Sixth-Grader Is Starting Goalie For Medford/Malden Varsity Girls’ Hockey Team This Season

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Erin Alves stands alone in high school girls’ ice hockey in Massachusetts.

At just 12 years old, the Medford resident is already the starting varsity goaltender for the Medford/Malden high schools girls’ team; the co-op also has a player from Revere High School and Everett High School. 

Alves competes against teams that have seniors in high school, many of which are 18 years old. And this will likely be her first of seven years as a starting varsity goaltender.

Medford/Malden girls’ hockey coach Brittani Lanzilli said that, for a goalie, that’s virtually unheard of.

“Sixth-grade?” the 2014 Medford High grad, who is the program’s all-time leading scorer, said. “No. I joined the team as a seventh-grader. So we’ve always had seventh-grade and middle school players. Having a sixth-grade player is unique, but then having a sixth-grade goalie is its own category. And honestly, she has adapted so well. You wouldn’t even know she’s a sixth-grader. Maybe by size, but in terms of playing experience, she has adjusted so well.”

If you look at the team’s roster, you’ll notice that Alves is the only goalie listed; that’s because she is their only goalie. Before the start of the season, Lanzilli and her coaching staff realized they didn’t have a goalie.

However, they did have an eighth-grader trying out for the team who knew one:  forward Kaitlyn Alves. It happened to be her little sister.

At first, Lanzilli and Kaitlyn Alves had reservations; but Erin Alves did not.

“We were nervous because she was a sixth-grader,” Lanzilli said. “We weren’t sure if her family would want her jumping into this role, playing against seniors in high school, but they were right on board. If you watch a game, she can keep up in any game that we’re in.”

And for Kaitlyn Alves, the reservation wasn’t hockey-related.

“I was disappointed at first because it was like, my little sister is going to be on the team the entire time I am, but now that she’s on the team, it’s fun,” she said.

Meanwhile, Erin Alves jumped at the opportunity. 

“I was like, ‘Yeah sure, I’ll play,” Erin said.

With a young roster this season, Medford/Malden is in a rebuilding year; they were 2-10-0 as of Thursday, February 3. Their team had more middle schoolers (eight) on it than high school juniors and seniors (six).

Alves’s play in net has been a bright spot for the team, however.

“I love it,” Lanzilli said. “We always say that Erin is our MVP. She’s kind of the backbone of our team. She gets us going. She keeps us in a lot of games. She’s always there to make that initial save and that second save and that third save. She’s in sixth-grade now, I can’t even imagine what she’s going to be like when she’s a senior.”

And even though she is only 12 years old, Alves has enjoyed some success on the ice. She earned a shutout in net against Masconomet on December 15; her team won the game 2-0.

“I was really excited since it was my first varsity shutout,” Erin said.

Lanzilli said that one thing that stands out about Alves is her work ethic.

“She’s awesome,” Lanzilli said of Erin Alves. “She’s a competitor. When we do mini-shootouts, she wants to be the winner. She’ll shut out the girls. She works hard day-in and day-out. She’s determined to be better than she was the day before. And in a game, you can tell she wants to win. She wants to make every save, and I think that’s the big thing: that competitive edge, she has it.”

Erin Alves acknowledged that there was some adjusting to do to jump from competing against girls her own age — but not as much as you might think.

“It’s not much different because I played for a club team,” she said. “It was just a little bit faster at the start.”

As for how she is able to compete against kids six years older than her, she said:  “I don’t know, I just do.”

While Alves is the youngest starting varsity goalie in the Commonwealth, she’s not the only middle schooler taking on that role. 

On the South Shore, there are two. Both play for co-ops, meaning that two high schools have one combined team so that there will be enough players. One goalie is Fallon Smith, a seventh-grader on the West Bridgewater/East Bridgewater girls’ hockey team. The other is Sadie Watchorn, an eighth-grader on the Whitman-Hanson/Silver Lake girls’ hockey team.

Smith attends East Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School, which serves grades 7 through 12. Unlike many of these other goalies, Smith isn’t the only player at her position on the roster. She beat out the starting goalie from the previous season (now a senior) for the job. The co-op is in its second season; while the team went winless last year, it stood at 5-8 through 13 games played. Smith got her first career varsity shutout in a 4-0 win over Stoughton on January 5.

The Whitman-Hanson/Silver Lake team features players from towns that neighbor East Bridgewater, including Whitman, Hanson, and Halifax (as well as Plympton and Kingston). On that team, Watchorn is the lone goalie this season.

The Kingston resident is helping the team fight for a playoff spot. She has held the opposition to one goal twice this season:  in a 4-1 win over Marshfield on January 5 and in a 5-1 win over Norwell on January 17. At 7-7-0 through 14 games played, Whitman-Hanson/Silver Lake remains a playoff contender; teams need at least a .500 winning percentage to be eligible for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs.

In Central Massachusetts, the Leominster girls’ ice hockey team has a seventh-grade goalie:  Carina Eshbaugh. The West Boylston resident is a second-year varsity player. Leominster was 2-9-1 through 11 games played, but Esbaugh had held the opposition to just one goal in three of those games.

Additionally, an opponent of Medford/Malden relies on a middle school goalie:  Masconomet. The team has two goalies on its roster that both get playing time; eighth-grader Maddie Dupuis of Boxford is one of them. She got a shutout in net against Gloucester 3-0 on December 22. Masconomet was 4-8-0 through 12 games played.


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