Raiders hang on to upset Tiger girls in hockey semifinals

MIDDLEBURY — With senior goalie Carolyn Laird making 34 saves, No. 3 Rutland on Monday upset the host No. 2 Middlebury Union High School girls’ hockey team, 1-0, in a Division I semifinal.
The 16-4-2 Raiders advanced to a Wednesday night final vs. No. 4 BFA-St. Albans (15-7), which upset three-time defending champion and top-seeded Essex, 1-0. The Raiders were making their first-ever appearance in a D-I title game, while BFA, the only team beside Essex to win a D-I crown, was seeking its first title in four years.
MUHS Co-Coach Matt Brush said after Monday’s game that the 16-5-1 Tigers had been expecting a battle with the Raiders after going to overtime with them twice this season, tying them in Rutland and winning, 2-1, at home on Feb. 4.
“It was a coin-flip game. Based on the other two games we had with Rutland this season it was going to come down to a one-goal game,” Brush said. “We were hoping we would be on the other end of it.”
But he did not expect the Tigers to fail to score for the first time this season, and he credited Laird.
“We have a pretty high-powered offense,” Brush said. “Their goalie played really good tonight. She made lots of saves and timely covers-up of rebounds, and that was the difference.”
The Rutland defenders also worked hard to pressure the Tigers into quick shots and to prevent them from reaching the rebounds Laird did give up.
“We had good looks, and they were just really physical on the puck and kind of snuffed out our opportunities,” Brush said.
The Raiders took the lead in the second period on a goal that came largely against the flow: The Tigers outshot them in the period, 12-4, and overall, 34-22.
But Raider forward Emma Mazzariello, in the slot, got just enough on a feed from Elizabeth Wideawake to get the puck past Tiger goalie Katie Billings at 4:56.
Billings made 21 saves and allowed just three goals in her past four games, including two playoff games and 3-1 victories over Essex and BFA during the last week of the regular season.
“She played well again tonight, made some great saves,” Brush said.
Billings made two of her best saves during a Raider third-period power play, and also got help when defender Satchel McLaughlin blocked another bid behind her. Officials also waived off an apparent Raider goal late in the second period.
But Brush said the Tigers couldn’t catch a break at the other end of the rink.
“When you have a game like that you’ve got to have a couple good bounces. We had a couple of fortunate bounces behind our goalie that certainly went our way,” Brush said. “But we didn’t have any in our offensive zone. Pucks were just a little bit out of reach, or rebounds from the goalie were just a couple feet away.”
Still, the Tigers put plenty of pressure on in the third period, including during two power plays — the Tigers failed to convert on six tries with an extra skater. “A couple of power-play goals surely would have made a difference,” Brush said.
Early in the period, Laird denied a McLaughlin wraparound and Andi Boe from the center point on a power play, and later stopped Tulley Hescock from the right circle after she stole the puck. On the next power play, Kate Donahue, Anderson and McLaughlin couldn’t quite get a stick on the puck during a scramble, and Laird stopped Boe from the point again and Donahue from the left circle.
The Tigers then barely survived their penalty at 8:18, and had a chance when Anderson left the box as it expired, took a Boe pass and broke in alone on Laird. But Laird stuck out her right skate to stop the bid. Down the stretch the Tigers’ best chance came with two minute left, when Laird flashed her left pad to knock aside a screened Boe shot from the right circle.
Brush said the Tigers did everything except score.
“We played well, played with energy, but credit to Rutland,” he said.
And he praised his team — which will graduate forwards Julia Carone and Monroe Cromis, defender Molly Wetmore and goalie Rowan Hendy — for a terrific winter.
“The last half of the season the girls really came together,” he said. “We were firing on pretty high cylinders.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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