By LESLEY GRAHAM
The Ocean City High School hockey team lost a heartthrob to a visit to Haddonfield on Saturday and fell 3-2 in extra time.
The loss was the first for the Red Raiders this season, dropping their record to 4-1, while Haddonfield improves to 5-1.
Scoring for the Red Raiders were junior Olivia Vanesko with an assist from Tara McNally and senior Nya Gilchrist with an assist from Sophia Ruh. Ocean City’s junior goalkeeper, Nora Bridgeford, had four saves on the day.
In what was a game of back and forth action, with momentum swings dictating the majority of scoring opportunities, Ocean City came first on the board in the diminishing seconds of the first quarter.
The Red Raiders got a corner opportunity, with McNally throwing the ball into the circle. While Haddonfield fought to get the ball in front of the goal, Vanesko was able to find the back of the goal, giving Ocean City a 1-0 lead.
The next two quarters would remain scoreless, with both teams receiving penalty corners, but excellent defense kept the teams off the board.
When the fourth quarter got underway, Ocean City was 15 minutes away from a win against a tough opponent. With 7:37 left on the clock, Haddonfield was not about to go down without a fight and finally found the back of the net to level the match at 1-1.
Less than two minutes later, Ocean City immediately answered back on a corner opportunity, with senior captain Nya Gilchrist taking advantage of a beautiful pass from fellow senior captain Sophia Ruh. Ocean City was again in the lead with less than 6 minutes to play.
In what was a thrilling last five minutes, the Red Raiders kept calm and rallied the lead in their favor.
When the last seconds of the clock tick, Haddonfield got one last corner. Running out of time, Haddonfield was able to find the back of the goal on a raised ball over the goalkeeper, even the score and send the game into overtime.
For high school hockey, overtime consists of a sudden 10-minute victory period in which each team plays six players plus a goalkeeper.
Ocean City won the coin toss and was able to get the ball to start, get a good look at the cage, but couldn’t finish. The next six minutes would go back and forth, mirroring the entire game.
As the minutes diminished, Haddonfield got a corner kick and with 3:21 to go into extra time, the win from behind completed the win.
Ocean City head coach Kelsey (Mitchell) Burke took pride in the efforts of her teams.
We knew we would get a quality game out of it. They’re a good opponent, so it was a very good, intense, high-level game, Burke said.
With the shortened season, it was important for Burke to schedule tougher opponents when they got the chance.
We plan these games to be challenged, and we were, she said. We feel the momentum on the field fluctuate and we would of course like to attack for longer possessions, but against tough teams like Haddonfield that could be more difficult.
Burke also highlighted senior captain Tara McNally’s play with her consistent midfield play throughout the game and second left back Andi Helphenstine’s play.
Andi played in poise for over her years and helped the team immensely today, Burke said.
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