KP Girls Six Aiming for Better Tourney Results
Team photo of the King Philip girls ice hockey team that’s aiming for a deep tourney run.
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
The King Philip girls ice hockey team is preparing for the state tournament, hoping there’s no repeat of last year’s result when it faced Norwell in the first round.
The 2021-22 Warriors were third-seeded but that high ranking didn’t mean much when they were upset, 3-1, by Norwell. “That loss was devastating for all of us,’’ said coach Ken Assad who’s in his fourth year as KP’s coach. “We had finished the regular season with an 18-4 record and had the talent to go deep into the playoffs.’’
The current edition of the Warriors, which had a 9-9 record at Local Town Pages deadline, is a formidable contingent that Assad rates as “a team that’s improving daily.’’ He believes a very strong non-league schedule will be a plus in the playoffs.
“We have eight returning players with varying degrees of experience,’’ he said. “And, we have seven eighth graders who’ll provide a bright future for the program. Our hockey IQs are improving, we’ve got mental and physical toughness, and we’ve got good skating ability. The girls are coachable and we’re improving our depth.’’
Assad’s goals at the start of the season were what he termed “realistic and in the realm of possibility.’’ They included winning the Hockomock League crown, qualifying for the state tourney, going deep in the playoffs and improving every day. Daily improvement and a tourney berth are definite but the league title went to Canton with KP the runners-up with a 4-2 conference record.
The 57-year-old Assad and his 21 players, however, will be striving in the days ahead to make the squad’s tourney goals a reality.
Three keys to KP’s success are senior captains — center Kat Precobb, defenseman Brielle Hearon, and goalie Mallory Johnston. The trio leads on and off the ice, and they lead by example, by being communicative and supportive.
“Kat is a four-year starter who gives 100 percent all the time,’’ said Assad. “A good teammate, she’s got a high hockey IQ, grinds it out in the corners and is an effective play-making center. Brielle is another four-year starter who’s fast, forces opponents into mistakes, skates well and makes good decisions. Mallory has a goals-against average of 2.35 and is finishing up her career with more than 1,000 saves in three seasons. She’s instinctive, works hard, directs her saves to teammates in the corners, and she’s adept at cutting the angles.’’
Junior center Kelly Holmes, who was a league all-star last year, is a dynamic center who last year led the league in scoring with 23 goals and 25 assists for 48 points. At Local Town Pages deadline, she had 28 goals and 15 assists for 43 points with four regular-season games left.
“Kelly has 108 career points with four games left this year and another season to go next year,’’ Assad said. “She’s smart, crafty, has strong hands and has play-making ability. Her speed enables her to change the course of a game with her scoring ability.’’
Two other juniors — defenseman Mara Boldy and left wing Nikki McDonald — are top-notch competitors.
“Mara is a smart player whose speed makes her excellent in transition,’’ Assad said. “She’s strong on defense and also provides a spark on offense. She’s a four-year starter. Nikki has speed, too, and also has a high hockey IQ and is strong on the penalty-kill. She’s physical on penalty-kills and her offense has improved. She’s been a three-year starter.’’
Lydia Maxwell and Grace Lehan-Allen are freshmen defensemen who’ve been starting for two years. “They’ve got speed, a high hockey IQ and solid skating ability,’’ said Assad, who played three varsity seasons of hockey at Franklin High. “They create offense and they’re physical in front of the net.’’
KP has three seniors and three freshmen who can step in and contribute effectively. They include seniors Emma Sullivan (defense), Hailey Bright (goalie) and Sydney Cloutier (right wing), and freshmen forwards Camryn O’Shea, Katie McGann, and Ryley Ryan.
“They contribute to the success of the program daily,’’ Assad said. “They’re fundamentally sound and always prepared.’’
Eighth graders on the roster who’ve impressed Assad are forwards Ella Morgan, Erin Steck, Molly Murphy, Tayla McDuff, and Ryland McKillop, defenseman Calleigh Grady, and goalie Olivia Klein. “They listen well and they know how to adjust,’’ Assad said. “They’re fast, have high hockey IQs and their passionate about their futures.’’
Assad’s coaching background is not only lengthy, but also impressive. He first coached in Franklin’s youth league and later served for 12 years as a junior-varsity assistant and a varsity assistant at Franklin High. Assad has also coached club hockey and helped with Franklin’s summer league teams. In 1983, it was Assad’s overtime goal that broke a 4-4 tie against Falmouth and gave Franklin High its first state championship.
Assad relies on a coaching philosophy that emphasizes winning, reaching one’s potential and having fun. “If our players are reaching their potential and enjoying their athletic endeavor, then winning will follow,’’ he said. “And, the life lessons I hope they learn from sports are becoming quality teammates and leaders, overcoming adversity, and developing relationships.’’
KP’s on-ice style is all about defense, goal-tending and forechecking. As Assad says: “We work for every goal.’’
The KP girls ice hockey squad knows that March Madness has arrived — it’s tournament time. And, the players who skated on the varsity last year are acutely aware that keeping their guard up is extremely important no matter who the opponent is.
Ken Assad no doubt will be reminding his forces that seeding and rank are only numbers.