LOWELL -- Molly Millett began attending Lowell High hockey games when she was in pre-school.
Back then, Millett was in the stands rooting for her older brother, Evan, a former Red Raider standout. After one of Evan's games Millett and members of her family met with Lowell head coach Bill Donahue. And it was at this time she let Donahue know about her future hockey plans.
"She was probably four or five years old and she came up to me and told me she was going to be my starting goalie at Lowell High School one day," said Donahue, who is in his 14th season as the head man in the Red Raiders' program.
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"I remember it like it was yesterday. She was just a little thing at the time. I smiled after she told me and said, 'That's wonderful.' Little did I know it was going to come to fruition."
Millett is a senior in high school these days. And she has made good on her promise to coach Donahue. A four-year varsity performer on Lowell's boys hockey team, Millett is the starting goalie this season. Lowell High does not have a girls hockey program.
She won her first varsity start as a sophomore. Millett posted two more victories as a junior. This winter, however, she is standing front and center in the crease for each and every Red Raiders' game, and this masked marvel, who only stands 5-foot-6, certainly hasn't looked out of place playing against the big boys in Merrimack Valley/Dual County League Division 3.
Millett's goals-against average is a hair under 3.00 for a Lowell club that at 3-4-1 and still learning just how formidable it can be as the regular season nears the midway point.
"I've been around Lowell High's hockey program for as long as I can remember," said Millett, whose older sister, Hillary, was a former Red Raider boys hockey team manager. "My goal was always to be part of this program, and be the goalie.
"It's been a great experience. Everyone accepts me. My defensemen and forwards really help me out. I love playing on this team. I don't feel any extra pressure because I'm a girl playing on a boys team. No matter where you play you have to prove yourself. I just go out and try to play as well as I can."
Millett is a cerebral netminder. She seemingly always stays square to the puck, and is rarely caught out of position. What she lacks in size, she makes up for in hockey smarts (Millett is a National Honor Society Student with a 3.9 grade-point average).
"Molly is a very coachable kid," said Lowell High goaltending coach Ed Geary. "She is a National Honor Society student, and when you are a National Honor Society kid you bring a brightness to the position that is special.
"Goalie is a position where you have to process things quickly. You have to look at angles quickly. You have to think about rebounds quickly. It's the mental aspect of the position that is her strong point. She just keeps getting better and better. She's a hard worker. And her hard work is paying off."
Millett doesn't get any special treatment because of her gender. She does everything her teammates do while earning the respect of everyone in the Red Raiders' program.
"When she's out there on the ice, it's no different than having any other goalie play for us," said Lowell senior defenseman Ryan McKennedy, a Red Raider co-captain along with Brent Sullivan. "She was put in a tough spot because she came into the season not having played much and has been placed in such a big role.
"She's played as well as she can, and that's all we can ask from her. We know she's trying hard and she never asks for anything special. We all respect her for that. Other than her not being in the locker room with us, she's right there with us at every team function. We don't exclude her in any way. She's one of the guys."
Thanks to the strong play of McKennedy, Ryan Ames and Aidan Conlon in front of her on defense, Millett has stood tall.
"She has pretty good instincts," said Dracut coach Mike Marshall. "She's not afraid of the puck. She plays good when the puck is low on the ice. She's enthusiastic. She always squares up to the puck and sees it well.
"I just think she's an inspiration. She doesn't expect any special treatment. She does a good job. I know my guys respect her ability."
After most games, Millett's body is one big ache. She wouldn't have it any other way.
During a game against Wayland, she stopped a slap shot with her hip and the puck caught her on a spot without any padding. Yet she never left the game, and didn't miss any practice time despite sporting a nasty bruise.
"It was the worse bruise I've ever gotten," said Millett, whose dad, Emmet, played an important role in her development as a hockey player. "It was on my hip bone. My leg went numb. Luckily this happened at the end of the second period because I couldn't stand up. I was hurting, but I came out and played the third. I was all bruises after the game. But I don't mind. It comes with the territory."
Millett is a three-sport athlete at Lowell High as she also excels on the field hockey and softball teams. She plans on playing on a women's hockey team in college, and is drawing interest from Salem State University.
"She's a real character kid," said Donahue. "She's a much, much better person than she is a goalie. And she's a very good goalie. But she's a great, great person.
"Without a doubt, she can play at the next level because of her mental toughness. There are teams who have tried to test her. She never backs down from anybody. She plays the game the way it's supposed to be played."
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