By Joe Cardello
The Essex Reporter
Vermont Division I girls’ hockey came to a roaring close on Tuesday evening when the No. 1 Essex Hornets trounced the No. 2 Middlebury Tigers 5-1 at UVM. The Hornets were crowned D-I Champions for the second year in a row.
A tremendous display of stick and puck action developed immediately as Essex hit the ice. Only 31 seconds into the first period Kathleen Young rebounded a shot from Melanie Theriault. Young swiftly swept in the first goal of the game right between Tiger Goalkeeper Rowan Hendy’s legs.
Tensions were elevated between these two top-ranked teams and there were six penalties handed out in the first period – three to Essex.
Theriault put the Hornets up by two around the halfway mark in the first period when she tactfully intercepted a Tiger pass and dashed for a one-on-one shot at Hendy.
Shortly after Middlebury’s Molly Wetmore was sent to cool off in the penalty box for a trip Young forged a dangerous attack on the Tiger net. Young worked as if the stick was an extension of her body and snuggly tucked a shot into the top corner of the goal during the powerplay.
The Hornets had only taken six shots at this point in the game and netted three. The Tiger coach called for a timeout and decided to substitute backup goalkeeper Bailey Ryan for Hendy.
Young had an early chance on the Tiger’s goal during the second period, but in a show of aggression Middlebury’s Helen Anderson used her stick to keep her off balance – Anderson was given a two-minute penalty for hooking.
During the second period the Hornets struggled to grip their sticks on defense. Multiple times a rouge stick could be seen dancing across the ice. Around the sixth minute Essex’s Victoria Bean dropped her own during a Tiger powerplay. Her teammates scrambled to cover the attackers. The puck skid over to Middlebury’s Monroe Cromis and she fired a shot to Hornet goaltender Victoria Gibson’s leg. Lauren Bartlett quickly recovered the deflected shot and chipped the puck over Bean’s lost stick and Gibson. This was the only goal allowed by Gibson during the game and she parried 17 other Tiger shots throughout the 45-minute contest.
Retaliation was quick when Kathleen Young sped down ice towards Ryan. Her shot was blocked by the Middlebury goalkeeper, but was rebounded by Theriault. The Essex senior captain forcefully plugged the puck through an opening in the goalmouth to put Essex up 4-1 with around seven minutes left in the second period.
Young net the final goal of the State Championship match 24 seconds into the third period with a gnarly backhand to top right corner of the net for a hat trick.
When the final horn blared the Hornet bench was emptied. Helmets, sticks and gloves littered the ice. The Essex players formed a celebratory pig pile and the fans went insane with hoots and hollers.
Young’s hat trick was the second in Division I finals history – since BFA’s Caitlin Manahan in 2006 – and she became the first Division I player to earn four points – three goals and an assist – in a championship game. The Hornets five-goal count topped their previous record of four in the 2009 D-I finals and is the new highest goal count in a D-I final.