Everything surrounding Saturday night’s game between the BFA-St. Albans and Essex girls hockey teams was completely out of the ordinary.
There were no fans in the stands at Collins Perley for a game that usually brings out a big crowd and the players were wearing masks just to name a couple differences due to new regulations for high school sports surrounding COVID-19.
But the product on the ice brought back a little normalcy.
The Comets and Hornets put on a performance that has come to be expected when they face off against each other, as they battled to a 1-1 tie on Saturday night at Collins Perley.
“Both of our teams are defensive in nature,” said BFA coach Luke Cioffi. “We have some size with our defensive group. And it’s not just our defenseman, our forwards did a good job getting back there and playing well on the backcheck. And our team isn’t afraid to block shots and stepping in front of pucks. It’s the game we expected coming into tonight.”
Special teams played a big role in the game, as the Comets scored on the powerplay in the second period and the Hornets’ tally came during a delayed penalty early in the third.
BFA committed six penalties in the game and Essex had five. Other than giving up the goal on the delayed penalty, the Comets went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, including being down on a 5-on-3 for an extended period of time late in the game.
The low-scoring contest was something to be expected with two of the best goalies in the state between the pipes. Macie Boissonneault stopped 35 shots for the Comets, while Sophie Forcier had 24 for Essex.
Both goalies had to come up with big saves in the second period. Essex got a mini breakaway early in the second, but Boissonneault came up with the big save. The Hornets also had another chance later in the period on a 2-on-1 with Ella Gibbs passing across the slot to Gillian Bruyns, but Boissonneault was again up to the task.
BFA had its own chance early in the second period when Faith Reed poked the puck away from an Essex defender at the Comets’ blue line and streaked to a breakaway. Forcier smothered the shot attempt to keep the game scoreless at the time.
The Comets (0-0-1) finally found the opening goal late in the second period on the powerplay. Sophie Zemianek found herself open at the blue line and took a slap shot that was blocked. The puck went to Caroline Bliss, who flipped the puck past Forcier for her first varsity goal to give BFA the 1-0 lead.
“I thought our Blue Line (Bliss, Jodie Gratton, Rae Alexander) did a good moving the puck our high and shooting it down low and we got a little fortunate on the misdirection and were in the right spot at the right time,” said Cioffi. “She was very happy to get her first goal out of the way in the first game.”
The Hornets found their answer three minutes into the third period. On a delayed penalty Celia Wiegand found a lane a took a low slapshot. Boissonneault made the initial save, but Abigale Smith was on the doorstep to knock the tying goal into the back of the net.
“Our whole idea is to get shots low on Macie in traffic, because we know that if she can see the puck, she’s going to stop it,” said Essex coach John Maddalena. “We put a hard shot down low and were in the right spot for the rebound.”
Both teams found themselves down on 5-on-3 situations for extended periods of time late in the third period, but both penalty kills and the goalies stood strong to keep the tie intact.
In the overtime, Maddie Montagne and Alexander both had good chances, but their shots were stopped by Forcier.
It was a fitting way for the two teams to set up the rest of the regular season with yet another great contest while still having the opportunity to see each other two more times in the regular season.
“It doesn’t get any better than coming up and playing BFA for our opening game,” said Maddalena. “We were short a couple of girls tonight, so only skated two lines, but I was impressed with how they were able to hold up. Tonight was just a great overall game. I’m excited for another two games against them. I was happy when Luke called to schedule another game to play against quality competition and it’s a little bit of a fun rivalry.”
Cioffi said he was happy with how his young team performed against a solid team in Essex in their first game of the season.
He is hoping they can continue to build on what they started when they travel to CVU on Wednesday.
“It was definitely nice to get out there and play someone else other than ourselves,” said Cioffi. “We have a lot of young players and they all played substantial minutes, and as the game wore on we saw the confidence starting to set in against one of the best teams in the state. It was a good night and we are fortunate to see them two more times this season.”
— Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyLabor. There are also more photos from every game that I can’t put every one of them up for every game with limited space at this time. If there is a certain player you would like me to look and see if I have more photos of, I would be more than happy to look and I can send them to you. Shoot me an email at Anthony.Labor61@gmail.com for any photo inquiries.