Photo: Andrew Bennett / Contributed
The Suffield co-op girls’ ice hockey had dealt with defending CCC champion Simsbury three times during the regular season. The result was three wins at Simsbury.
However, that experience didn’t hurt the Wildcats when they faced Simsbury again in the conference final.
Junior Kylie Downs scored the winning goal with an assist from junior Konelin Wierdsma 9:59 in extra time as the Wildcats captured the CCC Championship with a 3-2 win over the best-placed Simsbury in the final at the International Skating Center in Simsbury at March 26.
Suffield (9-6) found the charm against the Trojans for the fourth time (11-2-1).
Of Suffield’s three losses to Simsbury, two were by a single goal and the third was a 3-0 shutout. The two games with one goal gave the Wildcats more confidence as they entered the final.
Based on the score and play of the first three games, we knew we could compete with Simsbury, said Suffield coach Mike Downs. We had to appear from the first team and play through to the last team of the third period.
Each team had a one-goal lead in regulation – the Trojans 1-0 in the first period and the Wildcats 2-1 after two stanzas – and each tied for extra time.
As has been the case for much of the season, Suffields second goalkeeper Teagan Mabrysmith was great in the title shift, with 38 saves to lead the defensive effort. Mabrysmith has collected 90 saves in three playoff games.
Our goaltending and defense have kept us on the winning side in close games all season, Downs said. Teagan Mabrysmith received 40 shots and stopped except two. Konelin Wierdsma was the key for us to not only keep the puck out of the net, but also get it to the net on the OT game winner,
Suffield’s victory turned it into two different CCC champions in as many years. The conference added girls’ ice hockey to the 2019-2020 season and before that, CCC teams played as part of the SCC North.
Simsbury won the first CCC Championship last winter, beating the Avon co-op 3-0 and having also won the last SCC North crown in 2018/19.
The Wildcats team is a cooperative of seven schools, including Suffield, Ellington, EO Smith, Granby, Canton, Windsor and Northwestern. Despite the difficulties dealing with CVID-19 protocols, especially with players coming from different schools, Coach Downs said the Wildcats handled it well.
We huddled in every workout, remotely of course, and we talked about making smart decisions both on and off the ice, Downs said. Master the things we can. If smart decisions were made individually at home, at school, with friends and on the ice rinks, we could get through this as a team.
Suffield rode a bit of a roller coaster on the ice, opening the season with five wins in the first six games before losing five consecutive games to drop below .500. The Wildcats ended the year with a 7-1 win over Northwest Catholic to finish 6-6 and take the No. 3 seed for the tournament.
Suffield then defeated No. 6 Northwest Catholic / Mercy 4-1 and No. 2 Avon 1-0 in the playoffs to earn a bid for the CCC Final and set up a fourth showdown with Simsbury.
The Trojans scored first for a 1-0 lead over a goal from Nicole Loftus, assisted by Thora Clark, just 43 seconds after the opening trap. The Wildcats leveled with 2:44 to play in the first period, when Janine Eitel found it net.
In the second period, Natalie Ewald put the Cats ahead when she buried a shot at full speed with the defender close behind, Downs said.
Loftus scored her second goal, assisted by Molly Walsh, and tied the score again with 4:33 in the regulation.
Kylie Downs then ended it in favor of extra time, as the Wildcats took home the crown.
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