Mark Quirk's High School Hockey: Decision is due on Brady player
BY WEDNESDAY, we should know whether or not the most highly recruited hockey player in the state will be allowed to remain with her team. That player is Shelby Herrington, a girl on the Bishop Brady of Concord boys' squad.
Herrington's future lies in the hands of a Merrimack County Superior Court judge who has to decide if she can continue to play with the boys' team or should be made to play for the cooperative girls' team the school has with Trinity of Manchester.
There are arguments to support both the NHIAA, which wants Herrington to play for the girls' team, and Herrington's parents, who filed the suit against the NHIAA after it required her to play with the girls.
Most local coaches seem to agree Herrington should be allowed to finish out her career with the boys. She has already been a part of the boys' team for two years (this is the first year the girls' team is varsity) and it doesn't seem fair to take her away from her teammates.
Coaches of girls' teams, such as John Dodds of Hanover and Stacy Boudrias of Concord, would like to keep the best talent in their league, but they also want what they believe is best for this situation, which is to allow her to play with the boys.
The court has allowed Herrington to play three games with the boys so far and there is no doubt she has the talent to be on the squad. At nearly 6 feet tall, she is one of the biggest players on the team, and her stick and skating skills are just as good as those of her linemates.
Pinkerton Academy of Derry coach Casey Kesselring has worked with Herrington through his youth programs and coached against her on Saturday when his Astros beat the Giants, 7-3.
"Ability wise, she has no problem," Kesselring said. "She's not in any danger out there. She's big, she's strong, she doesn't get knocked around out there."
Kesselring said some of the best college women's hockey programs are showing interest in her. Making her play for the girls' team now would be a "step back" for her.
"She has the best chance of playing Division I hockey out of anyone in our league," Kesselring said
Herrington's lawyer argues the issue is one of discrimination, saying she is being denied a spot on the boys' team because of her gender. In court papers, Concord attorney Robert Carey cited the language of Title IX, the landmark 1984 federal law that requires colleges and high schools to put athletic programs for females on an equal footing with those for males.
There is also precedent for the case. Five years ago, girls' hockey was recognized as a varsity sport by the NHIAA, Danielle DiCesare was allowed to play for the St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover boys' team.
She was a senior who had already been on the team for three years. The NHIAA allowed her to play and its lawyer, Mike Callahan, said that was the first year of girls' hockey in the state, adding that New Hampshire girls' hockey has improved since then.
The NHIAA is trying to protect the young sport by keeping its best talent in the girls' ranks. It doesn't want to open the door to allow all the best girls in the state to play with boys' teams if they want and dilute the girls' sport. It's making a stand now.
A ruling to allow Herrington to play for the boys without some stipulations might also affect other sports. Female basketball players might want to play for male teams and boys might want to play softball instead of baseball. Imagine the headaches some of this might cause.
The argument of competition level and exposure to college scouts has also been raised, but that can be challenged as well.
In the summer, Herrington plays for the elite club Team Pittsburgh, a program that caters to the top hockey talent in the country and prepares them to play at the next level.
CHAMPIONSHIP REMATCH: On Wednesday, the defending champion Astros will take on the team they beat in the title game last year, Manchester Memorial, at the Ice Den in Hooksett at 7 p.m.
The Crusaders are 2-0 and considered to be the favorite in Division I. Pinkerton is 1-1.
Kesselring said the game will serve as a good measuring stick to see where his team stands and the Crusaders have more motivation to win since it was his kids hoisting the championship trophy last year.
"It will be a good early test to see where we're at," Kesselring said.
The game at the Ice Den against Memorial last year was sold out so Kesselring urged fans to get there early.
WELCOME BACK: There is always a lot of talk about the kids who left their high school teams to go play in juniors or at prep school. This year, at least three have done the opposite and have had an immediate impact with their new teams.
Trevor Malmgren transferred from the South Kent School in Connecticut to Manchester Central, Kyle Broussard left the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs program to play with Memorial and Joe Johnston traded the Eastern Kodiaks for Dover.
Through two games, Malmgren was tied for fourth place in Division I in scoring with four points (one goal, three assists), Broussard had a goal and an assist and Johnston scored a hat trick in the Green Wave's season opener against Kingswood.
THE PUCK STOPS HERE: The numbers vary. The official score sheet had him down for 36 saves, the Lebanon score sheet had him making 48 stops and the Dover stats had him making 57. Any way you put it, Raider goalie Joe Grout had a phenomenal day in net on Saturday despite a 3-2 overtime loss to undefeated Dover.
"He has been very good," Lebanon coach Gary Smith said. "He absolutely kept us in that game."
It's Grout's first year starting for Lebanon. The past two years he has backed up Nick Dube, who was a Division II first team all-state selection last season. Now it's Grout's turn to shine and he has to do so with a defense that skates no seniors.
"I've always known Joe has good potential," Smith said. "Now it's his opportunity to show everyone what he can do."
Mark Quirk covers high school hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..