BURLINGTON – Going up against the top team in the state, the No. 3 Missisquoi girls hockey team had a tall task ahead of it during Wednesday’s Division II championship game at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
The Green Knights have been known for their stingy defense all year and not letting much get to freshman goalie Becca Tudor.
The defense continued to hold up during the final, as it only allowed six shots to reach Tudor in net and only one or two real good opportunities.
In the end, an early powerplay goal by top-seeded Rice was the difference, as it won its first state championship with a 1-0 victory by using its speed on the bigger ice surface.
“Rice is just a better skating team than we are,” said Missisquoi coach Wynn Paradee. “They are quicker than us and when put us on the bigger ice, the quicker team really shows up. It really showed up a lot more here than it did in Highgate or Cairns and gave up a little bit.”
While on the powerplay, Brynn Murray intercepted the puck behind the Thunderbirds net and chipped a shot from behind the net on goal. Anisa Tarrant got just enough of the puck to knock it across the goal line for the early 1-0 lead with over five minutes left in the first period.
The lead stuck, as Rice rattled 25 shots on goal throughout the game as opposed to the Thunderbirds six, including zero shots in the third period.
“The best team simply won tonight,” said Paradee. “We didn’t get any shots on in the third period and any time we got the puck on our sticks tonight, someone was on them or blocking the lane, which made things very difficult for us to get going.”
Missisquoi had a couple chances spread throughout the game it could have scored on. In the first period, Adrianna Dostie corralled a puck behind the net and found Tudor out of position. Her wraparound attempt didn’t find its mark with a number of sticks in the crease to hold the Thunderbirds scoreless.
The second chance of the game came when Olivia Thayer skated to center ice off the bench and took a pass for a mini-breakaway. She got a good chance on Tudor, but a solid backcheck forced a low shot that was saved with the pad by Tudor.
“We were hoping for a turnover deep in the zone to turn into a scoring chance,” said Paradee. “We had two good chances to score, and to beat this team, we had to score those two goals and unfortunately we didn’t.”
Thayer ended the game with four of the teams shots with Alyssa Audet and Dostie adding the other two for Missisquoi.
It was a bit game for Makyla Bombardier in net for the Thunderbirds, as she finished with 24 saves to give her team a chance at the very end.
“The game could have been out of reach in the first five minutes if it weren’t for Makyla,” said Paradee. “You can’t say enough about her. You wouldn’t even know it’s the same player when you see where she was last year to how far she has come this year. Her quickness has improved, her blocker is good and she was solid out there tonight.”
The Thunderbirds finished the season with a 15-7-2 record and had quite the journey from the beginning of the season Wednesday’s title game.
“To get to this point, I couldn’t be more proud of the kids and told them on the ice, they have nothing to be ashamed of,” said Paradee. “This year we didn’t have any freshmen, and started off good because we didn’t have to acclimate any new players to the varsity level. We really turned the season around after back-to-back ties and from that point we played with an us against the world mentality. From then on, we fought for each other more and played great team hockey and it was a great run we had.”