The Hornets are one step closer to defending their title as they knocked off the second-seeded Comets in a hard-fought semifinal matchup which was less than a minute away from overtime.

The storied rivalry continued Friday night as Essex High School (EHS) and BFA-St. Albans met in the playoffs for the ninth-straight year. The No. 3 Hornets retained the upper hand--downing the hosts 3-2 for their third-straight postseason win over the Comets.

EHS will now go back to UVM’s Gutterson Fieldhouse in an attempt to defend its Vermont Division I state crown--that championship contest with Burlington/Colchester slated for 8 p.m. on Monday, March 9.

“The girls worked really hard and gave everything they had--and it just happened to go our way,” said Hornet head coach John Maddalena. “Today was another great BFA-Essex game. It could have gone either way and was the type of game you want to showcase for Vermont girls hockey.

“The key was special teams,” Maddalena noted about the win.

Not only did EHS capitalize on a power play opportunity during the tilt--but it notched a valuable shorthanded score as well.

Essex junior goaltender Sophia Forcier finished with 22 credited saves while helping her team reach the championship round for the eighth time in the last nine years.

“She was laser-focused and made some unbelievable stops,” Maddalena said about his netminder, “especially in the second period to keep us in it.”

Just a few minutes into the game, BFA got on the board first with a pass from behind the net going in front to the eventual goal scorer. Essex would even things at 1-1 before the end of the period, however, when freshman Celia Wiegand wristed one around a screen while on the power play.

EHS was aggressive during a shorthanded stint in the second and pushed to take the lead. Hornet senior Grace Wiggett fought for the puck behind the BFA net, won it, and sent it over to junior Abigail Robbins; Robbins then worked around the back of the cage and flicked home a backhanded shot to put her team on top midway through the second frame.

The 2-1 lead lasted until there was 4:41 left to go in the third--the Comets evening the score with a wrist shot from near the blue line to tie it up. As play neared the end of regulation, overtime seemed imminent. However, the Hornets had other ideas.

With less than a minute on the clock, Wiggett carried the puck over the blue line and sent it on frame--her shot beating the BFA goalie for the eventual game winner.

“My immediate response was how great I felt for Wiggett,” Maddalena said. “To be a senior and score that goal at BFA to win the game…. As a freshman, BFA came to our house and knocked us out in the semifinals. So freshman year to senior year--it was a nice cap… at least to this point.”

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