BFA-St. Albans' Sophie Zemianek celebrates after her game-winning goal against Hanover, N.H. earlier this season. Zemianek has tallied 37 points this season and has 18 points during her current seven-game point streak. (Anthony Labor Jr. Photo)



ST. ALBANS – It was a battle between two highly skilled teams when the BFA-St. Albans girls hockey team hosted Hanover, N.H. on Saturday at Collins Perley.

The Comets entered the game with a 10-0 record, while Hanover was also unbeaten coming in at 8-0.

As the clock was winding down in a tie game, Sophie Zemianek’s third-period goal was the difference as the Comets came away with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory.

“This was a much needed game for us after some of our lopsided games we have played in,” said BFA coach Luke Cioffi. “We needed to be challenged and coming from behind was a nice added bonus.”

With under five minutes to go in a tie game, Annika Fersing sent the puck deep in the offensive zone where Maddie Montagne picked up the loose puck. She sent a pass to the blue line to Zemianek who skated in between the circles and ripped a wristshot through traffic and in for the go-ahead goal.

“I couldn’t see the puck go in, but I just saw the light go on and Maddie start to celebrate in front of the net,” said Zemianek. “It was a tough game and we were grinding, so it was great to come away with the win in a hard-fought game.”

It was a defensive battle all game long with both teams doing a good job of clearing the puck out from in front of their nets and not letting many clean looks go through.

It was another strong performance from BFA’s defense of Zemianek, Rowan Howrigan, Rachel Needleman, Molly Smith and Ayla Shea among others.

“We have a nice mix of defenders on the team both older players and some younger ones,” said Cioffi. “They all know what they have to do when they are all out there and have all been playing well.”

Makenna Montgomery continued her strong start to the season, as she made 23 saves and improved to 6-0 in her starts this year.

“I think Makenna is challenging the shooters more and her confidence continues to grow,” said Cioffi. “She is controlling rebounds better and just playing with more confidence as she keeps going. For being a sophomore that only played one period last year, she soaked up last year playing with Macie (Boissonneault) which I think has helped her and she does everything we ask her to do and she works so hard.”

BFA-St. Albans’ Makenna Montgomery lunges to make a save during the second period of Saturday’s game against Hanover, N.H. (Anthony Labor Jr. Photo)

After a scoreless first period, Hanover got on the board early in the second. Hannah Gardner sent a nice stretch pass from her own zone to a streaking Rachel Rockmore. Rockmore skated the puck into the zone and sent a shot through the legs of a defender into the top corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.

Hanover’s Eleanor Edson (26 saves) was strong in net making a number of big saves, including a point-blank save on Jodie Gratton in the first period. The Comets finally got to her late in the second period. Zemianek skated the puck in the offensive zone and attempted a shot that was blocked. Caroline Bliss picked up the puck and slipped it over to Gratton who fired it into the open net to tie the game.

“Their goalie is good and moves side-to-side very well,” said Cioffi. “I thought we were making plays too close to her early on and I thought in the third period, we loosened them up a little bit by going to the point.”

Moving the puck back to the point proved to be the perfect strategy, as Zemianek was able to tally the game-winning goal following that plan in the third.

It was a highly competitive game between two comparable programs. Similar to how BFA has been one of the top programs in the state of Vermont, Hanover has shown its dominance in New Hampshire. Out of the 14 championships in New Hampshire girls hockey, Hanover has won 11 of them, including 10 in a row from 2010 to 2019.

That competitiveness has made a good partnership between the two programs where BFA has made a tradition of going down to Hanover’s holiday tournament up until last year where they weren’t able to go due to the pandemic.

“We have a good relationship with that program, and I think it’s important having those out-of-state relationships,” said Cioffi. “We are very similar programs in terms of success, and every time we play each other we just make each other better. We unfortunately couldn’t make it to their Christmas tournament, so it was nice that they were able to come up because you know it’s going to be a good game when we play.”

The Comets will be back in action when they travel to South Burlington on Wednesday.