Hartford girls hockey wins program’s first state championship

From left, Hartford assistant coaches Jason Gramling and Karli Swensen, head coach Kylie Young, and players Aubree Vail (9) and Flynn Moreno (44) cheer after a goal by Zoe Zanleoni propels the team into the lead during the VPA D-II girls hockey championship game against Missisquoi at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Hartford won, 5-3. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From left, Hartford assistant coaches Jason Gramling and Karli Swensen, head coach Kylie Young, and players Aubree Vail (9) and Flynn Moreno (44) cheer after a goal by Zoe Zanleoni propels the team into the lead during the VPA D-II girls hockey championship game against Missisquoi at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Hartford won, 5-3. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Hartford defenseman Braelyn Park (11) and Missisquoi forward Arika Aylward (4) crash into each other while chasing the puck during the VPA D-II girls hockey championship game at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford defenseman Braelyn Park (11) and Missisquoi forward Arika Aylward (4) crash into each other while chasing the puck during the VPA D-II girls hockey championship game at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Hartford players celebrate after winning the VPA D-II girls hockey championship game at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford players celebrate after winning the VPA D-II girls hockey championship game at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america —Alex Driehaus

Hartford athletic director Jeff Moreno hugs his daughter Flynn Moreno after her team won the VPA D-II girls hockey championship game at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford athletic director Jeff Moreno hugs his daughter Flynn Moreno after her team won the VPA D-II girls hockey championship game at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Hartford forward Emma Bazin (5) scores a goal during the VPA D-II girls hockey championship game against Missisquoi at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford forward Emma Bazin (5) scores a goal during the VPA D-II girls hockey championship game against Missisquoi at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-06-2024 4:35 PM

Modified: 03-07-2024 8:22 PM


BURLINGTON — Storylines abounded Tuesday following the Hartford High girls hockey team’s 5-3 defeat of Missisquoi in the VPA Division II title game at Gutterson Field House. It was the 30-year old program’s first state crown.

Head coach Kylie Young, a onetime Hurricanes star, can say the team is fully rebuilt after inheriting a 1-19-0 squad four years ago. Hartford had recently endured a streak of nearly 30 games without a victory, upcoming youth players were looking elsewhere and the Hurricanes hadn’t posted a winning record since 2011.

“We’ve gone from girls who play hockey to true hockey players,” Young said. “We’re passionate about getting it right on the ice.”

Sophomore Zoe Zanleoni, who notched the winning goal five minutes into the third period, has an apparent future in public speaking after inspiring her teammates with a stream-of-consciousness monologue during the first intermission.

“We’re a sports-motivated school, and that’s why I love it,” said Zanleoni, who watched Hartford’s boys hockey team claim its own title two hours later. “Our teamwork is amazing, and I wanted to win so I could throw my gloves up in the air at the end and win a championship with my teammates.”

Sophomore Flynn Moreno, whose mother, Kim, passed away on Jan. 6, shared an emotional on-ice embrace with her father, Hartford athletic director Jeff Moreno, following the triumph.

Hartford opened the scoring during the fourth minute when Zanleoni centered the puck from the right side and watched it bounce off goaltender Jadyn Lapan’s leg. The biscuit spun behind the netminder, and Madison Barwood struck out of an ensuing scramble.

Missisquoi (11-10-2) answered 15 seconds later and tallied again five minutes before the first intermission for a 2-1 lead.

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“Zoe gave us quite the talk in the locker room,” said Flynn Moreno. “She told us we were going to get it done, and then we just went and did it. Whatever was going on it our heads was gone, and we went out and did it. She pulled that out of us.”

Zanleoni backed up her fiery discourse by scoring early in the second period for a 2-2 tie. She fired over Lapan’s glove from the right circle immediately after a Barwood faceoff win.

The Thunderbirds capitalized on a dubious tripping call against Hartford’s Carsyn Weglarz seven minutes later, producing a power-play goal on a slap shot from the point for a 3-2 lead.

Hartford (16-6-1) pulled even at 3-3 a minute later and four minutes before the second intermission. Braelyn Park’s shot from the high slot deflected off Lapan’s mask, and Emma Bazin popped home the rebound.

Zanleoni scored again five minutes into the third period. She received a Park feed up the left side of the neutral zone and slid the puck past a defender at the blue line before sprinting at Lapan and beating her low and inside the near post.

“I have no stickhandling skills whatsoever, but I got through everybody because the pass from Braelyn motivated me,” Zanleoni said. “I wanted to score for her and when I did, I was shocked.”

Park added an insurance goal with two minutes to play, and the celebration was soon in full swing.

Junior Morgan Curtis, one of her team’s smallest players, found the core strength to skate about the ice while waving a gigantic Hurricanes flag.

“I think everyone thought it was going to be us rebuilding at the start of the season, but there came a point where we looked around and said we could do it,” said Moreno, part of a second forward line, none of whose members saw regular ice time last winter.

“We had a closeness as a team without having to be perfect. We made our luck this season.”

Kim Moreno died of cancer Jan. 6, and her daughter played against Burr & Burton that night. Young gathered her team in the school’s fitness center before the contest to address the situation, and Moreno’s teammates seem to have found the right mix of consoling their teammate while giving her emotional space.

“I’ve had to shut it out,” Moreno said, noting that Hartford players wear helmet stickers with her mother’s initials on them. “It’s not easy right now, but my teammates are helping me through it. Hockey is my escape and, quite frankly, I’m terrified now that it’s over.”

Young, who had only 13 players on her team, said she emphasized puck possession after the first period, instructing her skaters to move with the puck for several strides and not to feel as though they had to immediately move it elsewhere. That led to fewer turnovers and combined with Bowen’s improved goaltending down the stretch to push Hartford to victory.

Said Zanleoni: “This season was such a roller coaster, but it was all about mindset. I play for my hometown and my dad and my grandma and all the little girls who watch Hartford hockey.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.