By Chris Villani

Sports Reporter/Columnist

Shrewsbury High School (SHS) made the jump to Division I in girls’ hockey this winter and, despite playing tougher competition, the Colonials have produced a winning season and a top-10 statewide ranking.

SHS has been helped by a pair of Milford High athletes. Senior co-captain Aislinn Bennett is back for her fourth year with the program and sophomore Jessie Kenney is an up and coming player on the Colonial’s blue line.

“Aislinn has been a leader for us, she is the only senior defenseman on the team,” head coach Frank Panarelli said. “She has been a steady player for us now for all four years.”

Bennett has helped spark the Shrewsbury offense from her blue line position, Panarelli said, noting that she is second on the team in scoring and has been able to consistently amass points.

While Bennett is set to graduate and head off to Salem State next year (see story on Pg. __), Kenney could be part of the program again next winter.

“She has been playing more often and she is steadily improving from last year to this year,” Panarelli said. “She played the other night and she played really well.”

Young players like Kenney have been tested this year by a schedule that includes some of the best teams in the state.

“We are looking forward to having her back next year,” Panarelli said. “She is progressing and she is a great kid. She shows up every day, she works really hard in practice.”

Shrewsbury started the week at 10-6-1 and ranked sixth in Division I. The Colonials had a pair of tournaments before going to the state playoffs, including the finals of a Boston holiday tournament that were postponed due to COVID-19.

As part of the move to Division I, Shrewsbury shifted away from its Central Mass. league to the Merrimack Valley Conference, playing teams like Acton-Boxboro, Billerica, Andover, Tewksbury, and Methuen, among others.

“There are some very, very good teams out that way,” Panarelli said. “So it’s been a good challenge for us.”

Shrewsbury hung tough with Austin Prep, falling 3-0. The Reading school is the number one team in the state and his team’s performance in that game has Panarelli confident heading into the postseason.

“We played with the best and we played with them for three periods,” he said. “If we can skate with them, we can skate with anybody.”