There is little time for rest in the world of NEPSAC girls ice hockey, as one by one, the formidable foes just keep coming at you.
Greenwich Academy is certainly aware of the conference’s power.
“We’ve been playing some of the top teams in New England,” GA coach Erin Brawley said. “There is only one division in the NEPSAC this year, so now we are up against all the Class A teams trying to make the playoffs. We’re playing some of the best teams in the region, like Loomis Chaffee and Choate Rosemary Hall — their are fabulous hockey teams in the NEPSAC.”
The Gators skated against Loomis Chaffee School on Friday night at Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford and the result wasn’t what they were hoping for, with the Pelicans registering a 7-0 victory, behind a four-goal second period.
Loomis Chaffee, one of the top teams in the NEPSAC is 11-5-1 overall and is in position to qualify for the NEPSAC Tournament, while Greenwich Academy (3-7-3) must rally to make the postseason. Last season saw the Gators qualify for the NEPSAC Division II Championships, making it to the quarterfinals.
“We definitely still have a shot,” Brawley said. “We have a lot of games in February (seven games remaining), so we’re hoping to get back into the groove and get some wins.”
A deep and experienced Loomis squad presented a tough challenge to GA on Friday. Senior Anna Hurd recorded a hat trick for Loomis, which broke the game open in the second period, after tallying twice late in the opening period.
“Going up against a team like that, we knew we had to climb a mountain,” Brawley said. “We didn’t quit until the end of the game, which is the biggest thing I can ask from our team.”
The Gators hope to get back on the winning track next week when it hosts New Canaan at Chelsea Piers in an intriguing non-conference matchup on Wednesday New Canaan is one of the best FCIAC squads. GA then plays host to Rye Country Day School on Friday.
“We are in a bit of a lull, but I am so proud of our team,” said GA senior tri-captain Grace Schulze, one of the squad’s top playmakers. “This team never gives up, we always fight until the end, even when the puck isn’t bouncing our way. Even though the score didn’t go our way today (against Loomis) this was a game you can learn from.”
Indeed, playing such powerhouse opponents have enabled GA’s players to sharpen their skills.
“Playing against these hard teams that work really well together helps you learn,” Schulze said. “For example, you see how fast Loomis moves the puck, gives you something to try to achieve later in the season.”
Added senior tri-captain Sydney Pittignano: “When another team is stronger and better than us, it makes us stronger as a team.”
Sophomore Hamilton Doster and senior Eliza Bowman are the leading scorers on the season for the Gators, who have also been by freshman Ellie Volpe and sophomore Lindsay Hasapis.
“They are definitely pushing the pace offensively and reaping the benefits of hard play from everyone surrounding them,” Brawley said.
Ava Butz (sophomore), junior Ada Shaffer, sophomore Jordan Pittignano and sophomore Cameron Brower have paced the squad defensively in front of goalies Liana Seeley, Emily Greenhaw and Stephanie Ionescu.
“Our captains are doing a great job of keeping the team up, which makes them great captains,” Brawley said. “We know its going to be physical each game, so we are trying to be aggressive and push the pace of the game.”
Schulze, a three-sport star at the school, will play field hockey at Princeton University in the fall.
“It is super exciting, I’m really looking forward to it,” Schulze said. “I like playing ice hockey and lacrosse too, so I’m just taking in every moment and having fun, since I know in college, I will be focusing on one sport. This year, I want to make the most of every hockey and lacrosse game I play.”
Following their games against New Canaan and Rye Country Day next week, the Gators will be back in NEPSAC action against visiting Taft School on Feb. 12.
“We want to get some wins on the board, keep pushing and do all we can to improve,” Sydney Pittignano said. “Our team has become so close and we feel we are improving.”