By Joel Lehman
For The Essex Reporter
Twice this season, the Comets were able to mount comebacks from two goals down against Essex.
The Hornet girls’ hockey team wasn’t going to allow it to happen a third time. Not in the semifinals. Not with the best senior goaltender and forward in the state on their team.
Kathleen Young scored twice, including a devastating breakaway snap shot with 44 seconds left in the second period, and Victoria Gibson was quietly confident in a 36-save shutout performance as No. 1 Essex moved on to the Division I state championship with a 2-0 win over 5-seed BFA-St. Albans on Saturday.
In two regular-season victories against the Hornets this year, the Comets were able to poke, push, hit, and generally frustrate Young and linemates Melanie Theriault and Sarah Tobey. But not Saturday, as Young looked dangerous every time she touched the puck, scoring on the power play in the first period and turning the defense inside out on the second.
The Comet offense, meanwhile, was generally kept to the outside, where scoring opportunities were calmly snared out of the air by Gibson’s quick glove.
“That old saying, it’s tough to beat a team three times, we were definitely testing that limit today,” said BFA Coach Luke Cioffi.
BFA’s top line of Riley Yandow, Taylor Jackson and Jade Remillard helped stake the Comets to a 10-5 shot advantage in the first, but in the physical semifinal matchup, a hard check put them shorthanded with 5:07 left in the opening frame. Melanie Theriault fed Young in front 31 seconds into the power play to give Essex the 1-0 lead.
BFA had a power play opportunity with 5:26 left in the second, and while shorthanded, Young narrowly missed on a break, choosing to deke but taking away her angle despite an open net. So four minutes later, as she rushed up the ice one-on-one with a defender, she didn’t hesitate to shoot after she swung in alone on goal, ripping the puck into the top netting.
“That was clutch,” Essex Coach John Maddalena said. “I thought Kathleen might try to deke, but she saw that opening and buried it. There has been a couple times during the season where she hasn’t been able to put that puck in the net but when it comes down to crunch time pretty much you can count on her to score when we need it.”
BFA took a timeout with 3:23 left and pulled goalie Haley Cooper (17 saves) with 2:09 on the clock, but despite being outshot 15-3 in the third, the Hornets hung on, and the Comets never truly seemed to threaten a comeback.
The Hornets played in the State Championship game on Tuesday at UVM against No. 2 Middlebury Union High School.