Photos & Story By Ben Kaufmann
ST. ALBANS – Meghan Connor snuck around the back of the Rutland goal and poked a puck across the goal line for the 50th time in her career, joining an illustrious list of Comet Hockey greats and providing an insurance goal in BFA-St. Albans’ 2-0 win over Rutland on Wednesday.
Playing in her fourth game since notching her 49th goal, Connor had a slew of looks throughout the evening before finally breaking through a little over two minutes into the third period. In a contest which lacked a great deal of flair otherwise, the Comet celebration around their senior assistant-captain was more than enough to make the night memorable.
“Meghan’s just a competitor and she’s someone who elevates everyone else’s level of play,” said BFA captain and four-year Comet teammate of Connor, Hailey Savage. “She goes out every shift and does the best she can. Whatever Meghan wants to accomplish, she will go out and accomplish.”
“She’s been working hard,” BFA coach Luke Cioffi said, acknowledging that the push has been on to see Connor hit the 50-goal mark since she last scored against Harwood/Northfield on February 12th. “I know against Missisquoi she was shooting some heavy pucks. It just shows how much she puts into it and the work ethic.”
With BFA (16-3-1) already up, 1-0, on a beautiful wrist-shot early in the second period by Morgan Shoram, Kami O’Brien slipped the puck Connor’s way behind the Raider goal and Connor wrapped in the milestone goal before a pair of Rutland (7-13) defensemen could interfere.
“I’ve definitely been waiting for this for quite a few games now, so it just feels good to finally have it done and now playoffs are here,” said Connor, acknowledging the significance of her rare achievement.
“That’s definitely something that’s special. I honestly didn’t even know I was in the running until a few weeks ago because usually I just go out and play, I don’t really look at the stats. So to be aware of what I was going to achieve was just pretty great because it was something that now I can look back and be super proud of all the work that we put in.”
That pronoun, “we”, was no slip of the tongue. The first comments Connor made after the game were about being relieved that focus is now solely on the playoffs and avenging last year’s title-game loss to Essex. She was more eager to talk about how much she appreciated the crowd support Wednesday, or how she hopes she and her teammates play better next week than they did against Rutland, than about her personal milestone.
“She’s there for all of her teammates all the time,” Savage said of Connor, who has spent most of this season on a line with freshmen O’Brien and Jodie Gratton – two serious candidates to join Connor in the 50-goal club someday.
Connor’s favorite part of the celebration that followed Wednesday’s goal? That was an easy one – Connor was touched by the enthusiastic greeting from Comet goalie Macie Boissonneault at the end of the receiving line at the BFA bench.
“Macie at the end of the line was just there with her arms up ready to give me a hug, that just brought it home for me,” Connor said.
“It was definitely special, especially having it at home more than anything. Just because the home crowd, there’s nothing better than that.”
The feat is even more astounding when considering that Connor, unlike many Franklin County kids, didn’t start skating before she began walking. But Connor, the girl who came into high school the summer after dominating boys in St. Albans Little League baseball and has since shattered Comet homerun records on the softball field, isn’t your typical athlete. If any mystery about Connor’s athletic capabilities existed before this year, the last of it should have been dispelled when she crushed a 40-yard game-winning rocket against St. Johnsbury on the soccer field this fall.
“Meghan didn’t even start playing hockey until later in her life compared to other people,” Savage remarked. “It’s kind of amazing how athletic she is that she was able to just pick up hockey and become one of the best Comet hockey players to ever come through the program.”
Connor joins Comet greats Caitlin Manahan (98 goals), Emmy Handy (62), Danielle Schreiner (60), Kristine Dodd (53), Katelynn Moreau (52) and Jenna Stanley (51) in passing the half-century mark for goals. Her 40 (and counting) assists place her in the top dozen of that category in the Comet record books as well.
BFA, which peppered 49 shots at the Rutland goal Wednesday, was already locked into the No. 2-seed for the Division I playoffs, which will begin next week. The Comets received assists on O’Brien’s opening goal from Grace Adamczak and Emma Lovelette and 20 saves from Boissonneault in the shutout.
Despite his team racking up nearly as many shots as Connor has career goals, Cioffi said BFA left a little to be desired in the final game before the postseason.
“The girls powered through it,” Cioffi said. “I thought we played three good games the last week and kind of had a letdown today. Not where we wanted, but the girls found a way to get through it and by the end of the game I thought we were playing much better than the first.”
Official postseason pairings will be released Monday morning. BFA is guaranteed home-ice through the semifinals before, ideally, reaching a fifth straight championship game at Gutterson Fieldhouse. With its arsenal of weapons led by Connor and her nearly 100 career points, the Comets are ready to make yet another championship run.