The Penobscot Pioneers, the first-ever high school girls ice hockey team from the Bangor area, won their debut game on Nov. 25, 2022, against Greely/Gray-New Gloucester in a breakaway 12-0 upset. Credit: Courtesy of Dave Utterback

Friday night was a special evening for Kim Shelley and Meghan MacDonald.

The first-ever varsity schoolgirl team from the Bangor area, composed of players from seven schools, made its debut and came away with a 12-0 victory over Greely/Gray-New Gloucester at the Penobscot Ice Arena in front of a large crowd.

Shelley and MacDonald are two of the assistant coaches under head coach Michael Keim and never had the opportunity to play on an all-girls team until they went to college.

Shelley, a defenseman, played for the John Bapst boys team in Bangor before playing college hockey at Boston College and the University of Maine. MacDonald, a goaltender, played for Bangor High and Kents Hill before moving on to Providence College.

“This is absolutely amazing,” said Shelley. “This is something the people in this area have worked so long for. It’s really special.”

The Maine Inferno is the state’s girls-only hockey organization that includes teams for different age groups. Several of the Pioneers grew up playing for the Inferno as well as on co-ed teams.

So far, they do not appear to be a typical first-year program.

Even though Greely/Gray-New Gloucester won only three games a year ago, the speed and skill level of several Pioneers was impressive. Keim said he is excited about his team’s depth.

“Our girls can skate,” the 30-year-old said.

The Pioneers have two lines that have the potential to be prolific goal producers. Bangor High’s Emma McNeil, the team’s captain and only senior, centers a quality line between Hermon sophomore Delaney Carr and Brewer sophomore Jordin Williams, a dynamic skater who played for Winslow’s co-operative team last season.

That line combined for three goals and six assists against Greely/New Gloucester.

The Hampden Academy tandem of junior center Meghan Delahanty and sophomore left wing Paige Oakes also are linemates with Orono junior Jaylin Morrison on the right wing. They have played a lot of hockey together growing up and their talent and cohesion was evident in the opener as they teamed up for five goals and six assists.

Keim said he has a “very good shutdown” checking line with Hampden Academy freshman Jessica Sass centering for Hampden Academy freshman Tatum Cousins and Orono junior Sophie Hepler.

A fourth line features Hampden Academy freshman Olivia Veves with John Bapst freshman Erin Pierce and Bangor junior Peyton Sullivan.

Keim’s defense corps could be one of the premier units in the state with Orono junior Anna Molloy, Hampden Academy freshman Bella Saucier, Bangor junior Katie McCarthy and Old Town junior Hannah Marsh on the blue line along with Old Town freshman Lily Rand.

Marsh and McCarthy missed the opener but both are back. Cousins filled in nicely on defense.

Molloy and Saucier were outstanding in the opener, carrying the play with their speed and puck skills. Molloy is an assistant captain along with Delahanty.

The goaltenders are freshmen. Abbie Derosier, who didn’t have to make a save in the opener, is from Orono and Mariah Coon is from Hampden Academy.

Keim said he was grateful to all the coaches in the community who helped develop the players and with a strong feeder system in place, “the future is very bright.”

Penobscot plays its first road game on Saturday against Gorham at 6:30.

The Pioneers are the state’s 16th varsity program and this is the 14th season of varsity girls hockey in the state. That does not include the COVID-19 season that was wiped out.