St. Paul’s School can call itself New England girls hockey champions for the first time in School history.
The girls varsity hockey team (22-4-2) capped off a remarkable tournament run with a 6-2 victory over No. 5 seed Pomfret in the NEPSAC Division 1 tournament finals on March 8 at the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass.
“We struggled with injuries and sickness at the end of the year,” said head coach Heather Farrell. “When the playoffs rolled around, we were healthy again and got hot at the right time.”
The title game was much closer than indicated by the final score. Both teams came out of the gate fast, with co-captain Bridget Carey ’15 scoring for the Big Red just 37 seconds into the game, followed by a Pomfret goal 43 seconds later. SPS struggled to stay out of the box in the first period, committing three penalties. The team’s penalty kill held strong and, as a bonus, provided some offense, with Carey scoring her second of the game – shorthanded – to give the Big Red a 2-1 advantage.
St. Paul’s made it 3-1, thanks to an Izzy Stoddard ’17 tally in the second period. Pomfret kept things close with a goal 1:03 into the third. However, Pomfret was unable to overcome penalties as the Big Red scored a power-play goal off the stick of Gillis Frechette ’18 to make it 4-2.
St. Paul’s widened the gap late in the game, with Frechette adding an empty-net goal with 1:44 remaining, and Carey capping off an impressive performance by completing the hat trick 40 seconds later to give the Big Red the 6-2 victory.
Goalie Kerri St. Denis ’15 was outstanding in net, making 28 saves to help SPS earn the New England title. The co-captain was impressive throughout the Big Red’s three-game run through the tournament, stopping 88 of the 90 shots she faced.
“When I’m in the zone, I can feel it,” said St. Denis. “I could feel how well I was playing and how it was impacting my team. It gave me so much confidence.”
A change in style of play this season helped the Big Red get over the hump of the semifinals for the first time in three years. They relied more on effort, which Carey believes played a big part in their championship run.
“In years past, we relied a lot on skill,” the captain explained. “This year it was a hard-working team. We grinded.”
Farrell instilled a new philosophy for the team – to try and score early, then defend those leads. It was a strategy that worked well in the first two rounds of the tournament, with shutouts over perennial nemesis No. 3 Nobles (2-0) and No 2. Williston Northampton (1-0) in which the game-winning goals were notched in the first period.