WEST HAVEN — The Amity/North Haven/Cheshire girls hockey team and West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy have developed a strong Southern Connecticut Conference rivalry over the years.
Lately, the Westies-Sharks have had the Blades’ number, beating them twice in the regular season. On Friday, Tess Csejka turned the Blades’ fortunes around and at the most opportune time.
Csejka had a hat trick, including the game-winning goal with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the third period, and Caitlin Ranciato had 24 saves to lead No. 3 seed Amity/North Haven/Cheshire to a 4-3 come-from-behind win over West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy in the SCC South division championship game at Bennett Rink.
It is the second SCC tournament title for the Blades (12-10-1).
“We won a title before, but this is as sweet as it gets,” Amity/North Haven/Cheshire coach John Peschell said. “We started the season by losing our first seven games. Instead of giving up our girls bonded, came together and worked hard to get us to this point. I’m so happy for our girls.
“West Haven/Sacred Heart is a very good team with a lot of talented players. We knew this would be tough and I was a little nervous when they scored 26 seconds into the game. But all I wanted to do is keep the game close and give us a chance in the third period. Tess came up big tonight but she has been special for us all season, playing forward when we need her there and also playing defense when we need her there.”
Csejka’s hat trick puts the blades ahead 4-3 with 3:30 left in the game. pic.twitter.com/JCkz9xnHQv
— Orange Live (@orangectlive01) February 23, 2019
In the first period, the Westies-Sharks scored early and late to take a 2-1 lead at the first intermission. Jenna Hunt wristed a shot from the bottom of the left circle to give West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy a 1-0 lead 26 seconds into the game.
The Blades answered when Csejka scored a power-play goal off a slap shot from inside the right circle to tie the game at 1 at 3:06. Teammate Haley Cable set up the opportunity with a cross-ice pass from the left circle.
Both teams had solid chances to get their second goal. But it took a late scramble by the Sharks in front of the left post with seconds to go in the period to regain the lead. Brooke McNabola chipped a short pass to Megan Froehlich in front of the post. Froehlich one-timed a shot into the lower right corner of the net for a 2-1 West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy lead with 4 seconds to go in the first period.
In the second period, the teams traded goals. Amity/North Haven/Cheshire’s Hannah Sosensky scored off a 2-on-2 breakaway down the left wing, wristing a shot in front of the left post to tie the game at 2 at 3:19. Taylor Nowak responded for the Sharks with a power-play goal, scoring off a slap shot from the top of the right circle for a 3-2 lead at 9:28.
Csejka wasted little time to set the tone of the third period, scoring a power-play goal at 13:47 to tie the game at 3. Both teams exchanged three shots on goal each before Csejka found the opening she needed. She skated to the bottom of the left circle, took a pass from Meaghan Hogan and wristed a shot into the upper left corner of the net for the game-winning goal.
“We knew they would score in this game and we knew we needed to stay focused,” said Csejka, who was named the tournament outstanding player. “We knew the game would be intense. We just kept playing hard and we were getting our chances. On the game-winning goal, as soon as I hit it I knew it was going in. It felt pretty good when I saw it go in.”
Kyleen Crowe had 28 saves for the Sharks (18-3). The season continues for both teams with the CHSIGHA state tournament. The Sharks get a bye in the first round and play in the quarterfinals on March 2. The Blades travel to Simsbury in a first round game on Tuesday.
ANHC Blades 4, WHSHA Sharks 3
ANHC 1 1 2 – 4
WH/SHA 2 1 0 – 3
First Period: WHSHA, Jenna Hunt 14:34; ANHC, Tess Csejka (Haley Cable) 3:06; Megan Froehlich (Brooke McNabola) 14:56; Second Period: ANHC, Hannah Sosensky (Caroline Cadeina) 3:19; WHSHA, Taylor Nowak (Brooke McNabola) 9:28; Third period: ANHC, Tess Csejka (Meaghan Hogan) 13:47; ANHC, Tess Csejka (Meaghan Hogan) 11:30. Saves: ANHC, Caitlin Ranciato 24; WHSHA, Kyleen Crowe 28.