STAMFORD — Greenwich Academy knew it couldn’t let down for a second Saturday against a Vermont Academy team that captured the NEPSAC Division II hockey championship last season.
And there was certainly no let-up in the Gators in one of their biggest matchups to date.
Consistent on both ends of the ice throughout, Greenwich Academy began the new year by skating to an impressive 4-3 win over Vermont Academy at Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford.
With its third straight win, GA improved its record to 5-3-1.
Junior forward Eliza Bowman registered two goals, while senior forward Grace Curran and freshman forward Hamilton Doster recorded one goal apiece for Greenwich Academy, which never trailed.
“It was our first game back after the break and our team came out flying,” GA coach Erin Brawley said. “That’s the way we left off the year with two big wins at the St. George’s Tournament. This was a great team effort. We were battling in the corners and working hard for the puck.”
Riley Walsh, Jaz Creamer and Danielle McCarthy tallied for Vermont Academy (5-3-1), which faced a two goal deficit twice, but pulled to within a goal each time.
“Last year, we lost to them 7-1, so we knew it was going to be a hard game,” said GA senior Bobbi Roca, who played defense Saturday in the absence of Paige Keating, who was out sick. “We just knew we had to put it all on the ice. We were also missing players who were sick, but we had some players step up and bring our energy up.”
Curran snapped a shot past shot from between the circle past Vermont Academy’s goalie, giving the Gators a 1-0 lead with 13:41 left in the first period. Freshman forward Lindsay Hasapis got the puck to Curran, who was all alone in front of the net.
After Creamer tallied off a one-timer in front at the 8:32 mark of the opening period, Bowman knocked in a rebound with 6:08 to go in the first period, giving GA a 2-1 edge. The Gators outshot Vermont 10-5 in the first period and held a 19-6 shots-on-goal advantage after two periods.
“I think it was important that we started strong coming off our break from school,” said GA junior forward Grace Schulze, who made her presence felt all over the ice. “We were all excited to get back out there, knowing if we started the year with a win, it would motivate us because we have a tough week coming up.”
Doster’s goal from close in with 24.2 seconds remaining in the second period put GA on top, 3-1. Vermont Academy tallied twice during the third period, while Greenwich Academy received a clutch goal from Bowman, with Doster and Ada Shaffer assisting on the tally.
With the Wildcats putting traffic in front of the net, McCarthy tipped in Gabrielle Wood’s slap shot from the point, bringing her team to within 3-2. Gathering the puck just below the left face-off circle off a pass from Shaffer, Bowman one-timed the puck inside the right post, making it 4-2 with 6:41 to go in the final period.
The defending New England champions didn’t fold though. Walsh’s goal at the 3:59 mark of the third period cut Greenwich Academy’s lead to 4-3.
Freshman Emily Greenhaw was stellar in goal for GA, registering 11 saves, two of which came during the final minute of play, as the Wildcats attempted to score the equalizer. The Gators outshot the Wildcats, 27-12.
“Getting the puck to the point was huge for us and we did a really good job of attacking the rebounds and just getting to the net,” Roca said. “Any win will help and beating a good team like Vermont Academy was huge for us.”
Said Schulze, who along with Curran and Bowman, helped spark the squad on the offensive end: “Starting from the moment the puck dropped the key for us was moving the puck quickly and keeping our head up. We worked as a unit and passed the puck well.”
Roca and Cameron Brower helped pace GA defensively in front of Greenwshaw.
“Vermont Academy is a great team, but every they scored, we came back with a goal, which was key,” Brawley said. “That’s the effort we needed.”
GA has home games at Chelsea Piers against Hotchkiss School on Wednesday (3:30 p.m.) and Canterbury School Friday (6 p.m.). Then the Gators have a string of seven consecutive road games, beginning with a matchup against Millbrook School on Jan. 19.
GREENWICH ACADEMY 4, VERMONT ACADEMY 3
VERMONT ACADEMY 1 0 2 — 3
GREENWICH ACADEMY 2 1 1 — 4
Goals: VA — Riley Walsh, Jaz Creamer, Danielle McCarthy; GA — Eliza Bowman 2, Grace Curran, Hamilton Doster; Assists: VA — Walsh, Gabrielle Wood, Caroline Keller; GA — Lindsay Hasapis, Kayla Ketchabaw, Bobbi Roca, Ada Shaffer, Doster; Goalies: GA — Emily Greenhaw (11 saves); VA (23 saves).