Tiger girls’ hockey falls in D-II final
BURLINGTON — The sense came early in the Division I final Tuesday that it could be a long night for the No. 2 Middlebury Union High School girls’ hockey team.
Top-seeded Essex won the opening faceoff at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Arena and attacked immediately. Senior Hornet forward Melanie Theriault broke in almost unhindered on Tiger sophomore goalie Rowan Hendy. Hendy held her ground, and Theriault’s forehand whistled wide left.
But Theriault won the puck behind the net and fed D-I player of the year Kathleen Young, also a senior, in the right circle. Young’s shot deflected off a defender and into the net, and just like that the defending champion Hornets had the lead, 29 seconds into the game.
They never surrendered it, and the Tiger defense never really had an answer for Young and Theriault in the Hornets’ 5-1 victory: Young scored three and set up one of Theriault’s two goals, while Theriault returned the favor and assisted one of Young’s.
Between them, the two Essex seniors racked up 10 of the Hornet shots on two Tiger goalies, Hendy (three saves) and senior Baily Ryan (eight saves in relief).
The Tigers managed 18 shots, but all-star Essex goalie Victoria Gibson allowed just one to get past her, a second-period strike by Tiger junior defender Lauren Bartlett. Bartlett converted the second rebound after Gibson denied first junior defender Tajah Marsden from the right point and then sophomore defender Monroe Cromis from closer range on the right side.
Tiger co-coach Matt Brush credited the opportunistic play of the Essex seniors, who reached the title game for the fourth straight season and won it for the third time. They finished 17-6 this season, including two wins in three tries vs. MUHS.
Despite Tuesday’s occasional defensive lapses against the speedy, physical Essex duo, Brush also praised the effort of the Tigers, who moved up to D-I this season after winning the D-II title in 2014 and also finished 17-6.
TIGER JUNIOR TAJAH Marsden tangles with an Essex defender Tuesday night. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
He also noted the team’s bright future; the team returns 14 members of its regular rotation and is expecting an infusion of talent from MAHA youth programs. Ryan and fellow seniors Angela Carone, a center/defender and tri-captain; forward linemates Alli White and Harper Smith; forward Carey Anne Howlett; and defender Erika Carroll will graduate.
But Tuesday belonged to the Hornets, even when the Tigers went on a power play at 5:17 of the first. Shortly after Gibson neatly denied a White tip of a Carone shot from the right point, Theriault blocked a shot, went in alone on Hendy, and ripped home a forehand to make it 2-0 at 7:11, a shorthanded goal.
The Tigers went on another power play at 8:00, and Gibson stopped defender Satchel McLaughlin (who played a strong game overall) from the left side and center Emma Best from the slot, and then watched White’s one-timer sail wide right.
At 11:19, Young made it 3-0 with an unassisted power-play goal, choosing to whip a forehand home from close range on a two-on-one break with Theriault set up when a Tiger defender fell. That goal ended Hendy’s night, although she could hardly be faulted for the scores.
The Tigers killed off two Hornet power plays before Bartlett’s goal at 6:13 of the second gave them hope. She popped the puck into the net’s left side on a power play after strong shots from Cromis and Marsden, another Tiger who had a good night.
But Essex answered quickly. Young shot high from between the top of the circles, and the rebound dropped in the crease. Before Ryan could cover, the streaking Theriault pushed it home, and it was 4-1 just 50 seconds after the Tiger score. A minute later, Gibson preserved the three-goal margin, stopping Tiger Helen Anderson’s forehand bid on a breakaway. As the period closed, Anderson and Tulley Hescock applied pressure, but the Hornet defense held.
Then the Hornets struck quickly in the third. Essex fired wide on an initial rush, but Young, as she did all game long, won the puck battle, swung out from behind the net and through the bottom of the right-wing circle, and backhanded home an insurance goal 24 seconds after the opening faceoff.
The Tigers’ best chance of the period came on an early power play, but Gibson denied Best from the slot after the Tiger skated past a couple defenders. Shortly afterward, Best, the Tigers’ only D-I all-star, was pushed over and hit her head on the ice and had to be helped off. The Tigers kept plugging, but time gradually ran out on what should be the first of several strong seasons in D-I.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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