No wins yet, but ConVal-Conant girls’ hockey has hope

 ConVal-Conant celebrates after a goal by Aubrey Niemela, center. 

 ConVal-Conant celebrates after a goal by Aubrey Niemela, center.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

ConVal-Conant goalkeeper Olivia Riley makes a save. 

ConVal-Conant goalkeeper Olivia Riley makes a save.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

ConVal-Conant's Eliza Malia holds off a defender. 

ConVal-Conant's Eliza Malia holds off a defender.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

 ConVal-Conant's Miranda Ellis, left, and Aerowyn Schwartz carry the puck up the ice. 

 ConVal-Conant's Miranda Ellis, left, and Aerowyn Schwartz carry the puck up the ice.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Sophomore Sophia Spingola skates with the puck.

Sophomore Sophia Spingola skates with the puck. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

ConVal-Conant girls' hockey coach Chris Spingola instructs his team before the Griffins' 5-1 loss to visiting Manchester Central-West-Memorial in Keene on Saturday, Jan. 13.

ConVal-Conant girls' hockey coach Chris Spingola instructs his team before the Griffins' 5-1 loss to visiting Manchester Central-West-Memorial in Keene on Saturday, Jan. 13. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Aubrey Niemela races up ice with the puck.

Aubrey Niemela races up ice with the puck. —PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Sophia Spingola makes a move on the net late in the third period. 

Sophia Spingola makes a move on the net late in the third period.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

By BEN CONANT

For the Ledger-Transcript

Published: 01-14-2024 5:58 PM

Modified: 01-23-2024 12:02 PM


The ConVal-Conant girls' hockey team engaged a Herculean recruiting effort to get their season on the ice, and after adding some first-time players, the Griffins are searching for their first win of the year. 

"They're rough around the edges, but they're trying," ConVal-Conant coach Chris Spingola said of his four new recruits. "They really have fallen in love with the sport, which is pretty neat."

The Griffins had just seven players before experienced juniors Aubrey Niemela and Chloe Ward pulled in their new teammates. One of those novices, Jennae Deshane, skated her first-ever shift Saturday night in ConVal-Conant's 5-1 loss to visiting Manchester Central-West-Memorial. 

"We have our growing pains for sure, but it is awesome to see them grow and, and literally, without those girls, we wouldn't have had anything this year and that would've sucked,” Spignola said. “We've worked too hard for too long to let it go."

The Griffins haven't won a game yet this season, but they've been impressive nonetheless, scoring twice against potential state champs Berlin and finding the back of the net against Keene and Exeter. 

"We have lofty goals for sure," Spingola said. "We want to be better. We want to compete to win games -- and I think we can. Manchester, Bedford, Souhegan, we've got games against them for the rest of the year. I think we can certainly compete. God willing, we can win one; the puck luck's just got to go our way. We certainly have two great skaters to pump the puck in."

Those two skaters, sophomore Sophia Spingola (three goals, one assist) and junior Aubrey Niemela (two goals), have combined for six of the Griffins' eight points this year, and the two hooked up for a score Saturday night when Spingola set up Niemela for a third-period strike. 

Junior goalkeeper Olivia Riley had another solid night and is having another solid season. She is tested often and is more often than not up to the challenge, and her spirit rallies her teammates. 

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

ConVal faces ‘critical shortage’ in high school math
THEATER REVIEW: Peterborough Players present strong ‘Pride and Prejudice’
Dublin Education Advisory Committee determines ConVal articles no longer serve town
Storms knock out power, including at Peterborough Plaza, RiverMead
Youth killed in Jaffrey crash
Monadnock Community Hospital hosts display of employee artwork

"She's been a rock wall mentally and physically," Spingola said. "She's been fantastic this year. Last year, the puck could get behind her and she'd kind of get down on herself. This year, it's been a lot different. She's willing to fish that puck out and just go right after the next one. Our team really feeds off her when she starts playing well. I don't see any other team doing it, but when she makes a good save, every one of them will go down and give her a tap on the pads. They understand how hard her job is and they're willing to fight for her. We ate probably eight pucks tonight, just blocking pucks on the shot. That means they care about her. If they're willing to put their body on the line, that means they care about her."

ConVal-Conant also gets solid contributions from senior captain Hannah Leahigh, sophomore Eliza Malia and junior Shayla Seppala, who played a particularly tough game Saturday night. 

"Shayla's been a blessing for us," Spingola said. "She works as hard as anybody on the team. She's the one kid at home that's out there practicing on her own, stick-handling in the basement, texting me on our our SportsU app saying, 'Hey, coach -- what can I do to get better?'"

ConVal-Conant (0-6) is back in action at Lebanon Jan. 20.