Stately showing! Westie Sharks girls skaters zip past Wilton co-op in Connecticut tourney
By Rick Menning
WEST HAVEN, CT -- After 61 minutes without a single goal having been scored in Saturday night's Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) championship game, the West Haven High School/Sacred Heart Academy girls' ice hockey team transitioned to an early quick-strike offense against Wilton co-op on Monday.
Competing in the first round of the state tournament -- again inside their home confines at the Edward L. Bennett Rink -- the Westie Sharks jumped ahead 2-0 within a two-minute span of the first period and never looked back.
And while the visiting Warriors made it interesting on a couple of occasions during the contest, Head Coach Erin Blake's squad hung tough for a 5-3 victory and a trip to face No. 1-ranked Darien at Darien Ice on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Less than 48 hours after edging Hamden co-op 1-0 with a fifth-period goal in the SCC playoff finale, the Westie Sharks skaters needed only five and a half minutes to light the lamp against the Wilton/Norwalk/McMahon team.
Senior captain Anne Plunkett, a student at Sacred Heart Academy, converted a one-timer from the right side with assists from Julianna Picard and Geena Montano. Plunkett's shot was only the second of the game by the hosts to that point but it proved productive.
Then, just 1:47 later, Sacred Heart Academy senior Chase Ireland came through with the most impressive goal of the game when she took possession of the puck -- off a perfect pass from Kiki Adamo -- at her own blue line, raced across center ice and from the just inside the right circle blistered a riser top shelf over the shoulder of Warriors' goalie Sabrina Smith.
Wilton cut the deficit to 2-1 with a tally toward the end of the first 15 minutes, but the Westie Sharks regained their two-goal advantage 6:41 into the middle frame when West Haven High School sophomore Juliana Gonzalez poked one past Smith through traffic near the blue paint.
Just prior to that score, Westie Sharks' goalie Belle Desrosiers, who stopped 32 of Wilton's 35 shots, made the biggest save of the game with a huge blocker rejection on a breakaway attempt by the Warriors' Julia Bella, who finished play with all three goals for Wilton.
Geena Montano, a junior at Sacred Heart Academy, then assured herself a multi-point game with a backhander to Smith's stick side that settled into the back of the net and gave the Westie Sharks a 4-1 lead. Montano's sister, Julianna, keyed that offensive attack with a vital assist.
Once again, the Warriors scored before the intermission to pull to within two goals at 4-2, and then made a game of it at 4-3 early in the third period as Bella completed her hat trick.
At the critical junctures of that third period, however, West Haven High School junior Taylor Alfano not only made one great defensive play after another but also was a major factor on offense with three straight gritty plays to keep the puck onside during a Westie Sharks' rush.
From just inside the blue line, Alfano on all three occasions -- coming within just over a one-minute stretch -- deprived Wilton of clearing plays by using her body and stick to keep the puck in Westie Sharks' territory.
The Westie Sharks put the game away with 2:15 left on the clock when Julianna Picard netted the insurance goal. Geena Montano had the assist for a three-point night.
Although the Westie Sharks were outshot, 35-18, the Southern Connecticut Conference champions made the most of their opportunities around the net to come away victorious.