WEST HAVEN — With time ticking away in overtime of the quarterfinals of the girls state hockey tournament, West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy’s Mia Celentano had one thought going through her mind and that was to end it here.
Coming in off a 2-on-1 rush with Taylor Nowak, Celentano pounced on a rebound of a Nowak shot and beat East Catholic goalie Maren Riley with 51.6 seconds left in overtime to lift the second-seeded Westie Sharks to a 2-1 victory over tenth-seeded East Catholic at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven Saturday evening.
With the victory, WH/SHA (20-3) advances to Wednesday’s semifinal action against Darien in Shelton at 5:30 p.m.
“I did not want to play another overtime,” Celentano said after lifting the program to the farthest point it has ever been in state tournament action with the semifinal bid. “No one stopped playing. We really came out in the overtime pushing. Taylor (Nowak) just knows where to put the puck. I was able to get the rebound.”
The goal for the Westie Sharks came at just the right time as the speedy East Catholic team was starting to take advantage of a tired WH/SHA team. If not for the goaltending of Kyleen Crowe, the Westie Sharks dream of the program’s first state title may have come to a quick and bitter end in the overtime session.
Crowe came up with seven saves in the extra session, but none better then the glove save she made on Meghan Croyle with 4:04 to go in overtime.
SHA/WH wins 2 to 1. On to final state game Wednesday night! Awesome ladies!
“It was just a great group effort,” Crowe said. “My defense did a great job and I wanted to make sure I was back there for them. They played great in front of me.”
Croyle was the reason East Catholic (16-12) forced the overtime as she picked up a rebound of a shot by Julia Swanson and beat Crowe with 3:48 gone by in the third period. The goal by Croyle put the momentum on the side of East Catholic.
“We played great,” East Catholic coach Frank Usseglio said. “We came in as the ten seed and to play like that against the two seed is great. I expected that type of perforrmance with the group I have. But, they (WH/SHA) have four girls on defense who are hard to get by. We are fast, but those girls are tough. They made it hard for us.”
The Westie Sharks did all they could not to go to overtime but Riley came up big in several spots of the third period. Riley’s two biggest saves came when she denied Nowak with a blocker save with 7:10 left in regulation and then denied Celina Condon ona breakaway with 4:34 to go.
“East Catholic is a strong team and you can never underestimate them,” WH/SHA coach Erin Blake said. “They gave us a run for our money and this game could have gone either way. It came down to the last second. We just pushed hard and wanted it. It was a good team effort.”
The Westie Sharks took a 1-0 lead in the second with the best pessure of the contest to that point. Off a scramble in front, Megan Froehlich found the back of the net with Jianna Cohrs assisting 3:17 into the period.
The goal by Froehlich would hold up as Riley turned aside eight shots in the middle 15 minutes.
Riley’s best sequence came in a 15 second span when she denied Brooke McNabola from the point, then a pair of rebounds by Nowak off the McNabola shot, before turning aside Nowak in close 15 seconds later. Nowak then burst in on a 2-on-1 break with Cohrs, but Riley (26 saves) stood tall with another save with 2:44 left in the second.
The two teams played to a scoreless first period despite combining for 14 shots. Each team had its share of opportunities to get on the board in the openng period, but both goaltenders made saves in close to keep the game scoreless.
The Westie Sharks had the better of the opportunities early with Condon turned aside by Riley from the high slot 6:13 in, and a hard shot by Nowak denied 3:40 later. Cohrs had the best scoring chance for the Westie Sharks in the first period, but her shot in close was denied by Riley with 2:15 to go.
East Catholic also had its opportunities, but Crowe (27 saves) was up to the task for the Westie Sharks. Mary McKiernan twice was denied in the slot by Crowe in a 26 second span, before Crowe made a nice save off Victoria Amaral in close with 2:02 to go in the first and another off Croyle on the doorstep 52 seconds later.
Player of the Game
Kyleen Crowe — WH/SHA goalie denied 27 shots, including 17 total in the third period and overtime.
“Momentum really is a thing in this game. They had it and we had to fight back. East Catholic is a very strong team. Our defense played a solid game.”
— WH/SHA coach Erin Blake
WestHaven/SHA 2, East Catholic 1
East Catholic 0 0 1 0 — 1 (16-12-0)
WH/SHA 0 1 0 1 – 2 (20-3-0)
Second Period: W – Megan Froehlich (Jianna Cohrs) 11:43; Third Period: E – Meghan Croyle (Julia Swanson) 11:12; Overtime: W – Mia Celentano (Taylor Nowak) 0:51.6; Shots: E – 28; W – 28; Saves: E – Maren Riley – 26; W – Kyleen Crowe – 27