Top-seeded Austin Prep finished off its perfect season with an MIAA Girls Division 1 state title, but it wasn’t easy.
In a battle of the two best teams in Division 1, the Cougars took down #2 Arlington 4-1. This was a 2-1 game and very much in doubt in the game’s late stages, but a huge power play goal from McKenzie Cerrato with 2:14 left gave Austin some breathing room.
On the play, Cerrato took a pass on the boards from Maeve Carey, wheeled into open space and snapped home a high-wrister through a screen. With 52 seconds left in the game, senior Isabel Hulse scored an empty-netter sending Austin Prep (27-0-0) home with a championship in its final year of MIAA play.
“We are so excited and happy to be back here,” said Austin Prep coach Stephanie Wood, whose club was to play in the 2020 state final that was cancelled due to the pandemic. “Two years and everyone’s life has been turned upside down a little bit. The stands were filled and it is playoff hockey and we are just so happy to be here first and foremost. We have been waiting a long time for this and of course there is a lot of pressure going in at 26-0 and having a target on our back. But, it is the last game of the year and getting here is so hard.”
These two teams played during the regular season in early January, with Austin Prep winning 6-1, but coming in the Cougars knew they would be facing a tough opponent.
“I have to give lots of credit to Arlington,” said Wood. “We were the one and two teams and that is what you love and exactly what you want to see in a championship game. I want to say great job and congrats to them for such a great season and to coach Mead for doing a tremendous job. Going in here, we didn’t want to think of a prior game, but I thought their goalie (Elise Rodd) played fantastic.”
Rodd was terrific, especially in the late stages of the second period and third period, keeping it a one-goal game.
Austin Prep wasted no time getting on the board in the first period as just 1:23 into the game, freshman defeseman Bree Anderson fired home a shot from the point to quickly put the Cougars on top, 1-0.
Shortly later, the Cougars upped their lead to 2-0 when senior Kathryn Karo buried a backhander from the right side after a perfect pass from Cerrato.
Arlington kept it close and didn’t let being down affect them as later in the period on a power play, they cut Austin Prep’s lead in half.
Junior Maddie Krepelka took a shot that Austin Prep goalie Lauryn Hanafin made a pad save on. Libby Corsetti then scooped up the rebound and scored to make it a 2-1 game.
The Spy Ponders played right alongside the favored Cougars. Shots were 9-9 in the first period.
Arlington took control in the second and carried a lot of the play, but were unable to capitalize on any opportunities. The Ponders held Austin’s vaunted offense without a shot on goal for the first nine minutes of the period, but were unable to get the tying goal past Hanafin.
The Cougars first shot on net in the period came with six minutes left when sophomore Madison Vittands nearly scored, but Rodd came up with an incredible save to hold the lead at 2-1.
Two minutes into the third period, Rodd continued to shine as she robbed Hulse with another outstanding save.
“In the first period we were lucky to jump on the board early,” said Wood. “In the second we were a little slow and a little behind, but in the third we came out and did what we needed to do to shut them down. She (Elise) made some great saves because I thought we could have capitalized on more chances.”
Rodd continued to stand tall keeping her team in the game making save after save in the third, but Austin Prep finally broke through on the power play when Ceratto sealed the deal. Madison Vittands had a screen in front of the Arlington netminder.
Arlington pulled the goalie with two minutes remaining and Hulse took advantage scoring the empty-netter to send Austin Prep home victorious.
“Overall, it was an awesome game by both teams and we are just so happy to come back and finish it this time,” said Wood. We were very solid on defense all year with many talented forwards and we were able to generate offense from the blue lines as well. I am so happy for Bree (Anderson), she is an up and coming freshman who has worked hard all season.”
** Story by Alexis Demopoulos