East Bay girls hockey rolls over Cranston, 8-3

Preview: Team seeks to meet LaSalle in the finals

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PORTSMOUTH — The East Bay girls’ hockey team won its third game in a row last Thursday, Jan. 2, crushing Cranston, 8-3, during a league game at Portsmouth Abbey.

Mallory Cox and Alexis Malnerich led the team scoring two goals apiece. Ella Hanley, Sarah Yee, Peyton Whittet and Portsmouth’s Melissa Levreault also scored for the Eagles. 

The East Bay team, which consists of players from Portsmouth, Barrington and Mt. Hope High School, lost its first game to La Salle, 5-0, but started to gel shortly afterward.

“We’ve bonded,” said co-captain and senior goaltender Ellee Kopecky, “We’ve gotten the lines all settled out and our defense has gotten much stronger.”

Kopecky and the team’s other co-captains, Ella Hanley and Maddie Cornell, keep the team focused at practice and during the games.

Hanley is the team’s best defenseman, playing more than half the game like her predecessor Maddie Cox. “Ella is a big team leader for us,” said the Eagles head coach Michael Cox. 

Since losing to La Salle, the Eagles have beaten up on the weaker teams in the league. They shut out Warwick co-op, 4-0 and beat Narragansett/North Kingstown/South Kingstown, 10-3.

Hanley believes that playing against the league’s weaker teams is good for developing the Eagles’ younger and less-experienced players. “They played so well,” Hanley said of her teammates. “They helped with those wins.”

Cornell, a winger, swings between the first and second lines. She plays with the team’s best forward, All-State junior center Katherine Barker.

“Katherine is probably the best player in the state,” coach Cox said. “She’s special. She’s a prep school player. We are happy that she stayed here.”

Senior forward Maeve Harrington, the team’s other All-Stater, has been out with an ailment, but is expected back later this month. Once she’s back in the lineup, Mr. Cox said he’ll insert her on the first line.

Kopecky is the team’s starting goalkeeper. As a sophomore, she was a big part of the team’s state championship win over La Salle in 2018, and she also came up big during the team’s eventual overtime loss to La Salle in the 2019 finals.

“She is our go-to player,” said Mr. Cox. “We are going to have to ride her all the way through. (She's) going to have to be solid.”

League disparity

There is a lot of disparity in the league, a season of haves and have-nots. La Salle, Smithfield-Moses Brown, Burrillville and the Eagles represent the upper echelon of the league’s teams. It remains to be seen if the Eagles can fight their way through the playoffs and get over the hump that is La Salle in order to win the championship.

“We have a huge mountain to climb with La Salle,” said Mr. Cox said. “Black and white on paper, we should be there at the end.”

During the Eagles’ game against La Salle, the Rams outshot the Eagles, 40-3.

“Against La Salle, Kopecky stood on her head. They took 40 shots and she let in 4. She’s going to have to face 45 shots and just let in 2, if we have a chance,” Mr. Cox said. “She can do it.”

“I think that our future looks good,” said Kopecky. “There are a lot of good teams in our league, but I think it might just come down to us and LaSalle.”

Scoring vs Cranston co-op

Hanley, a co-captain and defenseman, got the Eagles rolling on their first shift, with a blast from the point assisted by junior forward Kat Barker, to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.

Four minutes later, freshman forward Sarah Yee scored on a wrist shot, assisted by Levreault, for a 2-0 lead.

With seven minutes left, freshman forward Mallory Cox collected the puck in the right corner, skated behind the net and stuffed the puck into the net for a wrap-around goal to make it 3-0.

Senior forward Alexis Malnerich scored from in front of the net to give the Eagles a 4-0 lead with less than a minute to go in the first period.

Warwick’s Mia Schenenga beat Eagles sophomore goalkeeper Grace Stephenson on her glove side to cut the East Bay lead to 4-1 with 6:22 left in the second period.

Cox, however, scored her second goal of the game, assisted by junior Brigid Carlin of Portsmouth, to give the Eagles a 5-1 lead with five minutes left.

Freshman forward Peyton Whittet scored assisted by Hanley to give the Eagles a 6-1 lead with three minutes to go in the second. Malnerich scored her second goal of the game assisted by co-captain Maddie Cornell and sophomore Anna Gardiner to make it 7-1 with under a minute to go in the second period.

The Eagles struck again in the third period, when Levreault finished on a breakaway with 13 minutes left to give the Eagles a commanding 8-1 lead.

Warwick shot two goals past Stephenson to make the score 8-3.

Goaltending

Mr. Cox gave Kopecky a rest and started sophomore Grace Stephenson in goal against Cranston. It was Stephenson’s first varsity hockey league start. She started playing hockey last year as a freshman and skated out as one of the many playing for the team. This season, seeing that there was no backup for Kopecky, who is in her senior year, Stephenson decided to give the goaltender position a try.

“Next year Kopecky is leaving and I wanted to step it up,” said Stephenson. “It felt good out there. Our offense and defense were working really well, so there were less shots on me.”

“I thought that she played really well,” said Kopecky. “We work really hard in practice with her.”

Stephenson is also the starting catcher on the Mt. Hope girls’ softball team. Due to her catching skills, Kopecky said, “It seems easier for her to pick up on things.”

The team did let up a couple of breakaways that yielded goals.

“Yeah, it’s all right. Better luck next time,” Stephenson said.

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