The West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy girls hockey team knew it was in for a challenge to start the 2017-2018 season, facing perennial power Darien. While the Westie Sharks held their own, it was not enough in a 4-1 loss in the season opener at the Edward L. Bennett Rink Monday evening.
“Tonight’s loss isn’t the way anyone wants to start their season, but I am still proud of the way the girls played,” West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy coach Erin Blake said. “Darien is a very strong and talented team, but the girls fought hard, keeping themselves in the game. We know what we need to work on, and we will be back at it Tuesday at practice. We can only go up from here, and that is what we plan to do.
We are a young team after losing five seniors. We are getting used to some new lines, new systems, and facing strong teams like we did tonight. I am excited for this season and to watch this team grow each practice and game. We move onto Guilford Wednesday, ready to compete.”
Despite the graduation of All-State player Gabi Prisco and a total of five seniors, the Westie Sharks return a solid nucleus this season, including ultra-talented players in sophomore Taylor Nowak, junior Celina Condon, junior Francesca Criscuolo, sophomore Megan Froehlich, and junior Veronica Lynn to name a few. Throw in the solid goaltending of Tatum Courtmanche and Kyleen Crowe, the Westie Sharks have plenty of assets returning from a team which finished 18-3-1,won the Southern Connecticut Conference title, and fell to East Catholic in the state quarterfinals a year ago.
With a solid background like that, the Westie Sharks will no longer fly under the radar, despite being young in certain areas and expecting a learning curve. West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy saw this first hand Monday evening.
This is a great group of girls,” Blake said. “We are very excited to see what this talented young team can do. We lost our five seniors who were a huge part of our team, but we have high hopes for another successful season. We want to reach the SCC Finals, make the state tournament, and win in the first round of state tournament as we fell short last year in the first round.”
Darien jumped out to a quick lead in the contest and never looked back as it took a 1-0 advantage 1 minute, 17 seconds into the contest, and added another at the 11:43 mark.
The Westies fought the entire game and cut the deficit in half when Nowak scored off an assist from Mia Celentano at the 6:39 mark of the second period.
Any momentum the Westie Sarks had quickly went away as Darien responded 42 seconds later to restore the two-goal advantage. Darien added an insurance goal in the third period to take a 4-1 lead.
Courtmanche made 19 saves in the loss for the Westie Sharks.
“Tatum (Courtmanche) played well with 23 saves,” Blake said. “Taylor (Nowak) is off to another great start with our only goal of the game, and we hope to see her beat her 30 point total from last season. Freshman Mia Celentano earned her first high school career assist as well.”
The 2017-2018 Westie Sharks will be led by senior captain Shannon Siclari, and junior assistant captains Lynn and Criscuolo.
Defensively, the Westies will be led by Lynn, sophomore Brooke McNabola, and freshman Mackenzie Gardner.
Blake will look to spread the offense around with Criscuolo centering a line of Condon and Siclari, and Nowak centering a line of Froehlich and a combination of either Celentano and Jenna Hunt.
Juniors Zoe DeFalco and Grace Plunkett will play on another solid line with freshman Hailey Alfano.
Freshman Jianna Cohrs will see time as both a forward and on defense.