By John Nestor
WEST HARTFORD – The Conard and Hall High School field hockey games put on a fitting debut night game under the lights at McKee Stadium. It was hard fought, fast-paced and nobody from West Harford went home a loser.
Hall scored a goal in the first half and Conard got one back in the second and after 10 minutes of overtime both teams settled for a 1-1 tie in the first game played under the new lights at Conard High School.
With the tie Hall finishes the regular season at 9-5-2 while Conard looks to the postseason after an 8-5-3 campaign. The meeting between the West Hartford rivals could end up being a prelude to a more important matchup as the Warriors and Chieftains are projected to come in around eighth and ninth in the Class L rankings, meaning a playoff meeting is in the offing.
Wednesday’s game had a playoff feel as both teams brought it energy wise in front of a good sized and enthusiastic crowd.
“It was great, what great energy the game had and it was an awesome atmosphere,” Conard coach Cathy Callahan said. “It would have been nice to get a win but we got unlucky on a couple calls, that’s the way the game goes sometimes.”
The visiting Warriors were looking to spoil the Chieftains’ big night and jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a first-half goal by Ann-Margaret Sullivan. But Hall was unable to mount much offense in the second half as Conard’s Maggie Geisler, Caroline Kane and Julia Lankin played well defensively and goalie Emma Everett made some key stops when she needed to.
Elizabeth Christensen scored the lone goal of the second half to pull the Chieftains even, 1-1, with just over 27 minutes left in regulation.
Conard worked the ball deep into the Hall end and after a scramble in front in which the Chieftains took at least four or five shots from close range, Christensen found an opening and slipped the ball past Hall goalie Kathleen Keegan and into the cage.
The Chieftains had the better of the run of play in the second half but both teams did have chances. Everett and Keegan both came up with big stops to keep the game tied and both teams had goals waved off after shots taken outside the circle went into the cage.
It appeared that Conard had the biggest gripe after it appeared that Christensen gave the Chieftains a 2-1 lead with5:50 to play in the second half.
Christensen gathered in a pass off of a penalty corner and dribbled in toward the goal from the left side. It appeared her move forward had taken her well inside the circle and she took a shot that rolled in front and found a way to get under Keegan and in for a goal.
While the Chieftains were celebrating taking the lead one official was waving the goal off. The referees conferred for an extended period of time and ultimately decide to wave off the goal. Asked after the game what the call was the official explained that “I ruled the shot had come from outside the circle.”
Conard kept the pressure on but couldn’t break through. Hall’s Bea Lynch and Keegan came up with defensive stands down the stretch to keep the game tied as the Cheiftains kept pushing for the winning goal.
“It was a great game, exciting to play under the light and it was great for the girls from both teams to play in an atmosphere like this,” Hall coach Carlie Dailey said. “A tie, it is what it is, we both had chances and both had goals waved off and just couldn’t quite finish the game off.”
Now both teams will wait for the Class L tournament draw on Friday and both are well aware a rematch could be coming.
“I would be fine with playing them, they are great girls, I know a lot of them and have coached a lot of them and it would be a fun game,” Callahan said.
“I like how we are playing and we are looking forward to the tournament,” Dailey said. “If we play Conard again we get what we get, we have no control over that and would like to be in a little better position in the tournament but we’ll be ready for sure.”