Outside of competing in the Hockomock League, Oliver Ames and Mansfield do not have too much in common.
That comparison still holds true in many instances, but the two high schools started to share one thing this winter: a girls’ hockey team.
In the first year of the program, the Mansfield/Oliver Ames girls hockey program has gone through a fair share of bumps and bruises on the ice. However, the team has improved with each game and, in the process, gained some experience.
“I think the season has been a success,” head coach Patrick O’Heir said about the inaugural campaign. “It’s positive for the team itself on the ice because of the various talents on the ice. It’s a little challenging at times teaching them all the fundamentals, but it’s been coming around nicely.”
Each player on the team has recorded at least one point on the season and all but two have scored at least one goal. As a result, the team is not only getting extra experience, but also gaining a few wins.
“Half of the team is playing their first year of competitive hockey,” said O’Heir, a native of Easton. “We’ve stringed together a few wins and a tie in just our first year and everyone has at least one point, while only two haven’t scored a goal.”
This year’s captains, senior Samantha Carroll (Mansfield) and freshman Victoria O’Heir (OA) have played a vital part to the team’s first season.
Prior to her senior season, Carroll had prior high school hockey experience playing on Mansfield’s boys JV team as a freshman and sophomore, while also playing for the Mass. Spitfires U-19 team. A member of the field hockey team, Carroll will be attending the University of New Hampshire in the fall.
Victoria O’Heir, the daughter of the coach, hasn’t had any prior high school experience. But, like Carroll, was a member of the Spitfires while also gaining additional experience at Assabet Valley up in Concord, Mass.
“Both of them are very good athletes,” said Patrick O’Heir. “They are both very good skaters, have a great skill level and are very knowledgeable of the game. Off the ice, they are tremendous leaders as well.”
While successful, the team has had a few challenges both on and off the ice.
After finalizing the program last summer, the team has dealt with scheduling conflicts while also trying to self-fund the program through fundraising.
The positive press and publicity that the team has received, however, has been well worth it.
“The publicity we have gotten from the program has been outstanding,” O’Heir said.
“We’ve had some challenges to deal with whether its trying to fund the program off the ice or scheduling some tougher opponents because we entered the ball game late against some well-established programs [like Falmouth and Stoneham], but our kids have never gotten down in any of the games and they’ve raised their level of play.”
With the players getting the word out, the future of the team looks pretty bright.
Several eighth graders – from both towns – have already expressed interest in joining the Mansfield/OA program for the 2012-13 season.
With 17 players on this years roster – 12 from Mansfield and 5 from OA – O’Heir sees potential growth, so much so that he’s inviting anyone who has an interest in joining to the last practice of the season at the end of February.
“Anyone who has an interest in the team is invited to join us for the last practice of the season,” O’Heir stated. “Hopefully we get a lot of interest going forward.”
The Mansfield/OA girls’ hockey team concludes its freshman campaign Friday at 5 p.m. at Falmouth.