West Haven HS/Sacred Heart Academy girls prevail over Hamden Co-op in SCC ice hockey season opener
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
By Rick Menning
WEST HAVEN, CT -- Whenever the West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy and Hamden Co-op high school girls' ice hockey teams collide in a Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) ice hockey showdown, it seldom disappoints in terms of high-level intensity and spirited play.
That was again the case on Tuesday night at the Edward L. Bennett Rink as the Westie Sharks skaters overcame a gallant Hamden Co-op comeback attempt and won, 4-2, in the season opener for both squads.
The contest was close throughout the entire 45 minutes as a vocal crowd was treated to great back-and-forth action featuring continual puck battles and determined attitudes.
There was little time spent in the neutral zone, with the always playoff-contending rivals balancing rushes into the offensive end with stellar defensive efforts.
Within the first four and a half minutes of the first period, power-play opportunities were cashed in by both teams. West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy junior Julianna Montano and Hamden Co-op sophomore Vanessa Shea each had goals while on the advantage.
Montano, who attends Sacred Heart Academy (SHA), took a short pass from fellow SHA student Julianna Picard and sent a blistering one-timer from the top of the right circle that soared over the shoulder of Hamden Co-op goalie Marcia Colten for a 1-0 lead at the 3:05 mark.
Then, just over a minute later and this time with the Westie Sharks shorthanded, Shea struck for her team's first tally of the 2022-23 campaign as she redirected Giada Broccoli's pass through traffic from the left side near the crease for the equalizer.
The score remained deadlocked until 2:34 into the second period when Montano, from almost the same spot as her first goal but at the other end of the ice, launched another riser that found its way into the net.
In that middle frame, Hamden Co-op top-line defenders Trinity Sweeney and Cate Cruess combined excellent poke checks with precision passing to keep the Westie Sharks' stay in the offensive zone to a minimum.
No speed limit
But even this duo's solid effort could not stop Westie Sharks forward Melissa Tsakonas from a highlight-reel goal to extend the advantage to 3-1.
Tsakonas, a senior at West Haven High School, raced full speed ahead from the red line and outraced a Hamden Co-op defenseman to a loose puck. She managed to take control just inside the left circle and in a single motion zipped a shot inside the near post. The crowd cheered her tenacious effort.
Coming out determined and with resolve in the third period, the Hamden Co-op road warriors would not go down without a fight and cut the deficit to 3-2 on a goal by right-winger Sara Norton just under three minutes into the final frame.
The junior took a perfect feed from freshman Lexy Patel across the lot slot and had a wide-open right side to beat West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy goalie Belle Desrosiers.
Picard, who finished with a goal and an assist, then closed out the scoring with an unassisted goal from close range for the 4-2 outcome.
Desrosiers, who faced a barrage of eight shots on goal as Hamden Co-op applied constant pressure down the stretch, finished with 22 saves. Colten, meanwhile, was also stellar between the pipes as she turned aside 15 shots in the contest.
During the Hamden Co-op rally bid over the final 10 or so minutes, the Westie Sharks' 'D' that includes Heather Fonda, Rachel Harrison, Taylor Alfano and Montano came up big time and again with zone clears and timely forechecking.
Other highlights in the game were a nice wraparound try at a goal by Alfano, a steal at center ice and one-time blast on net by Westie Sharks senior captain Anne Plunkett, and gritty play on a penalty kill by Geena Montano.