Coming off one of its best seasons in recent memory, the West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy girls hockey team has plenty to prove in 2018-2019. Fresh off a campaign which saw the Westie Sharks post 18 victories, but fall to New Canaan in the state quarterfinals, the team is ready to again make some noise.
Led by senior captains Veronica Lynn and Francesca Criscuolo, and assistant captains in seniors Celina Condon and Kyleen Crowe, the team has a solid nucleus. Add to the mix juniors Brooke McNabola, Taylor Nowak and Megan Froehlich, and sophomores Jianna Cohrs, and Mia Celentano, and the Westie Sharks have a strong nucleus of talented players.
“Our girls have been working hard and are motivated to win after a tough loss to New Canaan in the state quarterfinals last season,” coach Erin Blake said. “We are ready to come back and prove ourselves. We take each game, win, loss, or tie, and learn from it. They have learned a lot over the course of the past year, and have set goals that they are ready to achieve. I am proud of their growth as a team and excited to see what this season holds. Their teamwork, dedication, and heart is any coach’s dream.”
Blake is well aware any good team starts with solid goaltending and even better defense. For the Westie Sharks, senior Crowe and freshman Grace Nowak will see time between the pipes, while Lynn, McNabola, sophomore Mackenzie Gardner and freshman Meghan Dupre will anchor the defense.
Offensively, the Westie Sharks will rely on seniors Criscuolo, Condon, Zoe DeFalco and Grace Plunkett, juniors Nowak and Froehlich, and sophomores Cohrs, Jenna Hunt, Celentano and Hailey Alfano.
Freshmen Maya Boyhen, Caitlin Welch and Mae Iverson will also be counted on to provide offensive punch.
Criscuolo looks to center a line with a rotation of Condon, Celentano, and Hunt, while Nowak will center Froehlich and Cohrs.
“We are excited for our talented freshman class this season,” Blake said. “They work hard, are eager to learn, and will be a great asset to our team. (Caitlin) Welch, (Maya) Boyhen, and (Mae) Iverson will see time in our rotation of forwards. (Meghan) Dupre and (Grace) Nowak will contribute immensely to our defense, Dupre as our fourth defenseman, and Nowak in the net.”
While there are plenty of team and individual goals. There is also a team goal for a group which has become a family. With the passing of Pam Gardner, the Westie Sharks lost more than just one of its biggest fans.
“The team has heavy, but full hearts and a lot to play for this season,” Blake said. “With the recent passing of one of our number one fans, West Haven High School principal, and team mom, Pam Gardner, we want to honor her memory this season.”
The Westie Sharks opened the season with a split of their first two games. In the opener Saturday night, West Haven / Sacred Heart Academy fell to Suffield co-op 3-2 in overtime, before rebounding to blank Hand 6-0 in the home opener Monday evening.
In the road contest to open the season, the Westie Sharks watched as Sophie Lupone scored twice in regulation, before Tori Geaglone scored the winner in overtime.
WH/SHA poured 38 shots on goal, but were only able to score twice as McNabola tallied each time. McNabola evened the game at one in the second period off an assist from Condon, then scored an unassisted goal with 5:28 to go to force overtime.
Crowe made 32 saves in the loss, including twelve in the third period and three in overtime.
“I was extremely proud of how the girls played,” Blake said. “Suffield is a good team. We knew that going into the game. Our girls showed up ready to play. I was proud of the way they fought hard the entire game. Moving forward, we know what we need to improve on.”
WH/SHA rebounded with a 6-0 victory over Hand Monday evening at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven. Seven different players picked up points, including freshmen Dupre and Welch.
Cohrs and Nowak led the way for the Westie Sharks with two goals and an assist apiece, while Froehlich had one goal and one assist.
WH/SHA took a commanding lead in the opening period, scoring five times. Cohrs scored off an assist from Froehlich 1:57 in for a 1-0 lead before Taylor Nowak scored off an assist from Cohrs, then set up Froehlich 13 seconds later 7:31 in for a 3-0 lead.
The Westie Sharks extended the lead to 4-0 1:22 later when Welch and Gardner assisted on Nowak’s second of the game, before Dupre scored off an assist from Criscuolo 10:19 in. Cohrs capped the scoring at the 2:07 mark of the third period with her second goal of the game.
Crowe made 14 saves and Grace Nowak four in the combined shutout.