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Tiger girls’ hockey earns shot at title

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School girls’ hockey team is going back to the Gut, and the Tigers are again going to try to make history.
A year ago at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Arena, the Tigers defeated Burr & Burton in the Division II final for the program’s first championship.
After edging visiting No. 3 Northfield, 3-2, this past Saturday, this time the No. 2 Tigers are going after the team’s first Division-I crown in the program’s first appearance in a D-I final since 2004.  
Standing in their way this time at 8 p.m. on Tuesday will be defending champion Essex (16-6) , the top seed, with whom the 17-5 Tigers split two games this season.
After Julia Carone’s somewhat fortunate goal with 53 seconds left in regulation sent the Tigers past Northfield on Saturday, MUHS co-coach Tim Howlett called the trip to the Gut “a great opportunity.”
“We don’t get to defend the D-II title. We get to go for the big one,” Howlett said. “And I’m really proud of the girls. The effort the girls gave tonight was unbelievable.”
It would help the Tigers on Tuesday if they could bottle Saturday’s first period, during which they outshot Northfield, 9-3, and took a 1-0 lead on a Monroe Cromis goal assisted by senior tri-captain Angela Carone.
“We’re definitely going to come out strong on Tuesday night. We’re planning on that. Hopefully all three periods we’re going to stay like that,” Angela Carone said.  
In that first period, Tiger forwards Andi Boe, sisters Julia and Angela Carone, Emma Best, Helen Anderson, Alli White, Tulley Hescock, Sara Kelley and Harper Smith all created chances, and Northfield and goalie Annaliese Morvan were fortunate to allow just one score.
That came at 10:24. Angela Carone broke up a clear near the left point and shot from the top of the circle. The puck deflected off a defender and the goalie to Cromis, a defender stepping into the attack, and she stuffed it home.
“We really put a big emphasis on really coming out swinging in the first, and I think we accomplished that,” Howlett said.
TIGER MONROW CROMIS tries to stuff the puck past Northfield goalie Analiese Morvan. Cormis scored the games first goal. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Northfield came out with an aggressive three-strong forecheck to open the second period, and the rest of the game was even. But there was a constant: The Tiger defenders, while they at times struggled to clear the zone, allowed the high-powered Marauders just 12 shots on goal. Tajah Marsden, Lauren Bartlett, Satchel McLaughlin, Abby Gleason, Molly Wetmore and Cromis all took care of business, Howlett said.
“Everybody played solid on D, picking up people early, stepping early, taking away the lane,” he said.
The Tigers made it 2-0 on a counterattack, working the puck up the left side. Hescock won it along the boards and relayed it to Anderson to the left of goal, and she one-timed it into the far corner at 4:56.
The Northfield forecheck paid off with the tying goals, both by Catherine Miles. She picked up an errant clear near the left point and skated below the circle and slid the puck just inside the right post at 6:55, and tied the game at 14:50. Kristen Dukette forced a turnover in the right-wing corner, Courtney Barrett set up Miles in the slot, and she picked the upper right corner to make it 2-2 after two periods.
Chances were few in the third as both teams defended carefully, although Morvan had to stop an Anderson backhand at the right post with three minutes left.
As time wound down, Marsden stopped a clear and sent the puck to Boe. Boe fed Julia Carone behind the net. Carone spun to her backhand and whipped the puck into the crease. It bounced off two defenders and behind Morvan at 0:53 for the game-winner.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
The Tigers reached the semifinal by topping visiting No. 7 Rutland on Wednesday, 4-0, as Best scored three times, Hescock scored once, Gleason picked up two assists, and goalie Baily Ryan worked a 14-save shutout. Two goalies combined for 23 saves for the 7-12-2 Raiders.
Saturday was tougher, Angela Carone said, but the Tigers persevered.
“We just kept going. We didn’t give up,” she said. “In the locker room we were like, whoever has the most heart is going to win this game.”
And now the Tigers will hope for more of the same as a new D-I program reaches the final.
“It’s amazing. I don’t think many people thought we could do it,” Carone said. “But we have this community behind us, and we have our team, and we have the best coaches in the world. And I know we can do it.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]

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