Published January 27, 2021
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The town has a brand new hockey team for middle school girls.
The Lady Pioneer Hockey Team consists of eighth-graders Chloe Gromko, Ella Gould and Sarah Powers along with seventh-grader Lilly Alves. The team also includes sixth-graders Maura Flaws, Mia Daley, Sarah Mitchell, Ellie Underwood, Stephanie Lane and Lilli McSweeney as well as fifth-graders Estelle McClory, Grace Allen, Olivia Hurton, Olivia Braley and Lorna Murphy.
While Lynnfield has always been known as a hockey town, team manager Julie Mitchell said the sport is growing in popularity among local girls.
“There were a fair number of girls playing hockey in the middle school, but most of them were on different club and town teams and they were looking for an opportunity to play with each other,” said Mitchell. “I reached out to the community to see if there was interest in forming a Lynnfield girls’ team to play in the Martian Middle School League, and I received an overwhelming positive response. I was thrilled that we were able to fill a full roster of 16 female players across the four grades. We call ourselves the Lady Pioneer Hockey Team.”
In addition to the 15 Lynnfield players, Mitchell noted that sixth-grader Liv Doucette of Hamilton is the Lady Pioneers’ goalie.
“Liv is a great teammate and without her, we wouldn’t have been able to have a team this year,” said Mitchell. “She is on my daughter’s club hockey team and agreed to play for our Lynnfield team. Liv has become a good friend and teammate to all the girls.”
Mitchell said the Lady Pioneer Hockey Team has a 4-6 record in the Martian Middle School League. The team defeated an Andover team twice and defeated Austin Prep twice.
“We have been playing against surrounding towns’ girls’ teams,” said Mitchell. “We play North Reading, Reading, Wilmington, Newburyport, Austin Prep, Andover, North Andover and Winchester. We are the number one seed going into the playoffs for our division. The playoffs start this weekend.”
Mitchell noted that girls’ hockey is not only growing in popularity in town, but also around the state and country.
“Girls’ hockey is gaining momentum,” said Mitchell. “According to USA Hockey, girls’ hockey is one of the fastest growing youth sports in the U.S. Over the past 10 years, participation has grown by 34 percent. Unfortunately in Lynnfield, there is no youth town program today that offers a girls’-only team. In smaller towns such as Lynnfield, playing on co-ed teams is typically the only choice. However, playing with boys’ sometimes deters girls from participating, or sends many of them outside of town to seek a girls’-only program. It’s great to have a team that is composed of girls inside the Lynnfield community, where they can see their teammates in school and continue their friendships on and off the ice. Many of the larger surrounding towns have girls’-only town programs, and it is something we wanted to create in Lynnfield.”
In addition to Mitchell serving as the Lady Pioneer Hockey Team’s manager, she said local dads Paul Mitchell, Dan McSweeney, Eric Gould and Scott Gromko help her run the team’s lines.
Mitchell said the Lady Pioneer Hockey Team feels incredibly fortunate to be taking the ice this winter in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She said the most notable game the team played this year was against rival North Reading.
“We were not sure if we would get to have a season this year due to COVID,” said Mitchell. “We were all hopeful we would get to play, and just before the season was about to start, the governor shut down hockey in Massachusetts. The season was delayed by two weeks, but everyone was so excited when it resumed, and we got the first game on the schedule against North Reading. Especially in this year, when there are not many social events to bring the community together, this hockey team has been a bright spot for all of the players. Watching new friendships be created across different grades, and seeing the girls’ supporting each other has been exciting for everyone.”
Mitchell said she has enjoyed watching the Lady Pioneer Hockey Team grow both as players and as people on and off the ice.
“There is something special about team sports and the strong friendships that are formed from working together to win a big game,” said Mitchell. “Ice hockey is a true team sport that takes everyone working together to be successful. This team is a great group of girls who work hard to support each other. You can see that in their passing, positioning and especially the cheering that they do when their teammates make great plays.”
Mitchell said she hopes the Lady Pioneer Hockey Team will grow in popularity in the coming years.
“I hope this team continues to grow and attract new players coming up from elementary school into middle school,” said Mitchell. “The younger players are learning so much from the older girls’, from their hockey skills to their leadership on the ice. The older girls’ share their hockey knowledge, and the younger girls’ look up to them. I hope the team gives the younger girls something to work towards and look forward to as something they will get to do when they get to middle school. Especially since the high school program is a co-op with Peabody and North Reading, I’m glad to have a place where the girls can proudly sport their Lynnfield Pioneer pride and wear our town’s colors of ‘Blue and Gold’ on the ice.”