The Hall-Conard girls hockey team hosted Wilton Monday night at Veterans Memorial Ice Rink in West Hartford.
By Paul Palmer
The Hall-Conard WarChiefs girls hockey team seems to be coming together at just the right time of the year. Playing their second-to-last regular season game of the year, they demonstrated team play, solid defense, and timely scoring to win their 12th game of the season in a 5-0 victory over Wilton.
The WarChiefs have lost just once in their last 10 games, and Monday night, Hall-Conard got off to another strong start, taking the opening faceoff into the attack zone and holding it there with good scoring chances. Their efforts paid off just over five minutes in when Anna Kahl came in off the blue line, picked up a loose puck, and let it fly on goal.
Wilton goalie Emily Johnson got a piece of it, but the puck dropped down, just crossing the goal line.
McGann came in with 24 goals scored in her senior season and appeared to have scored her 25th when her shot from the right wing looked to have gone in, and then out, of the net. The officials conferred and ruled that the shot did not actually go in.
Hall-Conard did have one more goal in them in the first when McGann circled behind the net with the puck and found Grace Cho alone in the slot. Cho made no mistake with the glove-side wrister to make it a 2-0 lead.
As the second period began, the ice tilted towards the visitors who had the better of play and possession to start. If not for solid play in net from goalie Sofia Levesque, the Hall-Conard lead could have been lost. Levesque – who’s only been playing goal since her freshman season – denied the Warriors Natalia Richardson’s bid early on. She then went on to make three big saves – off her shoulder, off her blocker, and then talking one on the crest that she smothered. The home team was be out-shot 10-8 in the period after allowing just two shots on goal in the first.
Levesque got a lot of help all night from senior defender Sam Haubrich who was a shot-blocking machine. “I felt at least four,” said Haubrich. Her top play may have come when she perfectly played a Wilton 2-on-1, breaking up the attempted pass across the ice.
“I’m always nervous on those,” said Haubrich. “I learn from each one and try to avoid making a mistake.”
Her stellar play all season has also helped Levesque play a more comfortable game . “Any time Sam’s on the ice, I have a sigh of relief, knowing she’s got my back,” said Levesque of Haubrich.
With the momentum appearing to shift away from them, Hall-Conard was the beneficiary of some hard work and some puck luck that added up to more goals. First it was Emma Marcella being in the right spot to knock in a pass from Maggie Samela at 5:43. Two minutes later, Samela found Grace Ganey in front for a goal.
The play started on a faceoff, with the puck bouncing into group of players, before Samela got a handle on it and slid the pass across. Moments later, Levesque made her best save of the night when she stopped a breakaway bid by Isabell DiNanno as she slid across the crease to the right post and took away the lower third of the net.
With a 4-0 lead entering the final 15 minutes, there were two things left for Hall-Conard to accomplish: maintain the shutout win and get McGann that elusive 25th goal. Her teammates seemed to be feeding her opportunities in the first two periods, but Johnson had been her equal.
Two and a half minutes into the period, McGann would get her 25th goal on a play that typified her work ethic.
The WarChiefs cleared the puck from their own zone on a banked pass along the far boards. McGann, who was at center ice, circled back, played the bounce and path of the puck perfectly, picked it up, crossed the blue line and deked Johnson before depositing the forehand shot into the now open net.
“Twenty-five was not something I thought about going into the season,” said McGann. “I just wanted to enjoy my senior season.”
From there defense would hold up, including killing off a pair of late penalties, to get the shutout.
McGann – a second-year captain – praised her netminder after the win. “There were at least three times she stopped them when I thought they were gonna score. She kept us in it.”
The feeling is mutual as the junior goalie knows how much McGann’s leadership on and off the ice means. “Bridget is a great captain. I would hate to play against her,” Levesque said.
But it is the fact that the WarChiefs do have to face McGann every day at practice that is their secret weapon according to their coach. “Her work ethic is unbelievable,” coach Brett Soucy said of his senior forward. “What she does in game is what she does in practice. Our players have to face her every day and they get better every day.”
Things only get tougher for Hall-Conard moving forward. Ranked sixth in the state right now, they face fifth-ranked East Catholic on Friday. From there it will be the CCC Tournament and then the State Tournament.
But Soucy has a lot of faith in his group. “They have worked so hard to get here. They are not just a group of talented players; they are a team.”
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