Girls’ ice hockey: ConVal-Conant Griffins excited to be back on the ice

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant girls' ice hockey team hosted Kingswood on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/28/2021 2:04:26 PM

The ConVal-Conant girls’ hockey team has been building momentum for years, and the Griffins weren’t going to let a little thing like COVID-19 stop them from hitting the ice. Pandemic uncertainty had them in limbo, waiting for approval from two different school districts. Massachusetts’ strict COVID-19 protocol regarding interstate youth hockey forced them to move from their home arena in Winchendon to Keene Ice, and remote learning protocols at ConVal cost them a few players who had at-risk family members or couldn’t make a full-family quarantine work. But despite all that, the Griffins were smiling – under their masks, of course –on the way into Keene Ice for their season opener Wednesday night, and despite their 7-0 loss to visiting Kingswood, they were smiling on the way out, too.

“You can see it,” said ConVal-Conant head coach Chris Spingola. “Their ears are perked up, their eyes are glowing when they walk into the rink, the group text messages are blowing up, they’re excited to talk to each other, they’re planning out what they’re doing.”

The Griffins have just nine skaters and goalie Abbi Friend this year after graduating a slew of experienced players and losing a handful over various COVID-related concerns. While most of the players on the Conant side are learning in-person, ConVal’s players are required to be fully remote throughout the season, which means those Griffins practices and games are their only opportunities for school-sanctioned social interaction.

“It’s tough for the ConVal students having to be remote through all this when they could be with their friends,” Spingola said. “That’s a big sacrifice for them, and to for them to make that kind of sacrifice to want to come play hockey for us is a big deal for us. This is a great outlet for them. It’s nice to see them stretching their legs, they’re not on their phones all the time. This is really a group of girls who want to hang out with each other and care for each other, and we build from that.”

Kingswood got two goals and two assists from Abigail Kelly as Kingswood cruised to the shutout victory. 

“She was smart,” Spingola said. “She helped her teammates out. As much as I hate losing, I like to see a team like that win and get excited to grow the girls’ game.”

The Griffins had practiced just three times before Wednesday’s game, which served as more of an foundational period for the inexperienced team as they skated long shifts against a Kingswood team that goes twice as deep as ConVal-Conant.

“For nine players versus 18 players, I was very happy with what they did,” Spingola said. “We played positional hockey, we were smart, we didn’t ice the puck, we played the rules of the game – we wanted them to learn and that’s what they did today. Where do you need to be, why are you supposed to be there and what is your second and third option, and they did that very well today.”

Junior forward Tessa Spingola is a seasoned veteran at this point, and she liked what she saw from her new teammates Wednesday night. 

“We have a few new girls this year,” Tessa said, “and most of us have only been playing since our freshman year, so it was good to see everyone learning how to play new positions, learning to work together and know how to rush the puck, learn to pass to each other and how to communicate, so that’s really promising.”

The biggest challenge, perhaps, is conditioning, as the short bench means fewer line changes with skaters essentially playing double shifts – all with a facemask and a mouthguard. 

“Our higher-end players are conditioned very well,” Coach Spingola said, “and the newer players are learning quickly what it means when coach says “Make sure you’re doing your running, make sure you’re doing proper workouts when you’re at home away from the ice.”

The Griffins will have an opportunity to test that conditioning and strive for improvement Saturday, when they travel to Kingswood for a rematch.

“We’re a new team but we want to work hard,” Tessa said. “We want to improve, we want to start scoring goals and winning games. Game by game, we’re going to work harder and we’re going to get better so we can get that win under our belts this year.”


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