As Jacqui Nolan and Zoe Griffin sat together at a table in the press room at the TD Garden drinking Diet Coke and answering questions about winning four state championships in four years, the two captains and friends were relishing not only the fulfillment of their high school hockey careers but also the fruition of a plan concocted four years previous just down the hall from where they were drinking the postgame sodas.
Turn back the clock to 2011, and the Dragons are still in the TD Garden celebrating a state championship, but Nolan, Griffin, fellow captains Rachel Myette and Liz Collins and defenseman Ally Hammel are the team’s freshmen newbies rather than the seasoned leaders they are today. The five of them sat together in the locker room and decided they wanted the celebratory feeling to last as long as they played high school hockey together.
“As freshmen, we all looked at each other right when we won the first one and said, ‘Four-peat.’” Nolan said.
Fellow captain Liz Collins confirmed that the five seniors had the dream of winning four straight back when they were freshmen, but they had to keep their plans hidden from head coach Friend Weiler whose one-game-at-a-time mentality wouldn’t have meshed well with their four-year plan.
“I didn’t even want to talk about a repeat it was too far in the future,” Weiler said. “They didn’t share that plan with me, but they did it and they all contributed all the way through. They are definitely a special group.”
Back in the present, the dream may have become a reality, but not without a fair share of adversity. The five had to persevere through some key private school defections to win the third state championship while knowing the end of 2013 meant the loss of Hannah … and her 500 goals.
The fact that five of them wore the captain “C” on their sweaters this season also caused problems in itself this year as Weiler feared that he would be appointing too many leaders, which would give his younger players five more voices in their ears in addition to him and his staff. Weiler said he saw that coming as he agonized over which of the group to name as captains, but said in the end, their different talents and personalities, as well as their shared commitment to the team did not allow him to omit anyone.
“I thought [having five captains] might have derailed us, but I couldn’t figure out how to leave anyone out,” he said. “I had them write essays and they all wrote great essays; I just couldn’t do it.”
While the plan was to win four straight, the five seniors have come a long way since they hatched their scheme in ninth grade, but none more so than Myette. The Quinnipiac commit was thrust right into the starting role as a freshman with no other goalies on the roster, and while she delivered a state championship that year, Weiler said she was not the same vocal leader screaming out defensive assignments so the first five rows at the Garden could hear last Sunday.
“She was very quiet as a freshmen because she was directing girls that were older than she was,” Weiler said. “It’s been a confidence thing, and she really grew into that role.”
The first person to reach Myette for the celebration Sunday was Hammel, who was the lone senior among Duxbury’s defensemen this year. Much like Myette, Weiler said Hammel’s impact was immediate on the ice as a lockdown defender with strong stick and puck-handling skills, she has also grown into almost a teacher during her progression from the fresh face to lone senior on the blue line.
“She leads by example and is always instructing her partners,” Weiler said. “She does her work on the ice.”
While Myette and Hammel have developed chemistry in the defensive end, the same can be said for Nolan and Griffin up front. The two have been a center/forward pair on the same line for the past two years, where their different talents and personalities have made them a natural pairing.
“They both just complement each other so well,” Weiler said. “Zoe is like the mother hen of the team — she is always concerned about how her teammates are doing and making sure everyone is pumped up. Jacqui takes a very direct approach to the game. When she does something wrong, she wants to know immediately so she can correct it. She is all about hard work and determination, and expects the same from her teammates.”
And then there is Collins, whose six goals this season tied Griffin for the fourth most on the team despite switching lines toward the end of the season. While her scoring was invaluable over her four years, Weiler called her the most essential of the five captains was a stabilizing force, both among the seniors and the team as a whole.
“Liz is the glue of the captains and really the backbone of the team,” Weiler said. “She worked to make sure everyone did their job and all the younger players felt welcome.”
Each had her own role both as a leader and on the ice, and now they will be going their own separate ways come graduation. Myette will be between the pipes at Quinnipiac and Collins will also be heading to Connecticut next year where she will attend Sacred Heart. Griffin is staying in New England as well, but heading north to St. Anslem College in Manchester, NH while Nolan and Hammel remain undecided. While they will be taking their legacy with them, Nolan and Griffin’s last remarks before they rejoined their team’s victory party were that their plan from four years ago was never about record books, legacies or banners in the gym.
“Now I’m sitting here with all five of my best friends,” Nolan said. “It’s unreal.”