WEST HAVEN — The West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy co-op has a chance to make it a trifecta.
And they’ll be doing it on very short rest.
The Westie-Sharks (18-2) knocked off Notre Dame-Fairfield co-op Thursday night, 3-0, at Bennett Rink in the Southern Connecticut Conference South Division girls’ hockey semifinals to earn a berth in the finals at 7:15 Friday night, also at Bennett. The West Haven/SHA co-op will meet the Amity/North Haven/Cheshire co-op in the championship game.
“The girls have been bringing their A-game and we’re really meshing as a unit,” West Haven/SHA coach Erin Blake said. “Today was a great game. Hopefully, they bring the same mentality tomorrow.”
West Haven/SHA, the top seed in the tournament, defeated Notre Dame (12-10) twice during the regular season, once in January and the other time just 12 days earlier, by 4-1 and 2-0 scores, respectively.
This time, West Haven/SHA dominated the game from the opening faceoff. After an up and down first couple of minutes, the Westie-Sharks got on the board. West Haven/SHA pinned the Lancers deep into their own end and MacKenzie Gardner took advantage of it when she blasted a shot from the right point past Notre Dame goalie Bethany Karp (27 saves) to make it 1-0 just 3:32 into the contest.
“She was screened and never saw it,” Notre Dame co-op coach Kerri Rowland said. “When she can’t see it, she can’t stop it.”
Just over two minutes later, West Haven/SHA got some insurance as Jenna Hunt sent a pass from behind the net out in front to Taylor Nowak, who converted it with wrist shot into he left side of the net past Karp.
“It (the 2-0 lead) helped settle the girls down,” Blake said. “NDF is always a big rivalry for us and is a hard-fought game. No matter what they give us a run for our money every time we play them.
Meanwhile, West Haven/SHA goalie Kyleen Crowe (25 saves) was hardly tested in the first period before Notre Dame gave her a couple tough shots in the second period.
“When I see my see my team score, it pumps me up,” Crowe said. “I want to protect the net and do it for them.”
Hunt picked up another assist midway through the second period as the Westie-Sharks picked up another insurance goal. She fed C.C. Condon with a pass right in front of the net and Condon put the puck past Karp to make it 3-0.
Crowe made that stand up as the West Haven/SHA defense didn’t allow the Lancers to get back into the game. And of all things, Crowe did it against her club hockey team coach in Rowland.
“It’s a friendly rivalry and I like to play my best,” Crowe said.
Meanwhile, Rowland said that getting behind early didn’t help.
“We were in a hole in a hurry,” Rowland said. “We were looking for that first one and we knew we’d have to score to win, but it never came.”
West Haven/SHA outshot Notre Dame, 30-25.
WEST HAVEN/SHA CO-OP 3, ND-FAIRFIELD CO-OP 0
NDFF 0 0 0 — 0
WH/SHA 2 1 0 — 3
First Period: WH/SHA: MacKenzie Gardner (unassisted), 2:42; WH/SHA: Taylor Nowak (Jenna Hunt), 3:54; Second Period: WH/SHA: C.C. Condon (Jenna Hunt), 9:00; Shots: WH/SHA 30, NDFF 25; Saves: Kyleen Crowe, WH/SHA 25; Bethany Karp, NDFF 27. Records: WH/SHA, 18-2; NDFF, 12-10.