This season wasn’t exactly the start of a head coaching tenure Anna Wright-Lester sought with the Black Tigers girls hockey team.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Wright-Lester was forced to have initial meetings with her club — comprised of players from Winslow, Gardiner, Cony, Messalonskee and Lawrence high schools — through Zoom and Skype.

“It’s been a crazy season,” Wright-Lester said. “For a first-year head coach, usually everything is planned out. You’ve got the months of the season planned out, practice times and game times. You start the season off with some ideas, and a couple weeks in, you see how accurate those ideas are, where you sort of picture yourself. It’s been crazy now that we’ve started later, a co-op with girls from, I think, five different high schools. I think we’re just starting to come together as a team, but unfortunately our season is sort of winding down.”

But patience has finally paid off for the Black Tigers, a young squad heavy on sophomores and freshmen. The team has played three games, going 0-2-1. Two of those games have gone into overtime. Their latest contest — a 2-1 loss to Brunswick on Saturday at the Ice Vault in Hallowell — was decided within the final three minutes, when Brunswick’s Elena Palmer netted the game-winning goal.

“We’ve played three games so far, all of which have been very close,” Wright-Lester said. “Two of them went into overtime. One of them we lost in overtime, the other we tied in overtime… It’s been awesome that we have been able to be competitive with the games we have been able to play, and the student-athletes have done a great job of adapting to odds times. As a coach, I’m really proud to see that.”

Senior captain Erin Richardson said the team has remained in good spirits throughout the season, but as an upperclassman, it’s been tough to play fewer games this winter.

“Everyone has a pretty good attitude about it,” Richardson said. “I think everyone, including myself, is just happy to be playing. But it’s very bittersweet. On one hand, we are getting games, and we’re very lucky getting games. On the other hand, it’s not as many as we’ve had before. We started late, and we’re going a little bit later in the season, typically our season would be over by now. So we’re very lucky to be able to continue our season a little bit longer. But still, it’s a very shortened season. We’ve only had a couple games and by this point, we’ve had quite a few more, typically. But everyone is pretty positive and pretty thankful for the fact that we do have ice time, we do have game time, which I know isn’t the case for everybody.”

Winslow/Gardiner/Cony/Messalonskee girls hockey coach Anna Wright-Lester talks to Erin Richardson during a game Saturday at The Camden National Bank Ice Vault in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Wright-Lester — who played college hockey at the University of Maine — is using this season as a development period for the younger players.

“We’re heavily freshmen and sophomores,” she said. “Which I think, honestly from a coaching standpoint especially that I’m new, it’s great, because I can sort of develop them into what I think will be a good team within the next two years. I think it’s great to have a young team, especially kind of this season, it doesn’t count for anything. The more ice time we can have to work on who plays well with each other, what are specific skills we can further develop, I think is a great opportunity.”

The Black Tigers may be young, but there’s talent on the roster. Wright was quick to point out multiple standouts who have a promising future with the team.

“Our goalie, Emma Michaud, she’s solid,” Wright-Lester said. “She’s excellent. A lot of times, I think goalies get overlooked, but if we didn’t have her in net, I think the scores would be a lot higher than they are. She’s a great worker and a great kid. We also have a freshman, Kaylyn Bourque. She’s a great player. Great stick skills, great speed. She’s a powerhouse, but I look forward to coaching her over the next few years and seeing how she develops… We have a good defenseman, who’s a sophomore, Kylie Boardman. She’s great at the blue line, solid.”

Richardson praised Wright-Lester’s ability to get acclimated to the team during an unusual season.

“It’s been really great, actually,” Richchardson said. “It was very weird just doing those Zoom meetings at first. Those aren’t typical for us. But getting (instruction) on the ice, it’s just nice to have a female head coach who understands the concepts of girls hockey. She understands how to play the game physically, without getting penalties for checking. The importance of angling, taking the body, stuff like that, but still playing within girls rules. Because for some reason, we’re not allowed to check. She’s been great.”

Wright-Lester sees more changes coming with the team next year, including possible changes in team name and uniform color scheme — to better fit the multiple schools connected with the program. More importantly, she’ll be looking to add depth to the team, and is more than happy to reach out to more high schools to join the co-op.

“Hopefully we’ll be adding more high schools,” she said. “If that gives girls hockey players in high school the opportunity to play high school hockey, then I will add as many players and change the (team name) as many times as we need to, to make sure they have that opportunity.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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