By Ed Flaherty
Like many great discoveries, the Hanover High School girls’ hockey team’s “Black Line” came together not through astute planning but as a coincidence that resulted in a combustible mix that has tormented opposing New Hampshire opponents for four years.
|Madison Hill will be headed to Gettysburg (Pa.) College. (Photo by Bob Dewhirst)|
The end result: A formidable first line that has led Hanover (14-2) to two state championships over the past three seasons with a third in four years squarely in the Marauders’ sights.
In addition, each member of Hanover’s Black Line achieved a personal milestone during the 2011-12 season by reaching 100 career points.
The Hanover trio — twin sisters Madison Hill and Tessa Hill along with Maddie Dew-hirst — has morphed into something much more than a hockey line, however.
“It’s really been fun to watch them,” Hanover coach John Dodds said of his senior triumvirate. “They’re like a family. They’re like three sisters. It’s been fun to watch them grow, not only on the ice but also socially.”
“I have become known as the third twin,” Dewhirst joked, but the Hill twins echoed her sentiments.
Madison Hill said that when the three linemates are together people say, “It’s like Maddie, Madison and Tessa are almost triplets.”
Hanover’s Black Line — so-called because the linemates chose to wear black jerseys in practice — formed during their freshman year when Dodds was seeking a third member to join the Hill twins.
“They’ve been together since their freshman year,” Dodds said. “At some point that year, we put them on the same line. It just worked out that way. The twins were going to be a pair all along and Maddie was originally slated for defense. They had grown close together and they developed (as a line).”
That development — and the synchronicity that was quickly established — is what has made the Black Line special.
“They have this chemistry,” Dodds said. “It’s not something that I understand. They’re a good group.”
“We’re really good friends off the ice,” Dewhirst said.
“It helps that we’re such good friends off the ice as well,” Madison Hill said. “We work really well together.”
That connection translates to the ice, where the Black Line thrives.
Earlier this season, the Hanover linemates all reached 100 career points, a milestone achievement for an individual made all the more remarkable by each member of the Black Line hitting the mark.
In true Black Line spirit, the linemates reached the century mark within a one-month span of each other.
|Maddie Dewhirst will play hockey at Colby College. (Photo by Bob Dewhirst)|
First to hit the 100-point plateau was Dewhirst, who notched her 100th point in a 9-2 win over Berlin/Gorham on Dec. 20.
Next up was Madison Hill, whose 100th point came in a 5-0 win over Exeter on Jan. 10.
Tessa Hill joined the club Jan. 14, as she reached 100 points in a 4-1 victory over Lebanon on Jan. 14.
That the linemates all reached the 100-point mark so close together is another testament to their synchronicity.
“I’ve always been amazed by it,” Dewhirst said of the connection between the three. “I know where they’re going. I understand their thought patterns and they know where I’m going. We work well together. We try to keep it creative and not run too many set plays.”
“We know each other so well, we can pass the puck very quickly,” Tessa Hill said. “We know where each other is going to be.”
That connection is something that can’t be taught or coached, and often goes without words even being exchanged between the players.
“A lot of it is in practice,” Dewhirst said. “Our coach talks a lot about talking and being verbal. With us, a lot of it is unspoken.”
“Sometimes it’s not verbal,” Madison Hill said. “I just don’t have to think with the puck. It just is kind of a sense, an unconscious thing.”
Dodds said the Black Line creates myriad problems for opponents.
“You have got to pay attention to all of them,” he said. “Sometimes it’s easy to stop the other team’s one good player, but when you’ve got three to watch, you’ve got to have a good line to match up with them. Most teams play two lines and we play three. It makes it hard to match up against us. Teams make mistakes.”
“They’re tough to defend against. You can expect them to score a couple goals per game (as a line). We obviously have them on our power play team so if teams get too physical and take penalties (they make them pay).”
Dodds said the Black Line also has the ability to perform in pressure situations.
“The nice thing about them is they play better in the big games,” he said.
Working as a cohesive group, the members of the Black Line each have their own individual talents, which blend together.
“Tessa is more of a set-up player. She feeds the others and they work well off her,” Dodds said. “Maddie will dig pucks out of the corner and work it out. Madison does a lot of those things and she can finish.”
Thanks in large part to the Black Line’s efforts, the Marauders have won back-to-back state titles with a third within reach.
“We’ve had a pretty good run,” Dodds said.
Just one member of the Black Line will continue playing hockey in college, but Dodds said all three could make the next step if that was their choice.
“They could have all played (college hockey),” Dodds said. “We’ve had a bunch of Division 3 coaches here. One coach wanted all three of them.”
While admitting they try not to think about it, the Black Line will soon part ways — both on the ice and off.
Dewhirst plans to continue her hockey career at Colby College in Maine.
The Hill twins will leave New England, with Madison Hill attending Gettysburg (Pa.) College and Tessa Hill enrolling at George Washington University.
“They’re definitely a special group,” Dodds said. “We’re going to miss them and I don’t know what we’re going to do without them.”
This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.
Ed Flaherty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org