BRIDGEPORT — Guilford trailed early and greatly Friday at Webster Bank Arena, but the Indians’ girls hockey team had a few key things going for it. One, the Indians had rebounded from a similar deficit to win last weekend. And two, they had Maddie Epke.
Epke’s fifth goal and seventh point, a power-play goal through a screen 1:55 into overtime, gave Guilford a 7-6 win over West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy at the Connecticut Ice Girls High School Hockey Showcase.
Guilford trailed 5-1 in the second period, 5-2 after two and 6-3 with 7:30 to go. Epke scored her third goal 56 seconds later and her fourth goal 42 seconds after that, and Daniella Vickerman tied the game on the rebound of an Epke shot with 2:21 left.
“In the second and third period, we really kicked on the gears,” Epke said. “We focused more on shooting on the net, because we were missing the net a lot. We focused on skating 100 percent effort every time we got out there.”
Epke, a field hockey and lacrosse standout as well, also drew the penalty in overtime, getting tripped on a breakaway.
On paper, little favored Guilford (5-3), especially once West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy (9-2) jumped ahead 2-1 after one. The Westie Sharks were coming off taking defending state champion New Canaan to overtime on Monday night, a 6-5 New Canaan win.
If Guilford had anything, it was a tournament in Massachusetts last weekend in which the Indians trailed 4-0 in the semifinals before coming back to win in overtime.
“It’s a lot to be able to be able to say that we can come back from everything,” Guilford sophomore defenseman Olivia Gill said. “We have a history of maybe not doing so well, so we’d like to get better every single year. It means a lot to be able to overcome that and believe in ourselves.”
Gill admitted, though, there were some sad faces around the dressing room after the first period. And West Haven/SHA scored the first three goals of the second period, capped by Taylor Nowak’s first of two. Guilford still found a way.
“There’s nothing you can take away from this (Guilford) team,” Westie Sharks coach Erin Blake said. “Maddie Epke’s a fantastic player. She just won that game.
“We talk about playing together as a team. Our goalie today (Hailey Alfano), she’s also a newer goalie, she played great. … This is one of her better games. We’ve got to go strong, start to finish. We can’t come in and take it slow. There’s nothing you can take away from that team. They wanted it more.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
You want to construct an argument for someone other than Maddie Epke? Good luck. Something happened every time she was on the ice.
TWEAKING, NOT TALKING
What was the message from the Guilford coaching staff before the third? “We talked about nothing,” coach Rick Binkowski said. “Our message to these girls is it’s you. We can’t go out there and play for you. You’ve got to trust yourselves, trust your teammates and get it done.”
They did swap freshman Kimberly Evans back to defense and move junior Christina Garofalo up to forward in the third period. Garofalo helped create some offense.
SEE YOU AGAIN
The teams meet again Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. at Bennett Rink in West Haven. It’s the Westie Sharks’ regular-season finale as the schedule stands.
“I’m really proud of them. We take our hats off to West Haven/Sacred Heart; that’s a fantastic hockey team, a great program, great coaching. … They’ve got a lot of talent. That’s a big win for us. They’re one of the top teams in the state.” —Guilford coach Rick Binkowski