By Ben Kaufmann
HIGHGATE – Missisquoi cruised to a 9-1 victory over Brattleboro on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last season’s Division II girls hockey semifinal.
The Thunderbirds (1-0) were paced by Brianna Parent’s hat-trick and Brianna Jarvis, one of five eighth-graders on MVU’s roster, who netted three goals and an assist on the day. The T-Birds, which won that 2019 semifinal en route to capturing a championship, began their title defense in style on Saturday.[bar group=’86’]
“We’re a pretty young team, we only have the one senior,” said first-year MVU coach Brian Fortin. When I got hired I came in with 10 returning girls, four of which last year was their first year.”
Fortin recognized the unusual appearance of five eighth-graders on his roster. With Missisquoi’s youth program (MAHA) unable to field a U-14 team, the T-Birds petitioned to be able to include those junior-high students on the high school team. If Saturday was any indication, that inclusiveness will only help MVU.
Behind Jarvis’ massive day, her teammates from the class of 2024 performed exceptionally well, especially when considering that their high school sports debuts arrived before their actual high school debuts. Emily Airoldi scored her first career goal in the third period and Brooke Rainville and Lindsey Gagne each notched an assist. All four eighth-graders who saw ice time (backup goalie Lily Berard did not make her debut) reached the scoresheet for the Thunderbirds.[bar group=’86’]
Missisquoi’s true highschoolers performed equally well for the defending champions, who led 3-0 after the first period and 5-0 after the second. Parent was the most impactful player on the ice and fellow junior Madison Conley turned away 22 shots on the day.
Conley, who also helmed the Thunderbird goal this fall during its most successful soccer season in more than a decade, did not have the easy task the 9-1 scoreline on Saturday would seem to indicate.
“She had to make some big, timely saves on a couple of those power plays in the second when it was a three or four to nothing game,” Fortin said. “She definitely kept that lead stretched a little bit.”[bar group=’86’]
“It was a good all around team effort. We played well defensively and Maddy Conley has been the backbone of this team for three seasons.”
MVU also benefited from strong central play against Brattleboro (0-1) as Defensemen Haley Stefaniak (one goal, one assist), Abby Bessette (one assist) and Rainville proved useful two-way threats and the offense spoke for itself.
(Photos by Ben Kaufmann and Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier)
“We’re very strong up the middle,” Fortin said. “We have two solid centers in Bri Jarvis and Breezy (Brianna) Parent. Our defense is solid, Haley (Stefaniak) and Abby (Bessette) played as two of our three defensemen last year so they’re good, veteran players.”
Sophomore Elizabeth Laroche finished with a goal and an assist while junior Lora Fresn added two assists for a Thunderbird team happy to see so much offense on Saturday. Fortin, who was an assistant on last year’s title team, noted that those Thunderbirds were far from an offensive juggernaut and often struggled to score en route to stealing the title as a No. 7-seed.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “Last season we had a team that struggled to put the puck in the net.”[bar group=’86’]
Fortin is joined on the bench by his brother, Adam, and former T-Bird great Katie Campbell. Fortin says he and his brother are trying to utilize the methods they were taught years ago, when playing for the Thunderbirds under Luc Choquette. He leans on his brother for defensive expertise. For offense, there’s no better than Campbell, who holds MVU’s all-time points record with 171.
“Having her records up there really gives those young girls, like Jarvis and Parent, something to strive for,” Fortin said of Campbell, who will get to guide Jarvis and her classmates through an extra year of being able to chase those records.
MVU put 31 shots on frame against the Colonels. The Thunderbirds will be back in action at the Highgate Arena on Saturday against Burlington/Colchester with game time set at 1 pm.[bar group=’86’]