WEST HAVEN — The West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy girls hockey team had never beaten Hamden in its history. The Westie Sharks picked a good time to change that.
Behind three goals from Most Outstanding Player Megan Froehlich and 46 saves from fellow sophomore Tatum Courtmanche, West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy topped Hamden 4-3 in the Southern Connecticut Conference South Division championship at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven Saturday evening.
The title for the Westie Sharks (17-4-1) was their second in a row, having defeated Amity/North Haven/Cheshire in the league’s title game last season.
“We had never beaten them in our history,” West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy coach Erin Blake said. “It says a lot about these girls. It says a lot about the program. The girls give their all from start to finish. Every girl on this team contributes. We have the heart.”
The Westie Sharks had to withstand a furious Hamden rally in the third period to secure their second straight title.
Just 1 minute, 42 seconds into the final period, Hamden’s Taylor Klesyk got the Green Dragons within 3-2 when she scored in front off an assist from Mackenzie Sargolini.
The Green Dragons (14-4-2) then threw everything they had at Courrtmanche in the third period, putting 22 shots on goal. Courtmanche was outstanding, denying Margaret Gould, Claire Boncek and Abigail Sullivan, then Ariana Martin in close with 4:55 remaining.
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While Courtmanche was keeping the Westie Sharks in front, Froehlich scored what looked to be an insurance goal when she rifled a shot from the slot past Hamden goaltender Gianna Spiro with 4:06 remaining for a 4-2 advantage.
Hamden would not go away, and needed just 19 seconds to get within 4-3 on a goal by Angela Greco off an assist from Kelsey Carignan. Courtmanche denied Martin in front with 2:21 left and the Westie Sharks were closer to the title.
“We had never beaten them before, and this is the best place to beat them for the first time,” Courtmache said. “We just stayed focused.”
The Westie Sharks took over play in the second period, scoring three times in a span of 9:47 for a 3-1 advantage. Froehlich sparked the Westie Sharks, scoring the first two goals and fellow sophomore Taylor Nowak extended the margin to a pair of goals.
“We had a bad second period,” Hamden coach Mike Callan said. “We did not play very smart hockey in the second period. We did not play well as a team and that cost us. We made some costly mistakes. Give them credit. They capitalized. Coach (Erin) Blake and Coach (Jocey) Morrell do a great job. They deserve it.”
After Brooke McNabola was stopped in close, Froehlich evened the game at one just a short time later when she took a perfect pass from Nowak and one-timed a shot past Spiro just 1:09 into the second period. Spiro came up big in the middle period for Hamden, turning aside 18 shots, but the Westie Sharks scored twice more.
Froehlich gave West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy a 2-1 lead when she knocked in a rebound of a shot by Jianna Cohrs with 3:44 gone by, before Nowak capped the second period scoring spree with a rebound goal off a shot by Celina Condon with 4:01 left in the second.
“This feels great,” Froehlich said. “In the past years, West Haven has not won against Hamden. This was a lot of team work and a lot of communication on and off the ice.”
Hamden controlled play from the start in the opening period, taking the first ten shots on goal until Nowak finally got the Westie Sharks in the shot column with 7:50 remaining in the opening period.
During the initial 10 shots of the game, Hamden took a 1-0 lead when Gould’s shot eluded Courtmanche 2:52 into the game.
Courtmanche finished the opening period with 15 saves, including a dynamic save on a Martin shot from the slot with 8:25 remaining. A one-timer by Klesyk was also turned aside by Courtmanche with 2:02 remaining in the opening period.
The Westie Sharks were able to gain some momentum at the end of the first period, holding off the Green Dragons on a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:51. Nowak had the best scoring opportunity in that time frame as she went the length of the ice, but was turned aside by Spiro.