EAST LYME — Ava Galdenzi had a goal and an assist in the second half to lead top-ranked North Branford to a 2-0 win over Stonington in its CIAC Class S semifinal game played at East Lyme High School.
The win propels the Thunderbirds to their first championship game appearance since 2006. They will face Granby on Saturday at Wethersfield High School in the final.
With the pressure North Branford (16-0-1-0) was applying on Stonington’s defense and goalie Aliza Bell, it seemed it was a matter of when, and not if, the Thunderbirds would get on the scoreboard.
After a scoreless first half, the when occurred twice in a 10-minute span in the second half with Galdenzi being involved in both goals.
Galdenzi scored the eventual game-winning goal off a scramble in front of Bell. Amelia Raucci sent a long pass across the field that resulted in a shot by Ali Barrett. Bell made the save but the ball caromed right to Galdenzi who tapped it home for a 1-0 North Branford lead with 18:28 left in the game.
“Their goalie made a nice save on the first shot,” Galdenzi said. “I saw the ball coming right to me. I just knew it was my time and I shot it back in.”
Galdenzi got an assist on the next tally as her pass off a penalty corner found the stick of Raucci. Her blast beat Bell giving North Branford a 2-0 lead with 8:38 left in the game.
That was all the cushion the Thunderbird defense and goalie Jordan Regan would need in recording the 12th shutout of the season. In fact, Regan needed to make only two saves to keep Stonington off the scoreboard.
“You’ve got to hand it to Jordan (Regan),” North Branford head coach Babby Nuhn said. “She is a first-year player and has made key saves for us all year and had a few tonight early in the game. I am real proud of her.”
North Branford held a distinct statistical advantage as well as field position and time of possession edge. North Branford outshot Stonington 14-2 and held a 13-0 edge in penalty corners.
Bell kept the Bears (13-3-0-1) in the game making 12 saves, several of the quality variety.
“North Branford’s speed was the difference tonight,” Stonington head coach Jenna Tucchio said. “We are used to be the fastest team on the field and that was not the case tonight. That’s an unusual place for us to be and hurt our transition game.”
North Branford, who has now outscored its opponents 73-15 on the season, will look for its fourth field hockey title in school history on Saturday. Their last title came in 2006 when they beat H-K 1-0. They beat New Milford 2-0 in 1980 and were co-champions in 1981 when they played Pomperaug to a scoreless tie.
NORTH BRANFORD 2, STONINGTON 0
STONINGTON 0 0 – 0
NORTH BRANFORD 0 2 – 2
Goals: NB: Ava Galdenzi and Amelia Raucci; Assists: NB: Ali Barrett and Galdenzi; Shots: NB 13; S 2; Saves: NB 2; S 12. Records: 16-0-1-0; S 13-3-0-1