MORRISTOWN _ Ashley Magner was wobbly when she first put on skates as a Morristown-Beard freshman.
Magner's Crimson teammate, Kristen DePoalo, too, had her shaky moments after taking up ice hockey.
Now juniors, Magner and DePoalo can look back and laugh about their early experiences on the ice. These days, their focus isn't about acclimating themselves to the sport and learning the game. They're way beyond that.
On Wednesday, Jan. 9, Magner and DePoalo, both forwards, each had a goal and three assists to help Morristown-Beard to a 10-0 shutout of Princeton at Twin Oaks Ice Center.
"It was thrilling," said Magner of her first career goal. "I was kind of astonished. The team was happy for me. It was a really nice feeling."
Magner, of Denville, actually had what proved to be the game-winning goal, connecting off a rebound 2:44 into the game to give Morristown-Beard a 1-0 lead. She assisted on the Crimson's seventh, ninth and 10th goals.
Morristown's DePoalo, also a figure skater, knocked in the third goal and was on the assist side of the team's fourth, sixth and seventh.
"From last year to this year, Ashley and Kristen are two of the players who have shown the most improvement," Crimson coach Bruce Driver said. "They've put in a lot of time. In the summer and fall, they take lessons. Their skating, shooting and stickhandling is so much better. When they came to the first practice this season, we were a little surprised at their improvement. They're doing well because they put in the extra effort."
Morristown-Beard was down a few players against Princeton so the performances by Magner and DePoalo were much appreciated. Laura Loeser and Maxime Menne were sick. Allie Aiello, not feeling well, left the rink after the second period. Aiello scored a goal before making her exit.
Brette Brier had a hat trick and added an assist for the Crimson. Devin Blanchard added a pair of goals. The other goals came off the sticks of Kelly Dolan and Loeser.
Driver considers 11 of his 18 players to be Tier 1, meaning that they are high level club players.
However, players like Magner and DePoalo are the ones he enjoys watching develop.
Going into ninth grade at Morristown-Beard, Magner chose ice hockey, a sport she had never played before, over basketball.
"I found ice hockey more interesting and fun," Magner said.
Her brother had played and her father researched the program. Magner, who plays soccer and lacrosse, had very limited experience skating, though, and toiled to earn some playing time.
"I didn't know how to hold the stick while wearing gloves," Magner recalled. "It was hard just to stand up. I was juggling everything around. I wanted to see if I could do it. I fell my first time out and didn't know how to stop."
She credits her teammates with providing assistance and being supportive.
"No one gets mad mad if you mess up," Magner said. "My teammates have taught me a lot. A lot of the girls are really, really good. It was kind of scary at first but everyone was so welcoming."
What is most important to remember when playing ice hockey?
"Keep your head up," Magner said. "People come at you fast. If your head is down, you can get knocked over."
The goal was the second this season for DePoalo, who has been involved in figure skating since third grade.
DePoalo's two older brothers had played hockey and influenced her decision to give it a try.
Being able to skate was a plus yet there was much to get used to.
"The skates were different," DePoalo said. "I used to watch my brother's games so I knew a little but I still had a lot to learn."
One of the aspects of ice hockey DePoalo likes best is being on a team. Figure skating can be lonely and ultra competitive.
"I really like having the other girls around," DePoalo said. "Everyone helps each other. It's fun."
DePoalo hopes to continue to improve by being more aggressive.
"You need to go after the puck," she said. "You can't be afraid. You've got to go for it."
The Crimson have a tough stretch of games coming up.
On Saturday, Jan. 12, plays host to Millbrook of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. at 3:30 p.m. Morristown-Beard travels to Lawrenceville Prep on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
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