After bowing out in the quarterfinals three seasons ago, and the semifinals the past two years, Worcester Academy finally made it to the Girls Prep Division 2 championship game.
And, they were’t going to let this opportunity slip away.
The Hilltoppers got up to a 3-0 lead early in the second period and hung on for a 5-3 win over Gunnery to win the 2017 NEPSAC Girls D2 Prep title, the first in the school’s history.
The win culminates what has been an impressive building project by head coach Kevin Zifcak and his staff.
“We have been improving and getting closer each year,” he said. “We have had great leaders in the program and each year our kids play the game the right way. They backcheck as hard as they go in the offensive end. They take pride in being talented, but are also extremely smart players.”
Defenseman Tia Martignetti scored early in the first period, assisted by Alexis Cagan, to give Worcester (20-6-1) a quick 1-0 lead, an advantage that was doubled later in the stanza when Carly Daly connected on a penalty shot.
Early in the second period, Emma Crocker scored to make it a 3-0 game.
Mya Berretta got the Highlanders on the board at the 3:03 juncture to close Gunnery to within 3-1, but before the period would come to a close, Taylor Brown notched a big goal for Worcester, assisted by Micaela Sindoris and Morgan Mordini, making it a 4-1 game heading into the third period.
“We knew Gunnery was going to come out hard in the third period,” Zifcak said. “Giving up that early second goal rattled us a little, but the girls continued to battle and stay strong on their sticks. Gunnery is an excellent team, but our girls, starting with (goalie) Julia Pelletier, made enough plays in the third period to get the win.”
Berretta’s second goal of the game at 1:37 of the third period cut the margin to 4-2, and that was followed up by a goal from Noemi Neubauerova, assisted by Berretta. All of a sudden it was a 4-3 game.
But Gunnery would get no closer, and Daly sealed the deal with an empty net tally, assisted by Cagan and Sindoris, with 1:17 to play.
“Our two leading scorers (Sindoris and Crocker) were tremendous throughout the playoffs, but one key was the fact that we got additional scoring from Daly, Taylor Brown, Mordini and Sydney Lapointe,” Zifcak said. “As well as contributions from our defensemen. Each of our three lines had some good opportunities the last two games, which gave us momentum to build off.”