MUHS girls skate to quarterfinal victory

MIDDLEBURY — The second-seeded Middlebury Union High School girls’ hockey team had little trouble in this past Wednesday’s Division I quarterfinal, blanking visiting No. 7 South Burlington, 7-0.
The harder part begins this Wednesday, when the 16-3-2 Tigers (9-3-1 in D-I play), will host No. 3 BFA-St. Albans in a semifinal at Memorial Sports Center. (Tickets will be $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.)
The Comets are 10-9-1 overall, including games vs. out-of-state competition, but they were 9-4 in league play and split two games with the Tigers this winter. MUHS won more recently at home, 4-1, while the Comets prevailed in St. Albans earlier this season, 6-2.
The D-I final is set for Wednesday, March 9, at 8 p.m. at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Arena. Either No. 1 Essex, the two-time defending champion, or No. 4 Rutland, will be waiting for the Tigers or Comets. Essex, which defeated the Tigers in the 2015 final, edged Rutland twice this winter by one goal.
The Tigers split two games with Essex, each team winning on home ice, while MUHS faced the Raiders three times, picking up two wins and a tie.
Coach Matt Brush said the Tigers played well against South Burlington this past Wednesday, but might have to up their game a bit this week and, with any luck, next.
“We have to continue to play at a level where we’re taking space away from the other teams. I thought we did a pretty good job. South Burlington has a couple of pretty solid hockey players, and we didn’t give them a lot of space tonight,” Brush said. “A couple times they did find a little room, but I think we have to a better job of that over the next couple games in order to take home the hardware.”
Early on, the Rebels took a defensive posture designed not to allow the Tigers good looks at goalie Erin Church, who finished with 38 saves. Other than a 25-foot shot by Andi Boe about seven minutes in that rang the right post, chances were few even though the Tigers were controlling play — they outshot the Rebels by 15-1 in the first period.
Gradually the chances began to come. With eight minutes gone, Church stopped Tulley Hescock’s screened bid and Helen Anderson’s backhand bid on the rebound. Shortly after that, Church tipped away Lauren Bartlett’s deflection of a Boe shot.
Finally, with 11:52 gone, Boe broke the ice. Raven Payne sent her down the right side, and Boe used a retreating defender in the circle as a screen to beat Church with a low shot. With 10 seconds left in the period, Julia Carone made it 2-0 with an unassisted strike, circling from behind the net to below the left circle and firing the puck home from a sharp angle through a crowd of Tiger and Rebel skaters.
“I thought South Burlington did a pretty good job early on of boxing in front of their net. We really struggled early on trying to get space and trying to get shots to the net,” Brush said. “Then we moved to some of those better spaces and had some good success in crashing the net and going for rebounds, and some good things happened as a result of that.”
The Rebels mounted an attack in the first minute of the second period, and Tiger goalie Rowan Hendy, otherwise rarely tested in a six-save shutout, made two tough stops, one on Casey Johnson and the second on Claire Wright, that one a blocker save on a shot from the edge of the left circle.
The Tigers answered with their best puck movement and possession of the game. They outshot the Rebels by 17-3 in the period and added goals by Carone and defender Satchel McLaughlin.
“South Burlington came out with some pretty good energy at the start of the second period, and we responded appropriately, I thought, for the rest of the period,” Brush said. “Rowan did a nice job with that at the start of the second period, and then we kind of picked up the pace a little bit.”
Carone made it 3-0 at 4:17. Boe skated out from the behind the net around the right side and fired on Church, and the rebound bounced to Carone, who rapped it inside the left post. At 7:41 McLaughlin raced up the left side and found the short side from the left circle.
In the third, the Tigers tacked on three power-play goals. At 5:59 Monroe Cromis found the lower right corner from the high slot on a play set up by Carone and McLaughlin. At 11:59 Carone, stationed on the doorstep, completed a hat trick by tipping home a Cromis pass from the left side, with Boe also assisting on a 5-on-3 goal. Finally, at 12:55, Georgina Mraz netted her own rebound on a play that started with a Molly Wetmore shot from the left point.
Brush said it might also have taken the Tigers a while in the first period to find their rhythm due to the week layoff between games, a schedule dictated by the availability of Gutterson Arena.
“It’s the same for everybody. We have to find ways to keep the energy high,” Brush said. “We did that pretty well the last week, and hopefully we can do the same before our next game.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
TIGER GOALIE SAWYER Ryan made 19 saves in Middlebury’s 3-2 win over Hartford last week in Middlebury.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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