BFA Saint Albans dusts Tiger girls hockey

MIDDLEBURY — The No. 3 BFA-St. Albans Academy girls’ hockey team on Wednesday night scored three unanswered third-period goals, two by senior Aliza Ellis as she completed a hat trick, and defeated host No. 2 Middlebury in a Division I semifinal, 5-2.
The 15-4-2 Tigers took a 2-1 first-period lead, but the Comets equalized in the second period before erupting for three goals in the first 8:48 of the third period to earn their victory.
The Comets improved to 12-9-1 — a misleading record, with several out-of-state setbacks — and advanced to the D-I final on this coming Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Arena.
There they will meet defending champion Essex (the top seed at 16-4-2), which blanked visiting No. 4 Rutland, 2-0, in the other D-I semi.
Either BFA or Essex — which defeated the Tigers in the 2015 final — have won every D-I girls’ hockey title since 2002, when the sport was established in Vermont. Essex won the past two, and BFA won the year before that.
The Tigers defeated the Comets, 4-1, at home, on Feb. 13, but Wednesday’s game played out more like their earlier 6-2 loss at St. Albans. But Tiger Coach Matt Brush said they had their chances.
“We had a hard time containing their top line tonight,” Brush said. “I felt like we had some opportunities in the first two periods that if we had capitalized on it would have been a very different game.”
BFA struck first, on the first Ellis goal. Ellis took a pass from Riley Yandow in her own end, skated through center ice, maneuvered through the defense, and slid a 10-foot backhand from the slot into the lower right corner at 3:23.
Sophomore Andi Boe, the Tigers’ leading point-getter, wasted little time equalizing. She won a puck battle behind and to the right of the BFA net, skated out front and whipped a short forehand home 27 seconds later.
The Tigers earned a power play soon afterward, but Comet goalie Jessica Giroux (14 saves) stopped a Boe shot ticketed for the top corner and a rush by senior Lauren Bartlett. The Tigers then killed a BFA power play, with good work from sophomores Tully Hescock and Abby Gleason, junior Julia Carone and senior Tajah Marsden.
The Tigers then made it 2-1 at 11:53 of the first period on a power play. After Boe hit a post, junior defender Molly Wetmore’s high shot from the right point found its way past a screened Giroux, with Hescock assisting. Giroux, like junior Tiger goalie Rowan Hendy, made four saves in the opening period.
The Comets tied the game early in the second. BFA’s Kait Laroe took advantage of some uncertainty by the Tigers at the top of the BFA zone and turned it into the tying breakaway goal 1:48 into the period.
   MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School sophomore Andi Boe gets off a shot on goal during last Wednesday’s Division I semifinal game against BFA-St. Albans.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
The tide turned in the Comets’ favor in the period, with BFA getting more shots — 8-3 — despite three more Tiger power plays. The BFA defense stiffened, and the Tigers were not getting deep into the attacking zone. The best bids came from junior Monroe Cromis in the slot about five minutes in, and Bartlett on the rebound of a Boe shot shortly afterward, but Giroux turned them aside.
“Our power plays, we were lucky to get them, but those were opportunities we would like to get back,” Brush said.
Hendy sprawled to make two saves mid-period during scrambles, and then twice used her blocker to deny high Elena Brigham shots from the slot.
But Hendy had little chance to stop the Comets’ first two goals in the third.  At 3:13, Ellis won a scramble for the puck out front and flipped it high in the net, and it was 3-2, with Brigham and Emma Hill assisting.
At 3:40, BFA made it 4-2. Brigham fired from 40 feet out. Hendy stopped the shot, but Ellis netted the rebound from the doorstep. Hendy was shaken up on the play and left having made a dozen saves, including some tough stops.
Sophomore Katie Billings replaced her in goal and made three saves, but could not stop a McKenna Remillard  backhander breakaway at 8:48 that made it 5-2. That play came after a turnover on the BFA blue line as the Tigers worked hard to create offense.
“When we got down a little bit, you try to press a little bit, and those things happen,” Brush said. “We had a couple breakdowns, and they capitalized on every bounce of the puck.”
The Tigers kept buzzing the BFA end as time wound down, but Giroux denied Boe and Monroe Cromis from the slot to cement the Comets’ trip to the Gut.
And the Tigers’ season that saw them go on a 13-1-1 streak heading into Wednesday’s semi — including splitting two games with Essex — came to an end.
“We’re certainly proud of the season, proud of the girls,” Brush said. “They gave a great effort.”   
Two Tigers also saw standout hockey careers in the black and orange come to a close, those of senior backs Bartlett and Marsden, although Brush said the program’s future remains bright.
“We’ve got nice core group of kids. They work hard, they’ve got good attitudes. They’re a pleasure to have on the team, day-in and day-out, and that can only be a positive thing.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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