By ANTHONY LABOR
ST. ALBANS – The BFA-St. Albans girls hockey team drew a tough opponent when it was paired up against Burlington/Colchester during Wednesday’s Div. I quarterfinal at Collins Perley.
Despite the third-seeded Comets holding almost a 2-to-1 advantage in the shot department, the No. 6 SeaLakers made the most of their opportunities and scored the go-ahead goal with under a minute to go on their way to a 4-2 upset victory.
“We had our opportunities tonight, that’s for sure,” said BFA Coach Luke Cioffi. “We had some open nets that we didn’t bury and we played the game we wanted, but just didn’t capitalize on enough chances and it was a series of unfortunate events that led to that game-winning goal.”
After the Comets battled back from a two-goal deficit in the second period, both teams had their opportunities for the go-ahead goal in the third period.
With BFA on the power play, Burlington/Colchester’s Kendall Muzzy broke up a pass at her own blue line and was off to the races behind the Comets’ defense. She took a quick wrist shot that found the back of the net giving her team a 3-2 lead with 47 seconds remaining and sending the SeaLakers’ bench into an uproar. Later in the game with BFA goalie Macie Boissonneault pulled, Ruby Wool sent a clear attempt down the length of the ice and into the empty net for the 4-2 score.
It was a crazy turn of events late in the third period after BCHS couldn’t score on three power play opportunities, but ended up scoring shorthanded.
“These girls are one of the hardest working teams I have ever had and they just have so much heart,” said BCHS coach Jamie Rozzi. “After losing nine seniors like we did from last season, everyone thought we were going to be down and out this year. But I tell you what, these girls rallied and they just came together.”
The Comets came out of the gates strong putting a lot of pressure on BCHS goalie Paige Codega-Ryan (39 saves), but couldn’t find the opening goal.
It was actually the SeaLakers who netted two goals in the first period despite BFA controlling a majority of the first 15 minutes. Brynn Coughlin picked up a loose puck in front of Boissonneault (14 saves) and backhanded a shot that hit off the crossbar and in for the 1-0 lead midway through the first period. Three minutes later, Coughlin broke behind the defense, skated to the slot and fired off a wrist shot glove-side that gave the SeaLakers the 2-0 lead going into the intermission.
“We’ve never really jumped out to a lead like that on BFA before, so that was great to have,” said Rozzi. “We didn’t dominate the game out there, but we were opportunistic today.”
The Comets answered back early in the second period with two goals less than two minutes apart. After a SeaLaker turnover, Caroline Bliss took a shot that was saved by Codega-Ryan, but she followed up with a backhand on the rebound that found it’s way under the crossbar to make it a 2-1 game.
Sophie Zemianek made it a 2-2 game when her shot from the blue line found its way through traffic and into the net giving all the momentum back to the Comets.
“The girls battled hard all game long to get back into the game in the second,” said Cioffi. “We haven’t had to come back from two down like we did today, so that was good to see out of them.”
BFA had a number of quality scoring opportunities throughout the entire game and had a bunch in the third period with the score tied. A number of the opportunities either missed the net or Codega-Ryan made big stops.
Early on in the third, Seneca Lamos took a nice low shot that was saved by Codega-Ryan, but produced a rebound that went right to the stick of Rowan Howrigan. She got off a quick shot, but Codega-Ryan got across he crease just in time to make the second save and keep the score tied, which helped set up Muzzy’s late game heroics.
It was the first time Burlington/Colchester has faced BFA in the playoffs as a co-op team and it was a first game the team won’t forget, as it advances to the semifinals for the third year in a row.
The SeaLakers will host No. 7 Rutland, who upset No. 2 Spaulding, 3-2, in overtime on Wednesday.
“This is one of the greatest victories in BCHS history,” said Rozzi. “Coming into this house and winning with the tradition of BFA and they have such a great team just makes this really exciting for the girls. It’s all about heart with them.”
It was a tough way for the Comets to go out, as it was their first time not advancing past the quarterfinals in the program’s history.
Despite all the craziness of this winter, Cioffi said being a part of this team made it less crazy and more enjoyable. He also added the Comets season looks very bright, as they had six juniors, 10 sophomores and three freshmen on the team that will be returning next year.
“I told the girls after the game that they made our winter a little shorter,” said Cioffi. “This is a great group and whether we won the last game or lost it, I am going to miss them. But fortunately, we get most of them back next year. With how young we were coming into the year we saw everyone just get better. We saw them all get better with a skill they improved on and they all improved on how they are thinking about the game and understanding the way we do things.
“The future is bright and we have a lot of good kids coming back,” he added. “They have solid work-ethic and we are fortunate to have the kids in the program that we have and we are always looking forward to the next game and the next year. It wasn’t in the cards tonight, but in the big picture of things, we are going to be ok.”