New league affiliation means bigger expectations for Centaurs girls’ hockey


The Woodstock Academy girls’ hockey program has a bit of a different situation this season.

The team will still play a tri-state schedule, but the majority of its games will take place north of the Massachusetts border.

The Centaurs have joined the Central Massachusetts League, an eight-school girls’ hockey conference.

“This is fantastic,” said third-year coach Jeff Boshka. “It’s great to have a structure, something to play for, definitely a positive move.”

His players agree.

“It’s amazing. We’ve been trying to do that for a couple of years now. The coaches and girls have been pushing for it and we’re excited,” said senior goalie Marie Gravier. “We were trying to prove ourselves last year and now, it’s big boy time. We want to get in there and show what we have.”

The Centaurs had been playing a hodgepodge of private and public schools in its first three years of existence.

“We are definitely feeling like this is now a varsity and not a club sport. I think that message is clear to the team. I had a talk with them recently, helping them understand the journey that we’ve been on and all the work that has gone on behind the scenes to make this happen and there is a commitment that goes along with that,” Boshka said.

Woodstock Academy will play two league games each against Auburn, Oakmont and Leicester, all members of the “B” Division. The Centaurs will also play one crossover game to the “A” Division of the league including St. Peter-Marian of Worcester, Shrewsbury and Longmeadow.

“Without a doubt, it’s great to have a league title to play for. It’s clear that this is not just a club thing. This is a varsity sport. There is something to play for,” Boshka said.

The Centaurs will not be eligible for any state tournament play in Massachusetts. There is no state tournament in Connecticut for girls’ hockey.

Woodstock Academy opened its season Dec. 13 with a 5-0 loss to East Catholic in Newington. Gravier made 36 saves in net for the Centaurs in the non-league game.

It also will play another Connecticut school, Avon, at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at home at the Pomfret School’s Jahn Ice Rink

The Centaurs also have two games scheduled with Warwick, R.I. and will play Smithfield, R.I.

“I like what I’ve seen so far,” Boshka said of the team. “There is an excitement. They have been doing off-ice workouts for a while now and we’ve had a couple of practices. The energy is great, the vibe is good.”

The Centaurs are coming off a 5-13 season and lost some key players.

Ellie Jellison, who is now playing at Assumption College, led the Centaurs with nine goals and Emma Ciquera finished with three goals and seven assists.

Also gone are Regan Stuyniski, Irene Askitis, Emma Strandson, and Ashleigh Angle.

But Boshka is encouraged by getting not only good athletes to come out for the program, but good athletes who can skate which is a pretty important attribute.

“We are shifting from people who are like ‘Hockey, I will give that a try’ and having not much experience to kids who have some experience either with skating or playing hockey. It just puts us a little farther ahead,” Boshka said.

Boshka said it’s fantastic that the students at Woodstock Academy have the opportunity to participate in different sports such as hockey.

The Academy’s program is the only one of its kind in the ECC and for that matter, in all of eastern Connecticut, but hockey is not for everyone.

“The learning curve is pretty tough. Without the skating foundation, it’s hard to get up to speed at the high school level,” Boshka said. “The skating has been encouraging so far and now, we work on their hockey skills and knowledge. We should do OK.”

The Centaurs do have an advantage this season.

They have an experienced goalie in Gravier.

“She is definitely showing leadership. She has been here from the beginning and she is all in. She has been working hard and just wants it to be a great season,” Boshka said.

Gravier will have to be solid in the net, the Centaurs are lacking experience at the blue line, and also don’t have an experienced backup.

Gravier is one of only four players who remember when the program was elevated to a varsity sport four years ago.

She, Nicole Bavosi, Chelsea Willis and Eliza Dutson comprise the “final four.”

“I’ve seen this program progress so much. At first, we were just struggling to find girls. It’s crazy to see how far we’ve come. We’re starting to win games and teams are actually looking at us as a real team, before they treated us like a scrimmage,” Gravier said.

Bavosi is the only senior who returns on defense.

Sophomore Brigid McNerney, freshman Bryn Miller, and middle school player Jade Hill are also slated to play in the back with juniors Dutson and Elizabeth and Madeline Silberman rotating in.

“It’s an area we’re working on. We have only a few who naturally play defense and we’re going to have to move people around to find that fourth defenseman. There is some strength there, but it’s an area we have to focus on,” Boshka said.

Dutson was the team’s leading scorer last season with seven goals and six assists. Sophomore Sydney Haskins (4 goals, 5 assists as a freshman) and senior Chelsea Willis (2 goals, 3 assists) all return up front.

“We’re still sorting things out, but the goal is to have a couple of lines that we can really rely on and have a third line that can step in and give some rest to the first two lines,” Boshka said.

Other front line players will include senior newcomer Linda St. Laurent; juniors Hannah Clark, Kileigh Gagnon, Ciarra McKinnon, and Maria Santucci; sophomore Sydnie Willis and freshman Louella Flanagan.

The Centaurs also have middle school players Livie Crawford (forward); Allison Griswold (forward); and Grace Pokorny in addition to Hill.

“They are so looking forward to being part of this in the conversations that I have had with them and their parents. They’re very pumped,” Boshka said. “It’s an added bonus that we will have them for a number of years.”

The Centaurs will be facing completely different opponents this season.

It makes it difficult to set goals, not knowing where the team stands in the grand scheme of things.

“I just want to make it a great experience for them. We’ve really developed a good atmosphere where they look out for each other. They want to bond and be connected. We have a good work ethic. They are doing some kind of workout every day except for Saturdays, either on ice or off ice workouts. We want to continue to develop the culture and the skill,” Boshka said.

Marc Allard

Director of Sports Information

The Woodstock Academy

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