Westie Sharks edge Dragons again in round two of heavyweight SCC girls hockey series
By Rick Menning
HAMDEN, CT -- There was absolutely no doubt that this week's prime-time rematch between the West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy and Hamden Co-op girls' ice hockey teams would be another classic encounter.
Just watching the Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) rivals warm up prior to the 8 p.m. puck drop at the Louis Astorino Ice Arena on the Hamden High School campus left the large crowd feeling that this would be another down-to-the-final-buzzer thriller.
These two rivals lace up their skates with the passion and determination to succeed and face any situation head-on and with conviction, and so to the surprise of no one Wednesday night's match-up lived up to expectations.
West Haven High School freshman Olivia Twarowski's top-shelf goal inside the near post just under six minutes into the second period, and clutch goaltending by Belle Desrosiers during several third-period offensive surges by Hamden Co-op, was the difference as the Westie Sharks prevailed 2-0 to sweep the season series.
West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy also won the first contest between the two rivals, 4-2, at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven in early December.
For Desrosiers, a junior netminder from Sacred Heart Academy, it was her first shutout of the CIAC girls' high school ice hockey season. The victory was the Westie Sharks' sixth in seven games during this 2022-23 campaign.
Anne Plunkett, a senior at Sacred Heart Academy, provided an empty net goal with 24.5 seconds remaining in the contest to seal the deal and gave the fans a chance to exhale after enduring all the ebbs and flows throughout all three periods.
Working together with Sacred Heart Academy sophomores Kelly Manfield and Rachel Harrison (assists) around the left circle, Twarowski's one-timer found its way over the stick-side shoulder of Hamden goalie Marcia Colten and popped the top of the netting.
The Dragons' senior netminder was otherwise spot-on between the pipes as she turned back 21 of 22 shots. Desrosiers made all 21 saves including 10 during pressure-filled rushes by the Dragons over the final 15 minutes.
Battle lines drawn
Neither of these CIAC girls' high school ice hockey opponents would back down following the opening faceoff and displayed terrific defensive play that produced only four total shots on goal over the first six minutes. In all, the Dragons (six) and Westie Sharks (five) managed 11 shots in the entire period.
In fact, the first 10-plus minutes of this showdown was played with continuous action back and forth across the ice and without a single whistle stoppage.
West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy had the first four shots on goal, while Hamden Co-op recorded the next five as evidence of the seesaw play.
No backing down
In what has become a trademark of this Dragons' team, the Westie Sharks' goal didn't discourage the hosts at all as they kicked into a higher gear.
In the closing few minutes of the second period, the Hamden Co-op line of freshmen Ava Martin, Jozie Becker and Lexy Patel nearly provided the equalizer with their attacking style around Desrosiers, who had to come up with numerous bigtime stops.
That rush came after the Westie Sharks applied their own heat in the Dragons' offensive zone thanks to the gritty efforts of Plunkett, sophomore Julianna Picard and junior Geena Montano. All three are students at Sacred Heart Academy.
Another Hamden Co-op freshman, MJ Malonis, teamed with senior Josie Bourque to rip clutch shots in the closing few minutes of that middle frame.
Westie Sharks' junior Julianna Montano and Dragons' junior Trinity Sweeney each had golden opportunities at goals while their respective teams were on the man advantage early in the third period.
Montano's blistering riser from the point was turned aside by Colten, while moments later Sweeney's rocket blast from the high slot had to be grabbed with quick glovework by Desrosiers. Lexey Patel also had a nice try on a West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy power play when she disrupted an odd-man rush with a poke check just inside the blue line.
Just prior to the empty netter to clinch the outcome, Hamden's Ava Martin, Sara Norton (Region 14/Nonnewaug) and Jackie Maurice (Milford/Foran) applied tremendous pressure around the crease in an attempt to tie the game.