Breakaway:Winthrop Ends Its Girls Hockey Co-Op Arrangement with Lynn High Schools

By Cary Shuman

Lynn Classical sophomore and Lady Bulldawgs hockey standout Abby Stafford (right), is pictured before taking the ice for the Northeastern Conference Girls Hockey All-Star Game at Salem State. Also pictured are Abby’s brother, Lynn Jets All-Star goaltender Jack Stafford, and their father, Jim Stafford. Abby and her Lady Bulldawgs teammates will skate under the banner of the Winthrop High Vikings beginning next season.

The Lady Bulldawgs ice hockey team is no more.

The Lynn-based high school girls varsity team, which former English director of athletics Gary Molea launched a dozen years ago to provide a program for girls at English, Classical, and Tech wishing to play interscholastic hockey, will be known as the Winthrop High Vikings (or Lady Vikings) beginning in the 2017-18 season.

The four Lynn girls currently on the roster – Catie O’Shea (Essex Tech), Cassidy Kosmas (English), Abby Stafford (Classical), and Kayla Morrill (Classical)– and the one returning Saugus player – Sophie Leray – will be “grandfathered” in to the new program and are eligible to complete their careers for the Winthrop team.

Future Lynn girls hockey players from Classical, English, and Tech will need a waiver from the MIAA in order to play interscholastic hockey.

Molea, who is now the vice principal at English, and Gene Constantino, principal at Classical, spoke about  Lynn’s ice hockey affiliation with Winthrop.

“It’s a sad ending, but we just don’t have the numbers in the sport to continue the affiliation,” said Molea. “It’s been a great relationship and I’m happy that the current Lynn players will be able to conclude their careers with the [Winthrop] team.”

Constantino was also pleased that the Lynn players would continue to play for the team, adding that, “we may revisit the [co-op] issue if there are players in our school that want to play high school hockey.”

The Lady Bulldawgs program has been a tremendous success under ninth-year head coach Anthony Martucci, who has led the team to nine consecutive state tournament berths. The Bulldawgs reached the semifinals in 2014, losing in a shootout to Hingham.

The Lady Bulldawgs’ most prominent player was Lynn’s Katie Burt, who excelled as the goaltender for three seasons, beginning in sixth grade. Burt completed her career at Buckingham Browne and Nichols and is now an All-Star goaltender for the Boston College women’s team and a candidate for the U.S. Olympic team.

Current Lady Bulldawgs goaltender Gretchen Howard has been selected to the Boston Herald Dream Team and Boston Globe All-Scholastic team. Howard, who holds all of the program’s goaltending records, will attend Salve Regina in Newport, R.I.

Martucci said Winthrop will administer and fund the program.

“We’re ending the co-op arrangement with Lynn and Saugus because the communities had no more girls seeking to play for the team. So we figured that since Winthrop is doing the majority of the logistics anyway, Winthrop should be the host high school,” said Martucci.

The coach said he was happy with the contributions that Lynn players have made to the program though the years.

“As a coaching staff we really didn’t want to do away with the co-op arrangement,” said Martucci. “We always felt very strongly about how well it worked out with the cohesiveness between the players from Lynn and Winthrop. The kids really united and it was a good bonding.”

It is expected that any Lynn-based elementary and middle school girls hockey players will begin to focus their sights on the St. Mary’s High School program that has been a perennial state title contender. Molea noted that before the start of the Winthrop-Lynn-Saugus-Revere co-op team, students from the Lynn public high schools played for the St. Mary’s girls hockey team.

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