By ANTHONY LABOR
ST. ALBANS – Thursday marked the third matchup of the season between Div. I girls hockey powerhouses BFA-St. Albans and Essex. The two tied in the first meeting to kick off the regular season with Essex coming away with the win in game two.
Round three didn’t disappoint and had almost everything you could ask for and then some in what was essentially the equivalent of a playoff-caliber game. The game had a goal called on the ice and then reversed, breakaways in overtime, big saves by both goaltenders and solid all-around play.
The only thing missing in the game were goals, as the two battled to a 0-0 tie to finish the regular season the way they started it.
“It was a fun game and it was playoff hockey tonight,” said BFA coach Luke Cioffi. “I thought we played well and did some things better this time than we did in Essex a couple of weeks ago. We will take the energy we played with tonight and now have a week off and rest and get ready for the postseason.”
The Comets looked like they had finally found a goal midway through the third period when a rocket of a shot from Sophie Zemianek was redirected and looked to go in the net and straight back out. After a few more seconds of play a whistle blew and one official signaled for a goal sending the Comets into a frenzy.
Amid all the celebrating, the two officials got together and concluded the puck hit the post and stayed out keeping the game 0-0.
“Sophie really wanted that goal, as did every kid out there,” said Cioffi. “It was a nice shot by Sophie, she had the lane and unfortunately no goal judge and the refs made a decision, so it is what it is.”
With Macie Boissonneault in net for the Comets and Sophie Forcier in for the Hornets, the game script wasn’t likely to include many goals.
Both netminders made big saves all throughout the game keeping it a scoreless draw. Boissonneault made 28 saves in the game, including 14 in the second period, and Forcier made 23 with 10 coming in the third.
It was a battle Boissonneault and fellow senior Chiara Skeels have become accustomed to throughout their time with the program. The two seniors were recognized before the game along with senior manager Grace Augostino.
“Once you get out on the ice and get in the rhythm, the nerves go away,” said Skeels. “We worked really hard to prepare for Essex and we played with a lot of confidence tonight.”
BFA had some solid opportunities in the first period, as it outshot Essex 8-5 before Essex grabbed the momentum back in the second.
The Comets were called for three penalties in the middle frame and killed them all off thanks in large part to Boissonneault making some big saves. uring one of the penalty kills Jodie Gratton singlehandedly killed off most of the penalty, as she beat an Essex player to the puck in the neutral zone and turned it into a scoring opportunity shorthanded before she continued to hold the puck deep in the zone to kill off the penalty.
“Jodie won the foot race and ate the clock up in the corner, which was huge for us,” said Cioffi. “When you have a couple of kids that can do that on the penalty kill, it makes things a little easier and frustrates the powerplay. Any group we through out there did a nice job killing off the penalties.”
Despite being outshot 14-2 in the second period, the Comets still held things scoreless going into the third where they had a number of opportunities on Forcier.
Zemianek had a number of good looks from the slot and put hard wrist shots on net, but couldn’t get one past Forcier, including one with just six seconds left in regulation.
Just over a minute into overtime, Gratton picked up a loose puck in the offensive zone after an Essex defender fell for a mini breakaway. She tried to beat Forcier on the blocker side, but Forcier made the blocker stop and the puck came straight down and slid just on the outside of the far post.
Forty seconds later, Essex’s Hannah Himes got behind the BFA defense in the neutral zone and was all alone for a breakaway. Boissonneault didn’t falter and she made the biggest save of the game to keep things scoreless.
“I don’t get nervous when someone comes in on a breakaway, I’m just in the moment,” said Boissonneault. “I just come out, don’t make a move until they do and stay focused and don’t get worried.”
One thing Cioffi said he was impressed with was the team’s ability to stay collected throughout the game. Whether they were killing penalties or battling back after getting the goal called off, the team stayed composed throughout the game.
“We just rode the wave no matter what was going on and we were able to maintain the intensity all throughout the game,” he said. “For playing as fast and hard as we did, we just played with great energy all game long, which was great to see.”
It was another battle between the two programs who know each other well and who very well could have a fourth round during the upcoming playoffs.
Cioffi said he has seen his young team grow a lot by just comparing where they were in the first game of the season against Essex to where they were Wednesday.
“We are definitely mentally stronger after seven games, including three against Essex,” he said. “There are a lot of things throughout a season that you want to work on and we jammed in a lot of things in a short amount of time, and the girls responded well and it’s been a fun group to work with.”
Obviously it would have been better for the Skeels and Boissonneault to finish their last regular season game with a win, but it was another good battle for them and the rest of the team, as Cioffi recognized their contributions not only to Wednesday’s game, but also to the program as a whole.
“I thought Chiara had one of her better games tonight,” he said. “Played well defensively, took some offensive opportunities when she had it and she has just been a quiet leader for this team and has been a good role model for the younger kids.
“And Macie is a true competitor,” he added. “She wants to win every game. She wants to cover every puck up and not give up a rebound. A game like tonight, she gets into it and that’s been her for four years. We were fortunate to have two quality goaltenders and I think this year Macie has done a good job of passing on to Makenna (Montgomery) what it’s like, so it’s a nice luxury we have as a program.”
Essex will most likely finish with the No. 1 seed in the upcoming playoffs after finishing with a 6-0-2 record. BFA’s seeding is a little foggier, as they finished the season with a 4-1-2 record and should be slotted in either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed depending on index points.
Pairings will be announced on Thursday afternoon with playoffs starting next week.