Regular season, state championships or, in this case, a 1 vs. 4 semifinal, it doesn’t matter. Year after year, BFA-St. Albans and Essex girls hockey games usually come down to one mistake and one goal.
After being eliminated short of a girls Division I hockey championship three years in a row by the Hornets, the Comets dispatched their longtime nemesis Monday in the semis, riding a shorthanded second-period goal by captain Emma Hill to a 1-0 win and a trip back to Gutterson Fieldhouse for the title game.
Hill’s game winner came with less than two minutes to play in the second period. The senior stripped the puck off a Hornet defenseman’s stick, walking in on goal with enough space to pull back and release an enormous slapshot that cleanly beat senior goaltender Lindsay Hallowell.
The Comets continued to attack in the third period while defending the one-goal lead, and freshman Maddie Hungerford played what might have been the strongest game of her young career in posting the 25-save shutout.
“It couldn’t get more beautiful than that for Emma to come down and just rip it,” BFA coach Luke Cioffi said. “They’ve had some good teams the last few years and we just haven’t been able to get over the hurdle. And this year we got our way.”
Despite BFA scoring in the second frame, it may have been the strongest period for the Hornets. They relentlessly pressured the Comets, and despite taking two penalties continued to be aggressive on the penalty kill, burying the puck in the Comet end and keeping BFA from exiting its own zone smoothly despite having the man advantage.
No sooner had Essex killed off its second penalty than a Comet went off for tripping with 2:43 left in the period. But Hill showed off her speed and her slapshot on the score that stood as the difference Monday.
“She’s been shooting all year and I think actually, to be honest, I think she was a little tired. She didn’t have the energy to make a move so she just ripped it,” Cioffi said. “We were just frustrated on our own power play and then to come around and get an opportunity like that on a penalty kill. Emma did what she had to do. She buried it.”
BFA will make its 14th appearance in the girls Division I state championship game after falling to Essex 2-0 last year at Gutterson.
“We certainly had our chances but just couldn’t get a bounce,” said Essex head coach John Maddalena. “And I didn’t think BFA had that many opportunities, that we were pretty good defensively, and the one shot opportunity they had they put in the net.
“And that’s why they’re going to the Gut and we’re not.”
“I think it comes down to puck luck,” Maddalena continued. “Sometimes they get a break and we don’t. And we’ve had lots of breaks over the years and some good puck luck. And tonight the girls played well enough to win, and it just didn’t happen. But I thought both teams put on a great hockey exhibition.”