SKOWHEGAN Youth seems to be nice to the Skowhegan hockey team.
This season, the River Hawks are young. Really young. With a varsity roster of 23 players, 13 are freshmen and sophomores, meaning more than half of the roster will play their first full varsity season after the coronavirus pandemic changed the 2020 fall season. Out of 10 upperclassmen, only one is senior.
And yet the River Hawks continue to win.
On Thursday, they beat rival Messalonskee 2-0 to improve to 4-0 and remain at the top of the Class A North standings.
It was the second game back for the River Hawks, who were shut down last week due to COVID-19 issues.
“We’ve been in quarantine for a week,” said Skowhegan midfielder Samantha Thebarge. “Coming back and being strong like we’ve done the last two games with everyone gone, it’s really exciting that we can stay together and do it because we’re so young.”
The youth contributed to the result for the River Hawks as sophomores Laney Lablanc and Gemma Kennedy each scored.
“They’re young, but they learn fast, they work hard,” said Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty. “And they listen. That’s the key.”
Skowhegan forward Norie Tibbetts added that the work over the summer helped the team win for the season.
“I think this summer is really paying off,” Tibbetts said. “We had a normal kind of summer where we had to do more normal training sessions like we’ve done in the summers before, and do some tournaments. Because we have a young team, we felt like we have a young team, so we knew we had to prepare too well. Before COVID there were only two or three (upperclassmen) playing on varsity so we knew we had to prepare and get around the difficulties of having a young team. Our whole team is super athletic, super dedicated to hockey. Everyone on this team wants to win, they know the legacy of Skowhegan hockey.”
In those four games, Skowhegan scored 19 goals and conceded zero. In Thursday’s game, Skowhegan kept pressure on Messsalonskee’s side of the field for much of the game. Doughty was quick to credit assistant coaches Tammie Veinotte and Kim Leo for the team’s success in defense.
“It was really great to see those young kids come out this year,” Doughty said.
Messalonskee (6-3) fought hard defensively against Skowhegan and was given an extra boost in the second half by the play of goalkeeper Nealy Dillon. The Eagles recently had a five-game winning streak in a 2-1 loss to Lewiston on September 18.
“Messalonskee has always been our rival, so we knew we had to be a step above just to play a good game,” Skowhegan said back, Callaway LePage.
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