By: Eleanor Zwart and Anna Kate Munsey
Throughout this article, we have interspersed some audio clips, in hopes of having an interactive and engaging story. Simply click each link to hear from fans, coaches, and more. First, we have some sounds of the game.
With nine games down and eleven games to go, the Oyster River/Portsmouth Girls Hockey team is hopeful for their season’s prospects, having been inspired by a recent winning streak.
After a rocky start, losing the first three games of the season, OR/P has turned their season around by coming out on top in their last four games. Two of the four wins included handing previously undefeated Berlin-Gorham and Bishop Guertin their first losses. “We have started to turn both our attitudes and our record around,” said Captain Julia Ravenelle (‘18). The team is led by captain Ravenelle and co-alternate captains Tory Liebel (‘19), and Brianna Rybinski (‘18).
These successes come after the Oyster River girls merged with Portsmouth last year to form one team. The decision was made based on numbers, in that the OR girls didn’t have enough players and the Portsmouth girls didn’t have a team at all. It was a natural fit to have the two schools come together. Senior Abby Croot, acting as team manager due to previous concussions, feels that the team dynamic of the two schools is stronger this year. “Everyone sees that it doesn’t really matter what school we come from because everyone knows we are a team,” she said. “We trust each other on and off the ice.”
Ravenelle reiterates this idea, adding, “our team has really gelled this year in terms of our dynamic. We have a lot of girls who love to play hockey and all have the understanding that we can be friendly off the ice and that this helps on the ice as well.”
Leslie Ayers, an assistant coach, also spoke about some of the positive aspects of merging with Portsmouth. She noted that the team is able to run more challenging drills in practice, and that the players on the team get to play for shorter shifts, meaning they don’t tire themselves out as much with more players to switch out.
The team is coached by head coach Jamie Long, and assistant coaches Scott Barton and Ayers. Ayers is a French and Spanish teacher at ORHS who grew up figure skating and playing hockey. She has been coaching hockey for ORHS for the past three years. I had the chance to sit down with her and talk about this year’s team. Click here to listen to our brief interview with Ayers: https://soundcloud.com/user-362958167/leslie-avery
Coming off a strong season (12-6-0) last year that ended with a disappointing loss to Concord in the quarterfinals, OR/P is coming back this year with a heightened drive to perform. Confidence is high across the board, with Rybinski voicing the expectations of many on the team. “I [can] see us going to the semi finals and hopefully even the finals,” she said. “I can see this being the most successful season in the four years that I’ve been here.”
Despite the loss of three members of last year’s squad, which included one of the goalies, the team has not had to work to fill too many holes. “We were lucky enough to keep most of the same lines,” said winger Anna Mazza (‘20). There has also been an influx of new players. “We had a lot more people try out compared to previous years,” said Ravenelle. “We have eighteen skaters [this year] but we usually only had ten or eleven.”
“This year is [also] different because there aren’t any [top] teams that will dominate each other. The top eight or so are pretty close in the runnings,” said right wing Allison Marshall (‘19). With over half of their games yet to be played, OR/P still has a number of opportunities to distinguish themselves among the leading teams.
OR/P have had some high-scoring wins, beating ConVal/Conant and Bedford 13-0 and 10-2, respectively. “If we continue to play like we have the past couple games, we should be in a good spot going into playoffs,” continued Marshall.
OR/P faced off against Concord last Thursday, so Mouth of the River editor-in-chief Anna-Kate Munsey attended to scope out the scene.
Coach Ayers noted that the league has been unpredictable in recent years. Because of this, no one really knew which teams would stand out as particularly talented this year. So, the girls weren’t sure what to expect going into their home game on Thursday night against Concord. They definitely couldn’t have predicted that they would shut out Concord, going on to win 5-0. Ravenelle speaks here about the win: https://soundcloud.com/user-362958167/julia-ravenelle
It is clear from the attendees of the game that alumni support is a large part of this program. It’s been common to see past athletes, specifically OR girls hockey alum at these games. On Thursday, both Grayson Leichtman (‘17) and Susie McDonough (‘17) were in attendance. In addition to showing their support from the stands, they shared their thoughts on this year’s team and season.
OR/P looked strong throughout the game, scoring a total of five goals and managing a number of other opportunities. After Liebel’s goal, Concord received a two minute penalty for too many players on the ice. Soon after, OR/P’s Lily Poitras (‘20) scored, bringing the score to 2-0. In the second period, Mazza scored, followed by a score at 12:17 by Ravenelle, assisted by Rybinski and Patty Anderson (‘19). Soon after this, at 10:13, Concord received another penalty, this time for delay of game. OR took advantage of this and Liebel scored, her second goal of the night, assisted by Mazza and Laura Dreher (‘20).
Several ORHS students came out to the game to support the girls. Each fan Munsey talked to said that they were enjoying the game. More so, they expressed the importance of supporting all of Oyster River’s sports teams. Munsey was able to talk to several fans about the game. Eric Donovan (‘20), a member of the OR boys hockey team, and Charlotte Clarke (‘18) came out to support the team. To hear more from Donovan and Clarke, click here:
OR/P plays again Saturday, January 20th at 7:15 PM at the Dover Arena against St. Thomas/Winnacunnet, who are currently seeded eleventh with a record of 2-3-0.
Photo credit to Jen Croot.