middlesex League Tournament, last year, but Woburn managed to shut out rival Arlington in the final at Stoneham Arena.
The dwindling supply of high school-age girls hockey players has forced some programs to dip into the middle schools for players, and others to merge programs, usually between two schools but sometimes three or four schools. It has gotten that desperate.
Woburn co-coach Bob MacCurtain had always hoped he would not need go the middle school route, but last year reality set in. He and co-coach Steve Kennedy took advantage of a season without a state tournament to develop some young players for the future, bringing a group of five eighth graders on board.
The most notable was Madi Soderquist, a center who amassed 30 points in 13 games to help the Tanners capture that league tournament title.
This year will see the Woburn high school girls hockey team hit the ice with a small but experienced roster of skaters. The Tanners are returning 11 players and welcoming in two new skaters, eighth grader Ari Murgo and sophomore Maura McComiskey.
Woburn will be led by senior captains, Alyssa Wackrow and ML Pineros. Wackrow is a fourth-year player who will be in her second year as the starting goalie. Wackrow had an outstanding, if abbreviated, campaign, last year, culminating in the shutout of the Spy Ponders in the tournament final.
Pineros has been a fourth-year forward who has always been on either the first line or second line, but always on lines that were expected to produce goals. She will play on the first line this year with Soderquist and a player to be named later, perhaps one of those two new players on the roster.
"Each of our two captains bring a wealth of experience, both on and off the ice," said Kennedy. "With her speed and skill, ML leads a talented group of forwards. She has been instrumental in the team's past successes, playing solid two-way hockey and scoring big goals in the state tournament, including one in a victory over Arlington in her sophomore season."
Junior Katie Pica will center the second group of forwards, and will be looking to log a lot of playing time, as she steps into a prominent role on the team.
Filling out the two lines will be Ella Spinazola, Emme Flavin and Murgo, all of whom have played exceptionally well in all three preseason scrimmages.
The defensive corps will be anchored by junior Meaghan Keough, who takes over as the new leader of the group with the graduation of Lily Anderson. Sophomore Taylor Buckley is another strong defender. Freshmen Kate Sullivan and Ava Mackinen round out the solid group in front of Wackrow.
Outside of training sessions and scrimmages, many of the Tanners have been active in the preseason volunteering with the Learn To Skate program at O'Brien Rink.
In the offseason, Pineros, Keough, Buckley, Sullivan and Soderquist helped the Mass Bay Warriors to the U19 State championship.
Woburn has a 20-game schedule that includes the always challenging Middlesex League schedule, along with a few non-league games against quality opponents.
The Tanners begin the season Saturday night (7:50 p.m.) when they host Malden Catholic HS for Girls at O'Brien Rink.
Woburn will open up the Middlesex League portion of the schedule on Wednesday night (6 p.m.) with a road game against Melrose at the Flynn Rink in North Medford.