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  • Hartford's Maddi Willey drives past Bellows Falls' Nola Sciacca during their game on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in White River Junction, Vt. Both teams remained undefeated, playing to a 0-0 draw. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Hartford assistant coach Gail Patch, left, and head coach Heather Scudder prepare for overtime during their game with Bellows Falls on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 in White River Junction, Vt. The game ended in a draw. Scudder is in her 34th year of coaching and Patch in her 31st. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

  • Hartford's Alice Piper fires on Bellows Falls goalie Mary Wallace in overtime during their game on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 in White River Junction, Vt. The game ended in a 0-0 draw. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Jennifer Hauck

  • Hartford players Hailey Vanasse, left, Nedra Dwinell, Kamryn Brower and Maddi Willey cheer before taking the field during the overtime period of their game with Bellows Falls on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 in White River Junction, Vt. Both teams are undefeated, with the game ending in a 0-0 draw. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/28/2022 8:21:57 PM
Modified: 9/28/2022 8:21:58 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — This year’s Hartford High field hockey team may be young, but the Hurricanes are growing up fast.

Heather Scudder, in her 34th year as head coach, said before the season that it would take time for this group to come together. Six seniors, four of them all-state honorees, graduated from a 2021 squad that reached the program’s first state final since 2013. This year, co-captains Alice Piper and Nedra Dwinell are Hartford’s only seniors.

“We had such good chemistry last year, and I just wanted to keep the morale up,” Piper said. “We’ve all done a great job of staying connected.”

And yet, the Hurricanes came out looking like a veteran team right away. They’ve roared to a 5-0-1 record thus far, one of three VPA Division II teams without a loss entering Wednesday.

The Canes opened the season with a 1-0 road win over U-32 in a rematch of last year’s VPA Division II semifinals, with the Madi’s — junior Madi Willey and sophomore Madi Barwood — teaming up for the game’s lone goal.

Hartford followed that up with a pair of blowouts — 9-1 over Brattleboro, 7-1 over Fair Haven. That set up a local interstate showdown on the turf field at Hanover, which also came in undefeated amidst a bevy of postponements, on Sept. 17.

For three quarters, it appeared the Bears were on their way to a fourth straight 1-0 win to open the year. But 30 seconds into the final period, Barwood redirected a crossing pass from Willey into the cage for the first goal conceded by Hanover all season. That sent the game to overtime, where Willey’s second assist of the contest found Piper to give the Hurricanes their first win in the last six meetings against Hanover.

“That was a huge win. Our motivation was (athletic director) Jeff Moreno telling us he would buy us pizza if we won,” sophomore goalkeeper Paige Vielleux said. “I was hoping for (this start), but I definitely didn’t expect it. We are a better team emotionally than we were last year, and we’re really good physically.”

After a 3-0 win at St. Johnsbury, another team Hartford defeated in last year’s playoffs, the Canes welcomed Bellows Falls to White River Junction on Tuesday. The Terriers were in Division III as recently as 2016 but have made the last four Division I finals, winning two of them, and entered having outscored their opposition 26-1 through four games.

Hartford, which came in with a nearly-as-impressive 22-3 goal differential, was ready for the challenge, particularly on defense. Vielleux, with her “lightning-quick reflexes,” as Scudder put it, came up huge time and time again with 15 saves, and sophomore Paige Trombley helped keep things under control in the back line.

The Hurricanes kept Bellows Falls out of the cage despite giving up nine penalty corners but could not produce a goal themselves and settled for a 0-0 tie, leaving both teams’ unbeaten records intact.

Two of Hartford’s three regular-season losses last year were to the Terriers, with the third coming to Hanover.

“They have been the best team in (southern Vermont) for the last six or seven years,” Scudder said. “Both teams squandered some opportunities. I wouldn’t call it a pretty game, but it was a fair result.

“We did lose a lot, but what we retained were a year older and a year better.”

Barwood, also an ice hockey and lacrosse standout, has paced the Canes’ offense with eight goals — four of them in the rout of Brattleboro — and four assists. Willey may have just two goals, but her team-high nine assists include three each against Brattleboro and Fair Haven and two in the win over Hanover.

Just six games in, Hartford has erased any thought of 2022 being a rebuilding year, and the Hurricanes’ are eyeing a return trip to the University of Vermont’s Moulton Winder Field for another shot at a championship. Even if they don’t get there this year, the Canes’ youth movement figures to give Hartford and its longtime coach more chances in the near future.

“It’s never an easy road to the finals. Once you are at the finals, my job is done,” Scudder said. “Everybody knows we lost four all-Vermont players, and they did everything, (but) I’m keeping my calendar on Nov. 5 open.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.


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