High School Hockey
METHUEN — Amanda Conway never flinched when the topic was raised. Without a doubt she could have had success playing boys varsity hockey.
“I may not have put up the numbers I have against the girls,” said Conway, “but I would have been something. I actually asked early on about playing for the boys team after playing on the boys JV team as a freshman, but everyone decided it was best if I played against girls.”
We will likely never know how she would have fared against the guys, but given what the 5-foot-3 Methuen High junior has accomplished in her varsity career, it is unwise to doubt Amanda Conway.
Faced with the challenge of following up her historic season from a year ago, when she shattered the modern area record (boys or girls) with 52 goals and led Methuen-Tewksbury on a dream run to the state semifinals, Conway has been just as spectacular this season.
She has scored a stunning 34 goals so far this season, leading the Methuen-Tewksbury co-op hockey team to a 10-1 record, the No. 3 ranking in MIAA Division 2 hockey and No. 16 overall in Eastern Mass. In the last scoring leaders published in the Boston Globe she shared the EMass. goals lead with Beverly’s Julia Nearis.
“It has really been unbelievable watching Amanda do this,” said her father, Brian Conway. “You could tell from when she was very young that she had a sense for the sport and a nose for scoring goals. We like to tell people that when Amanda was born, we had a family friend who was playing travel hockey for Methuen. So, literally the weekend she was born she was at the hockey rink.”
Amanda, who recorded her 100th career point in less than two full seasons of varsity hockey last week, needs just 13 goals over her final eight regular season games to lock up the two most prolific seasons in modern area history.
Since the Eagle-Tribune began keeping complete hockey records (boys 1994-95 season, girls 1998-99 season), the previous record for goals in a season was 47 by Andover’s Maria Nasta in 2005-06. The top boys mark is 39 goals by Bobby Farnham of North Andover in his Eagle-Tribune MVP campaign with Brooks, also in 2005-06.
“Amanda is just an awesome player,” said Methuen-Tewksbury interim coach Anna Rigano. “She has terrific speed and she is a great stick-handler. She is very strong. Girls will try to step up and she can use her speed to go around them or strength to fight them off. She also has the vision and ability make plays that other just do not see.”
But, after such an historic 2012-13 season, the current campaign presented an entirely new set of challenges for the star sniper.
After all, Conway entered last season as a high school sophomore with no prior varsity hockey experience, who was taking the ice for a first-year co-op program.
A season later, coming off an All-Scholastic season, in which she led that first-year program to a shocking run to the Division 2 state semifinals, and Conway is now Public Enemy No. 1 for any team that opposes Methuen-Tewksbury.
“Defenses are always targeting me,” said Conway. “Teams always have a player shadowing me, following me wherever I go. They are always using their sticks and trying to block whatever I do, like a toe drag.”
While some of that attention is strategic, defenses often resort to less ethical manners to slow down the superstar.
“Players are always trying to knock me around and knock me down and a lot of times they aren’t called for penalties,” said Conway. “You have to fight through the whacks and the hacks and the trips and the hooks. I have to remember not to retaliate and not let them get in my head. It’s hockey, you have to fight through it.
“Girls also trash talk me all the time. They say the rudest things to me, most that couldn’t be printed. ‘You stink’ is about the nicest thing. But I just tell them to look at the scoreboard because we are usually ahead.”
That stats certainly prove those efforts to throw Conway off her game have been futile to say the least.
In 11 games this season, Conway has scored at least five goals in three different games and has added two more four-goal games. She has been limited to fewer than two goals just once the entire year, that was Wednesday. The Red Rangers lost their only game, 4-3 to St. Bernard’s, and Conway didn’t score.
“In one game a team had two girls zoned in on her whenever she was on the ice,” remembered Rigato. “She scored about four goals in that game. Girls are always going after her, but she doesn’t get wrapped up in it. She may get frustrated, but she quickly recovers. She never loses sight of the game. She just keeps playing and working.”
Being a targeted scorer, in fact, is nothing new to Conway. It has been true since she was a youngster playing against the boys.
“She was definitely a goal-scorer against the guys,” said her father. “She was this tiny little thing. The team would just dump the puck into the center of the ice and she would beat everyone to it and go on a breakaway. People would say, ‘Wow!’ She led her team in goals two years of mites and a year of squirts. She was playing in checking leagues, and she was actually a pretty good checker.”
But now a girls hockey superstar, Conway hopes to repeat the amazing tournament run of a season ago, and hopefully advance even further.
“Last year we honestly didn’t know if we would even make the state tournament,” said Conway. “We thought if we made the first round it would be great. But we just kept winning and ended up making the tournament. It was amazing. We feel like this year could be even better. We want to get into the tournament and go from there.”
Division 1 future?
While Conway still has another year before she heads to college, the question is asked quite frequently.
Will she be playing Division 1 college hockey?
“I would love to give Division 1 a try,” she said. “I may play a year at a prep school after high school. I will have to see what kind of offers I get. But I would love the chance.”
Her coach believes Conway could play hockey at the highest level.
“I definitely think she can do it,” said Rigano, who played at Division 1 Providence. “I believe she has the talent and work ethic to play Division 1 hockey. Whatever route she decides to take, I feel like she will be successful.”
The biggest local matchup so far this season is set for Wednesday, when Salem plays host to archrival Londonderry in a battle of the two top teams in New Hampshire Division 1.
The Blue Devils currently sit atop the Division 1 standings with a 9-1-1 league record including last night’s tie with Memorial, while Londonderry is a game behind in the No. 2 spot at 9-2-0 in the league.
Who handed the Lancers their last New Hampshire loss? It was Salem with a 3-2 come-from-behind victory on Dec. 21. Since then Londonderry has lost just once, to Biddeford (Maine) in the Blue Devil Holiday tourney.
Salem, meanwhile, has lost just once all year, 4-1 to St. Thomas on Jan. 11. Londonderry defeated St. Thomas in overtime on Wednesday.
Super 8 preview
Another rivalry matchup will take place at the same rink, the Salem Icenter, on Monday when Central Catholic hosts fellow Super 8 hopeful Austin Prep.
The Raiders rolled over Austin in their first meeting, winning 4-1 on Jan. 1 led by Corey Webber’s two goals. But since then, Austin has gone undefeated and is currently ranked ahead of Central Catholic at No. 5 in the Super 8 standings at 8-2-2.
Central, meanwhile, is ranked No. 7 in the Super 8 standings, right now destined for the play-in round.
once again. A second win over Austin Prep would likely flip the two teams in the standings.
The Cougars are led by star goalie Elijah Harris of Haverhill.
Hornets have sting
North Reading, which fell out of the Top 10 Division 2 rankings following a loss to Pentucket-Georgetown last week, is back at No. 5 in the polls after rebounding to win its next four games and outscore opponents 17-2.
No skaters have been more crucial to that run than brothers Nick Day and Thomas Day.
During the win streak, sophomore Nick has scored seven times while senior co-captain Thomas has assisted on seven goals, including both of Nick’s in a 2-0 win over tough Amesbury/Whittier.
See her story
For a video interview with Methuen star Amanda Conway, and highlights of her on the ice, visit eagletribune.com/sports or Youtube.com/user/TheEagleTribune
LEading the greats
Methuen junior Amanda Conway’s last two seasons rank among the best in modern (since 1995) area history:
Player school year goals
Amanda Conway Methuen/Tewksbury 2012-13 52
Maria Nasta Andover 2005-06 47
Maria Nasta Andover 2004-05 43
Bobby Farnham Brooks 2005-06 39
Ryan Sifferlen North Andover 2007-08 38
Paul Jaskot Central Catholic 2006-07 37
Zach Sanford Pinkerton 2011-12 36
Maria Nasta Andover 2004-05 36
Sarah Oteri Andover 2008-09 35
Amanda Conway Methuen/Tewksbury 2013-14 34*
Pat Halligan Salem 2004-05 34
*—8 games remaining in regular season