Both squads make playoffs for first time
By Michael Hoffer
After struggling initially in the Division II New England Prep League, the North Yarmouth Academy boys’ and girls’ hockey programs are beginning to thrive.
Now in its fifth season playing prep, the Panthers boys’ squad made the playoffs for the first time this winter and advanced all the way to the semifinals.
The girls’ team, now in its second season, also reached the postseason for the first time and fell in the quarterfinals.
Continuing the tradition
NYA and hockey success have long been synonymous. The Panthers boys’ program dates back to the 1960s and was long a top Western Class A contender. NYA won 12 regional crowns between 1982 and 2003 and captured the Class A state title in 1985, 1989, 1997 and 1998.
It took the Panthers awhile to add the talent and depth necessary to compete at the prep level, but the team came together with a vengeance this winter.
NYA, sparked by Division II All-Stars Nick Luce, a forward, and Kyle Williams, a defenseman, won over 20 games this season and earned the No. 4 seed for the eight-team playoffs. The Panthers hosted No. 5 Groton School in their first-ever postseason and game and earned their first victory, 3-1, behind a pair of goals from junior Mikko Mannisto and another from junior Chris Linder. Sophomore Sebastian Persson added a pair of assists and sophomore goalie Tyler Piercy stopped 29 shots.
NYA had reason for confidence entering the semifinal at Hebron. On Feb. 28, the Panthers won 3-2 at that same rink. The Lumberjacks won 7-3 at NYA earlier in the year. Saturday, the Panthers weren’t able to continue their magic, falling 5-2 despite power play goals from Simon Hebert and Tom Gildersleeve.
This doesn’t figure to be a one-hit wonder. Only Hebert and Williams will graduate, meaning NYA will return plenty of skill and confidence in 2009-2010, when it looks to take another step toward the top.
NYA’s girls’ team dominated during its time playing Maine competition. The Panthers won the Tier II championship in 2003, fell in the Tier II title game in 2004 and the Tier I final in 2005 before winning Tier I crowns in 2006 and 2007.
This winter, NYA won its first four games and went unbeaten in its first six. Led by junior forward Courtney Dumont and junior defenseman Ashley Salerno, both eventual Division II All-Stars, the Panthers were competitive throughout and wound up with the No. 8 seed for the playoffs and earned a quarterfinal round date with top-seeded Rivers School, of Weston, Mass.
NYA lost 2-1 to Rivers School back on Feb. 20, but dug an early hole in the playoff matchup, giving up four early goals.
The Panthers buckled down in the second period and didn’t allow another goal, but Rivers School got three more in the third to win 7-0.
The girls’ team has more seniors than the boys’, but many standouts are set to return and build upon this winter’s success.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com