Weekly Feature

2015-12-09 / Sports

Fed title does not define MMA girls hockey’s success

by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter

The Monsignor Martin Association has been one of the most successful teams since the Western New York Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Federation began five years ago, winning three titles, including last year.

With the majority of the team back, including six players from Sacred Heart, the squad should be a tough matchup for other schools this season.

“We have a good core coming back,” MMA coach Linda Mroz said. “I only graduated three seniors.”

Mroz said she does not look at the seasons by wins or losses, but rather how they improve throughout the season.

“If it ends with a championship, great,” Mroz said. “If it doesn’t, then it’s not my No. 1 priority.”

The top player from Sacred Heart is junior forward Kaitlin Drew-Mead, the team’s leading scorer last year and a team captain this year with Mount Mercy senior center Catherine Radwan.

Drew-Mead is a returning All-Bee and All-Western New York Federation First Team all-star.

“I’m going to need her to step up this year and she is ready for the challenge,” Mroz said. “She has thick hands, moves the puck and goes to the net. She can see the ice and knows when to anticipate when player is coming. She looks to improve on her speed every day.”

Drew-Mead plays on the team’s top forward line centered by Buffalo Seminary sophomore Ellie Cleary. Sacred Heart sophomore Kayla Blas plays at the other wing.

“Kayla digs in the corners and passes the puck,” Mroz said. “She’s a player that does not want the glory. She’s a real team player.”

The other players from Sacred Heart on the team are senior center Brynn Wopperer, junior goalie Makenna Walp, sophomore defender Anna Fisher and freshman defense Mackenzie Blake.

Walp is rotating in net with Mount Mercy junior Brianna Gawronski.

Mroz said Walp does a good job of covering her angles way and can get up and down quickly, and is working on playing the puck more and setting up defenders for power play.

Mrozs said Blake is in the top five starting defensemen, and Fisher is the team’s sixth defenseman and has a strong work ethic. Wopperer is on the team’s second forward line and plays on the power play and penalty kill.

“She has speed,” Mroz said. “When she gets shot off and hit the net, she can snipe. She has good hockey smarts. It’s nice to have this kind of depth on the team.”

Other players from the Bee coverage area include Mount St. Mary senior defender Maeve Christ, Mount St. Mary freshman defender Ava Tower and Cardinal O’Hara freshman winger Marcella Rodgers.

Christ, a four-year varsity player, scored the game-winning goal against Kenmore in last year’s MMA final.

Christ is a team captain.

“I told her that she has to step up her game and she has done a nice job being a leader,” Mroz said.

She is an offensive defenseman, so if she has the opportunity to rush the puck, she’ll rush the puck, take her shot and get back on the blue line.”

Mroz also said Tower is in the top five on the team on defense, works hard and has a great attitude, and Rodgers has done everything that she has been asked to do, whether it was taking a shot or crashing the net.

Mount Mercy senior Brigid Keane is also an assistant captain.

The team is off to a great start, routing Amherst/Sweet Home/Clarence, 9-1, in its league opener on Thursday at the Northtown Center at Amherst.

Keane, from Wopperer, stuffed in a rebound for a short-handed goal at 14:05 of the first period.

Mount Mercy sophomore Fiona Danahy made it 2-0 at 9:42 of the first period when she threw the puck to the net, and it went off the back of the Amherst/Sweet Home/Clarence goalie’s leg, and into the back of the net.

Cleary made it 3-0 on an end-to-end rush at 6:11 into the first period.

“The first period was rocky although we were up 3-0,” Mroz said. “I had a brief conversation with the girls and we worked on talking and passing, and throughout the game, each of those started to improve.”

Amherst/Sweet Home/Clarence scored at 12:57 into the second period but Cleary answered with her second goal of the game, assisted by Blas.

Tower, from Christ, fired a wrist shot from the blue line, and she scored her first goal as a team member at 5:55 of the second period.

The MMA took advantage of a four-minute major penalty with two goals in the second period: Radwan, from Blas, at 2:31, and Keane, at 1:06.

Drew-Mead tallied with 11:20 remaining and Cleary netted her third goal for a hat trick at 3:22.

Gawronski stopped 19 out of 20 shots.

MMA returns to action when they face Lancaster/ Iroquois at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at Holiday Twin Rinks. They face West Seneca/Hamburg at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday at the North Buffalo Ice Rink.

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