All things hockey, all the time.
Nearly every day, all year round.
It certainly sounds like a time well spent, bundled-up at the rink for all in attendance –spectators, in particular.
But for Canton’s Olivia Maffeo and Marshfield’s Alanna Devlin, consider it paradise. That’s just how their worlds go round.
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“I go to Marshfield (High) until the end of September and then I leave and go to NAHA (North American Hockey Academy in Ashland) and I come back to Marshfield High in March,” Devlin said. “I basically go away for the hockey season.”
It’s a similar story for Maffeo, who debuted with an All-Scholastic campaign as a freshman on the Canton High girls hockey team before transferring to Noble and Greenough, a private school in Dedham, the following year.
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Both searched for private school options to pursue grander exposure, with hopes of playing Division 1 collegiate hockey one day. Now as rising high school juniors, they both secured prestigious invites to the 2022 USA Hockey Women’s National Festival, which is hosted by Team USA in Buffalo, NY from Aug. 8-13.
That Div. 1 dreams are taking shape.
“I definitely think it helps my confidence,” Maffeo said of receiving the invitation. “It just reassures me that I am a good player and all of the hard work I put in is being noticed and that people are interested in me and how I play. It definitely helps me in that sense.”
Just 32 players are listed on the U18 team roster for the festival, which is the latest step in a series of camps Team USA hosts to make cuts and finalize rosters for the IIHF Women’s World Championship in Denmark.
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“It’s such an honor because it’s always been a dream of mine to play for my country and it’s crazy that I’m so close,” Devlin said. “Obviously, I’ve still got some more work to do but I’m still astounded by it.”
“This year, (the invite) was the realization of like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can actually do this,'” added Devlin. “And I don’t know when (the dream of playing for Team USA) started, but it would be amazing. I don’t even have the words to describe it if I made that team. It would be such an honor.”
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Devlin, primarily a center, is listed as one of the 18 forwards on the festival roster, while Maffeo is one of the 10 defensemen. The two locals played club hockey together for Boston Advantage in the past.
“It was nice to know somebody, it was good to have a familiar face to talk to,” Devlin said of crossing paths with Maffeo in the tryout process. “Plus, I haven’t seen her in a while. I played with her during the 2020-21 year and I haven’t been able to see her since, so it was good to talk with her and rekindle that friendship.”
An offensive defenseman, Maffeo totaled 33 goals and 8 assists during her lone season at Canton High in 2019-20. That year, the Bulldogs finished with a 19-1-4 record and made an appearance in the Div. 2 state title game at TD Garden before the pandemic canceled it and determined Canton and Wellesley share the crown. Her father, Nick, is one of the team’s assistant coaches and her older sister, Alexa, was a senior forward on the team.
“It was definitely a great year, having my dad as one of my coaches and getting to play with my sister, but not being to play in the last game was definitely tough,” Maffeo said. “We were all devastated that night we found out we couldn’t play.”
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Her older brother, Jackson, also played at Canton as part of the 2017 senior class. Watching her older siblings skate along served as inspiration for Maffeo ever since she got her first taste of the sport at 2 years old. Don’t worry – her transfer elsewhere didn’t stir any hard feelings within the family.
“He definitely would’ve wanted me to stay, but he knew I needed to move to another team and get more exposure,” Maffeo recalled her father’s reaction to the transfer. “He knew it was the right step for me. He was a little upset, but not too much.”
All eyes on the prize: the next level.
Devlin opting to attend a hockey academy for a bulk of the school year, as opposed to playing for a public or private school team in the winter, is a decision growing in popularity for players with sky-high potential and the ambition to match. In 64 games played this past season (approximately three times more than a public high school team plays), Devlin scored 20 goals and facilitated 32 assists.
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“She’s the type of athlete that knows what she wants from hockey and she’s very committed and determined to go for it. But (she is) also growing as an overall person in terms of competing, leadership and also from a skills standpoint,” NAHA director Toni Ann Miano said of Devlin. “She’s one of the most skilled at her position in her birth year in Mass.”
Devlin has been honing in those skills since she was 8 years old, playing for the Advantage for the first time. She suited up for the boys team until age 12.
“That was kind of my first full year of skating. It was intimidating to play with the boys, but I think that made me who I am. (It) really helped me get to where my skating is right now and NAHA polished that off. I think it was all a good combination to get me to the point I’m at right now.”
Maffeo grew up sharing the ice with the boys team as well. Both reflect on those memories paying off in a physical edge that was woven into their games since the early days.
“When I transitioned from (playing against) boys to girls, there was obviously a big difference because the game was not as physical,” Devlin said. “But I feel like it’s trending towards that now, especially at these high levels. And at this camp, I think being physical and that physicality component will definitely play a huge role in who makes the team or not. I think most of the girls who are going to be there have played boys at some point in their lives, so I think that separates most of us from the rest of the group.”
According to Miano, who attended NAHA herself before starring at Boston College, “a lot of character comes out when you’re competing for a spot on a national team” and the experience of battling some of the country’s best while navigating NCAA recruiting waters has made it a “breakout summer” for Devlin.
It’s now time for both Devlin and Maffeo to show what they’ve got under the watch of Team USA officials.
“A lot of coaches use the team ‘Be a sponge,'” said Devlin. “Whatever happens, happens. It’ll be a great experience to go there, especially recruiting-wise for colleges. It’ll be a nice check mark for that. I’ll just take it all in.”
“I feel like I have a sense of confidence making it this far, but definitely nerves too,” Maffeo said. “When I get there and see all of the players there, it’s definitely going to be a little nerve-wracking. I’m just going to try to play my best.”