There Was No Way Maggie Lester Was Going to Miss Her Senior Hockey Season
By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
With Covid playing games with high schools sports last year, Ashland’s Maggie Lester decided instead of just sitting around as she waited for the softball season to begin, she decided to go back to volleyball one last time.
The decision almost cost Lester her senior season on the ice with the Medway/Ashland girl’s hockey team.
Two days into the volleyball tryouts for the Clockers, the then-junior was attempting to jump and hit the ball over the net, but unfortunately landed wrong and wound up tearing her ACL.
“I landed wrong and felt my knee twist and heard a pop,” she said. “At first, I didn’t think it was that bad, but I really couldn’t put any pressure on it and the Coach had to drag me off the court. At the time (some seven months before the season was to begin) I wasn’t thinking that this was that serious and was going to interfere with my senior hockey season.”
However, after going to the doctors, she found out what had actual happened to her on the volleyball court, and it was something that had a real possibility of her sitting on the sidelines while her teammates played out the 2021-2022 hockey season without her.
“That was probably the hardest thing I had to ever deal with; not comprehending that as a senior captain of the hockey team that I may not be on the ice with my teammates this year,” Lester said. “When I called the Coach (Karl Infanger) to give him the bad news, he was not only supportive but said he had full faith in me and my ability to be back on the ice for the season.”
Infanger, who had sent his winger a message with gif of the Mandalorian breaking through a wall, knew what he had in Lester and was quite sure she’d back skating with her teammates at some point of the upcoming season.
“When I got the phone call from Maggie telling me that she may not be playing this year because of her injury and the recovery time was about 8 months, I didn’t believe it,” the Medway / Ashland Coach said. “She would continuously send me updates of her progress throughout the off-season while continuing to work her butt off. Five and a half months later and ahead of schedule she returned to the team.”
“It was not a fun few months of going to PT, but I was determined and had a lot of motivation to get back on the ice,” Lester said. “I would be at the gym seeing everyone practicing for their sports while I was trying to get back to my sport; four or five times a week with a lot of squats.”
In October, Lester had attempted to gain clearance to get back to the sport she loves so much but was denied that opportunity as she was just not ready. Lester having already missed the team’s first scrimmage she was scheduled for another test. This time she was able to pass the test and was more than relived. Had she had not been given clearance to join her teammates it would have been another eight weeks before she could try again, and at that point the season would have been just about completed.
“I didn’t want to have to go through another eight weeks,” she said. “As I began the testing process there was a giant pit in my stomach, and I had never been so nervous in my life. When I was given the clearance, my whole family was cheering, and I immediately texted my coach and my linemates. It was such a relief.”
Lester got involved with ice hockey at the tender age of 5. Her father loved pond skating and she was a super hyperactive individual, so he laced her up and got her on the ice. From that point in time there was no turning back. The youngster started in a learn to skate program but to her it was all about getting to play hockey. Lester noted that she had tried a lot of different sports before she found hockey, but it was always the same, she got upset with the sport. With hockey she not only found something that she truly loved but it also helped her to burn a lot of energy in that young body.
The first team she laced up the skates for was the Lady Flames, an under-10 team. In addition to the Flames, she was also skating with a boys’ competitive travel team, The Demons. The two teams were total opposites of one another.
“The big difference was that it was much faster, and boys don’t like to pass, they want to do it all on their own. I guess it’s the nature of being a boy,” she said. “I didn’t find myself at a disadvantage playing for the boys’ team and it made me even stronger.”
Three years into her career with the Lady Flames, Lester moved onto the Junior Eagles out of Boston, now playing in a program that was much more intense and cutthroat than she had been used to. The Ashland native added that it was an absolutely tough program with skill coaches coming in every week to teach them while bringing their games to the next level. Since joining the high school team three years ago, the left-winger has also been skating for the Boch Blazers.
During her freshman campaign, Lester found her way onto the first line, but also realized that she was still a rather small freshman when she stepped onto the ice against the other teams.
“Varsity high school hockey was very intense, and I was definitely not used to playing girls that were that big, they looked so huge to a young freshman,” Lester recalled. “But eventually (about six games in) I realized that I could play with these girls and ended up I think ninth in the league in points that season. Not too bad for a freshman.”
Prior to her sophomore season, at the urging of her Coach, she got involved in playing in a summer league before her fall season with the Blazers got underway. She entered the high school season in tip top shape and recorded 24 points (13 goals and 11 assists) that year. Then, unfortunately, the next season was cancelled due to Covid, but she did manage to find a league in Framingham in which she could keep up her skating while working on her skills for a handful of games.
After getting the clearance to play in her final season with the Medway / Ashland team, Lester seems to have not lost a step despite her tragic injury on the volleyball court. Getting the chance to play in her senior campaign she is looking for the team to have a positive performance while making it into the tournament, especially after they missed out on not having a season last year and only got to play one game in the post-season the year before that.
Individually Lester would like to play at a competitive level once again this winter; hoping to get back to where she was prior to the injury.
“People keep saying take it easy, it’ll take time to get back to the high level you were playing at, but I don’t want to get into a recovery mode. I want to be where I was before, now,” she said. “We have a great team with a lot of potential and should hit our stride late in the season just in time for the tournament.”
At 5’10,” Lester considers herself a strong player with a great wrist shot and one who can pass or take it to the net herself – all attributes that should help her team get to its goal of making it to the tournament. Through the first three years, her goal scoring has continued to increase thus giving her team the opportunity to accomplish their goals. During her freshman year she tallied 4 goals and 6 assists, while increasing that total to 10 goals and 9 assists in her sophomore season. Last year during the abbreviated season she netted 3 goals and another 3 assists.
“As a two-time captain she is once again leading our team in scoring (at the time of this writing the left-winger has 11 goals and 12 assists),” Infanger said. “She is a character, in a good way – she’s the clown of the locker room with her one-liners that keep the team loose, but on the ice, she plays a hard physical game and has a nice touch around the net.”
As long as Lester is able to keep her teammates focused while on the ice and continue playing at the pace, they have for the first part of the season then Medway / Ashland should be able to secure a high seed in the tournament and then they can go after their goals of winning in in the post-season. Two years ago, they got sent home in the Preliminary Round of the MIAA Division 1 Girls Ice Hockey Tournament with a 3-2 loss to Arlington; this year they want to avenge that loss and go deep into the tournament behind the leadership of Lester.