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Wasps toppled in VPA D-II girls hockey semifinal reunion

  • Ava Dodson

  • Ava Dodson

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 12/7/2019 9:54:56 PM
Modified: 12/7/2019 9:54:53 PM

WOODSTOCK — The Woodstock High girls hockey team’s season got off to a slow start on Saturday, but the 3-1 loss to Harwood-Northfield did little to dampen the Wasps’ hopes of returning to the VPA Division II championship game in March.

Saturday’s season opener for both teams was a rematch of last year’s semifinal tilt, which the Wasps won, 5-1.

The Highlanders opened the game on the attack with extended pressure for the first few minutes before the hosts stabilized and began to create opportunities on offense.

Harwood-Northfield’s first goal — scored by Sarah Garvin with an assist from Olivia Kaplan — was scored 8:13 into the period following a faceoff near the Woodstock goal, tended by junior Ava Dodson.

The Wasps came out aggressively, with captain Sami Yates initiating several threatening breaks from behind the blue line. Forward Skylar Haley nearly scored on Highlander goalie Kaylee Thayer on a mini-breakaway 4 minutes in.

The visitors scored again 1:17 before the first intermission when Rachel Fernandez intercepted a Woodstock pass close to the goal and quickly shot it past Dodson.

It was a clean and swift first period with no penalties. the Wasps dug themselves an early hole, then opened the second period with a quick strike that seemed to catch the Highlander defense by surprise. Allie Cimis found Yates, who hooked the puck just inside the right post and past Thayer just 27 seconds into the frame.

The momentum stayed with the hosts until the game’s first penalty was called against Cimis for a body check behind the Woodstock goal.

The Wasps’ first penalty kill was successful, but they were hampered by another penalty later in the period that cost them. The hosts came within 10 seconds of another successful penalty kill when Hailey Brickey took a pass from Lyric Smith at the top of the right circle and buried in the upper corner past Dodson’s reach.

Woodstock got its first power-play opportunity late in the period but was unable to cash in.

The third period was fairly uneventful with both teams trading penalties and not much else. The Wasps nearly scored following at timeout with 1:38 left in the game, when Lizzy Peck took a puck the entire length of the ice only to be thwarted by a Thayer glove save.

Ian Coates, the Wasps’ seventh-year coach, was positive following the loss.

“I’ve got some fast skaters,” Coates said. “I’ve got some players that like to play hard. I’ve got some players that are building off of things we worked on last year, where it’s not like we’re starting from scratch every year.

“We didn’t practice the power play for maybe half an hour last week, and obviously you didn’t see a good power play, but the thing is they all understood what the power play was. We don’t have to re-teach that; we just now have to practice it.”

Dodson will have tough skates to fill with the departure of Bridgit Black, who posted 25 saves in last year’s championship loss to Missisquoi, but she’s up for the task.

“(Dodson) played about half the games last year,” Coates said. “I gave her a lot of playing time last year knowing this day was going to come.”

Dodson’s backup in goal will be Novah Conway, a newcomer to the sport. “(Conway’s) an athlete and she is going to pick it up, and it’s exciting,” Coates said.

Highlander coach Mike Vasseur said that his team wasn’t overly focused on paying back the Wasps for last year’s drubbing in the playoffs.

“It’s more about the season opener,” Vasseur said. “The teams were completely different; my team’s completely different than we were last year. And it’s about getting that first one and looking for the next one and building and learning, and from this game, we saw a lot of things we need to improve on.”

Notes: The Wasps have been steadily climbing the D-II ladder, with a quarterfinal appearance in 2016 followed by back-to-back trips to the semis prior to last year’s unprecedented breakthrough. … Coates’ squad was 8-13-3 last year and, as a No. 8 seed, was the lowest to ever make a state final. … There are five returning Woodstock players scored in double digits last season: Faye Stevens (27 points), Cimis (25), Peck (13), Kendyl Boisvert (13) and Yates (11).

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