Hamden Co-op girls' ice hockey team rallies back for comeback win in thrilling SCC game
Updated: Dec 22, 2022
By Rick Menning
HAMDEN, CT -- For the Hamden Co-op high school girls' ice hockey team, Wednesday's showdown with defending Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) champion Guilford Co-op is one that brings lasting memories and moments to cherish.
In fact, the Dragons' amazing comeback victory might be among the best games ever played in the long and storied history of action inside the Louis Astorino Ice Arena atop the hill at Hamden High School.
The highlight reel was displaying one outstanding play after another throughout this spectacular showcase attraction.
In a tremendous display of perseverance and determination, the host Dragons overcame a 3-0 deficit with three goals in a span of just over three and a half minutes in the third period to tie the game and send the regulation thriller into overtime.
Then, the already remarkable effort went into the stratosphere.
As the Dragons and visiting Grizzlies faced off at center ice in front of a frenzied crowd at this point, Hamden High School freshman right-winger MJ Malonis took possession of the puck, raced untouched down the right side from the red line and one-timed a wrister inside the near post to clinch for her squad an amazing 4-3 victory.
Each second counts
Eight seconds was all it took for Hamden Co-op to put the exclamation point to a dramatic win by a team that was kept off the scoreboard for 38:19 but stayed laser focused on the task at hand.
"Very exciting. A great all-around effort by everyone," said Hamden head coach Jessica Morgillo, who was pleased with the way her team kept battling and didn't get frustrated by the solid play of Guilford sophomore goalie Olivia Hwang, who stopped the Dragons' first 26 shots before the comeback began.
That tenacity actually began early in the second period when the Hamden squad, made up mostly of underclassmen, established a persistent presence in the offensive zone.
"We're a young team with a lot of new players," Morgillo said. "This (win) is like the hill we needed to get over, and I think moving forward we can take this as an important step from here on out."
The triple-threat trio
All of the hard work and aggressive surges across the blue line and into Guilford territory on the ice -- which really picked up in intensity about midway through the second period -- finally reaped huge rewards in the latter stages of the third period.
The Dragons' shots started to find their mark, and the rally began when Hamden High School (HHS) freshman Jozie Becker knocked in a rebound from the right side of the crease following an initial shot by Lexi Patel, also a freshman at HHS, at the 8:19 mark of the third period.
Just two minutes and five seconds later, yet another HHS freshman Ava Martin took a pass from HHS junior Trinity Sweeney and connected with a low riser from the bottom of the left circle to narrow the Grizzlies' lead to 3-2.
Sophomore defenseman Cate Cruess, a student at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, then brought the Hamden fans to their feet with the equalizer just a minute and 28 seconds later with an unassisted goal.
"We just kept getting pucks to the net; we had a lot of chances," Cruess said after the game. "It's very important that we never give up in (any game)."
A rapid fire stunner
For MJ Malonis, it was a matter of making up her mind right away the moment she took control of the puck in overtime.
"When the puck (came to me), I had an idea where the puck was going so I kind of already had (the thought) to just go right to the net," Malonis said. "I didn't really see anyone open (to pass it to) so I just made my move on the goalie."
Malonis was mobbed by her teammates and the large and vocal crowd cheered the hard-fought showdown.
"I knew that we could come back because we really wanted it," Malonis said. "We never stopped working hard and I think that we did deserve to win. It was really exciting to score that (OT) goal."
Senior Josie Bourque picked up the Dragons' spirits during the break time between the second and third periods when the Zamboni applies a new sheet of ice.
"Everyone was kind of quiet, so Josie spoke up and told us to bring the energy into the third period...that the game is not over until the clock says it is. Play that third period like it's 0-0," added Cruess, who is part of a blend of student-athletes who hail from New Haven, Milford and Prospect in addition to Hamden and Waterbury. "We came out ready to give it our all for those last 15 minutes."
As it turned out, they gave it their all for 15 minutes and eight seconds.
Grizzlies roar early
Guilford Co-op came out aggressively and grabbed a 1-0 advantage at the 5:11 mark of the first period as sophomore center Isabella Jackowicz took a feed from senior defenseman Kimberly Evans deep in the Dragons' end and lofted a one-timer that found its way inside the near post.
Jackowicz is a student at East Haven High School, while Evans attends Guilford High School. Those two schools are part of this year's co-op Grizzlies' squad that also includes student-athletes from North Branford and Coginchaug Regional (Durham) high schools.
The Grizzles extended their lead four minutes later when freshman center Hailey Farace's wrister sailed over the glove of Hamden senior goalie Marcia Colten, who allowed only one more goal the rest of the game as part of her 17-save performance.
Senior co-captain Jordan King (East Haven High School) provided the pass to Farace (Guilford High School) in the neutral zone and that led to a rush through the slot for the goal that made it 2-0.
That other goal came some 15 minutes of game action later.
Grizzlies' senior winger Julia Crisci from East Haven High School popped one in from the low slot to extend the lead to 3-0 at the 13:13 mark of the second period before Hamden shifted into rally gear.
Grizzlies' sophomore goalie Olivia Hwang (Guilford High School) turned aside 12 Hamden shots -- including a breakaway by Dragons' freshman Josie Becker -- in the second period. The majority of Hwang's stops in that period were from point-blank range as she was a fortress from all angles.
Many great efforts
For defending SCC champion Guilford and hard-charging Hamden, the contest featured many instances of strong hustle and good individual achievements toward helping their respective teams succeed.
Dragons' sophomore winger Allie Grice was a true force in the neutral zone with a commendable breakaway effort late in the first period. She also tenaciously attacked in traffic as Hamden applied continual pressure throughout the second and third periods.
Meanwhile, Hamden sophomore Giada Broccoli played solidly and was especially effective in the latter stages of the second period when she disrupted several Grizzlies' rushes with good forechecking.
Guilford High School senior Kimberly Evans averted a huge Dragons' scoring opportunity midway through the second period when, on a 3-1 break into the offensive zone, she provided a timely poke check to knock the puck out of Hamden's control.
The Dragons' line of Sara Norton, Giada Broccoli and MJ Malonis kept the rushes going in the second period, while the Guilford lines of Jordan King, Hailey Farace, Regan Dills; and Julia Crisci, Kaili Rosa and Isabella Jackowicz came out strong early in the third period.