BRATTLEBORO -- Colonel coach Linda Burke and U-32 coach Emilie Clark had something in common Saturday afternoon as each of their varsity hockey teams battled it out on the ice in a playdown at Memorial Park.
The players that make up each team, gave everything they had in their most grueling match of their respective seasons.
"It was our hardest fought game this year," said coach Clark, whose team moves on to face Harwood on Wednesday in the quarters. "The difference today is that we came in with a game plan. We knew we’d have a chance if we could mark Maddie Rollins out of the game."
Clark assigned Emily George and Stacy Woolaver to handle the difficult task of containing Rollins. The senior Colonel captain put up a good fight, but in the end, U-32’s strategy had paid off, and the Raiders beat the Colonels 3-2.
In their first regular season showdown, the Colonels shutout the Raiders, 2-0.
The game started out slow, but gradually picked up speed after U-32 scored two back-to-back goals in the first period. Meghan Wingate and Megan Ryan tried to put their shots in low against Colonel goalie Alex Fellows, and were denied. But George found a small opening, and scooted the puck into the corner, unassisted, with three minutes to go.
The next Raider goal came just a minute later when Metta Sairs slapped hers in from the slot, with Ryan on the assist.
"After that, it took us a while to get going again," said coach Burke. "We had an opportunity to get out of the zone on the first one, but it slipped through our fingers."
Down by two, the Colonels came charging out in the second period.
While U-32 was busy still tailing a relentless Rollins at the start of the second period, Brattleboro’s Greta Pellerin gently tapped in a behind-the-back, no-look goal after a feed from Rebecca Potter and Kellie Schiller at the 13:30 mark, to make it 2-1.
Woolaver responded for U-32 with strong attacks as she came down the right side, but Rollins and co-captain Rebecca Potter often got between she and Fellows. The Brattleboro goalie gloved most of those incoming blasts, until George and Rachel Ebersole decided to team up against Fellows.
Ebersole whacked a shot that bounced off Fellows’ leg pad, which rolled out to Ryan, who flicked in the Raiders’ final goal with two minutes left in the second. Brattleboro’s Potter and a lightning-quick Madison Doucette continued to go hard at the U-32 net.
And the Colonels kept the biscuit deep in U-32 territory for most of the third period, as Raider goalie Cheyenne Smith worked overtime to prevent Brattleboro from a comeback. But she couldn’t hold on forever.
Brattleboro’s Lou Lou Terwilliger got a pass off to Amber Bessette, who distracted Smith on her approach. Bessette then eased the puck to Meyru Bhanti, who locked sticks with the U-32 goaltender on the left side, but somehow managed to find the back of the Raider net.
The Colonels were thrilled, and continued their shooting onslaught, with solid attempts by Doucette, Potter, and Rollins. But the Raiders tightened up their defense for the remainder of the contest, and held the puck until the clock ran down.
"It was a tough break, but it was a good season," concluded Burke. "They’re a great group of kids, and it’s been an honor to coach them."
David Aquino can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.