Girls Ice Hockey
The Woodstock Academy hires new coach; plans to expand girls ice hockey program
The Woodstock Academy has hired a new girls ice hockey head coach with plans to significantly grow the program.
The Academy recently added Kat Hannah to the coaching staff and she will oversee a program that Head of School Chris Sandford said could mirror the boys prep basketball program that is currently in place.
“We have seen the impact that the prep basketball program has had on the school community and the region and we’re excited to do the same thing with the girls hockey program,” Sandford said. “We’re going to leverage it in a way that brings diversity to our school and provides our local students and students from around the world additional opportunities. We’re really excited for the future.”
The girls ice hockey program at The Woodstock Academy is the only one of its kind in Eastern Connecticut.
It features both high school and middle school athletes and participates in the Central Massachusetts girls hockey league.
“The plan is to develop two teams, a Gold and a Blue, with the Blue team playing high school competition and the Gold playing a schedule more prep in nature,” Woodstock Academy athletic director Sean Saucier said.
How fast that will happen will depend on the number of athletes who come to Woodstock Academy to play the sport.
“We started the team several years ago after it was suggested to us by the late Paul Lee and we’ve seen the program grow every year. By expanding and investing in the program, we have no doubt that the program will take off,” Sandford said.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference does not sponsor the sport and there is no state tournament.
“Because it is not a sanctioned sport by the CIAC, we have the ability to be very flexible in terms of recruiting players to play on it and developing schedules that better meet the skill level of our students,” Sandford added.
Hannah last coached the Lindenwood University at Belleville (Missouri) American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I program.
The ACHA is the organizing body for collegiate club hockey teams, most of which are fully funded by schools.
She took over the program four years ago when it was in 14th place in the nation and it quickly rose through the ranks, playing for the national championship a year ago.
Then, Lindenwood announced it was closing the Belleville campus.
“It was pretty devastating, one of the hardest things I have dealt with in my life. I built that program, was really passionate about it and had wonderful relationships with the families and the kids I recruited there. This would have been my first full year with all my recruits and the school’s closing. They merged the ACHA program to the main campus and changed the whole program. The focus is going to be on the original NCAA Division I program,” Hannah said.
It opened the door for Hannah to find her way to The Woodstock Academy.
“It’s about doing your homework and figuring out the best fit for the athlete. That’s what I want to do at (Woodstock Academy). I want to build a program where we’re improving their hockey skill and getting them to where they want to get as far as college and reaching their goals but it’s so much more than that. It’s the education and getting them prepared for the next step,” Hannah said.
Collegiate women’s ice hockey is growing, according to Hannah.
There are 44 NCAA Division I teams; 66 NCAA Div. III schools; 27 ACHA Div. I and 60-plus ACHA Div. II.
Many of those schools are on the East Coast.
“These girls will have a tremendous opportunity for exposure. I think if you build it the right way with the support of The Woodstock Academy, we can do some pretty fantastic things,” Hannah said.
Season ends for Centaurs
The enthusiasm never waned.
Before the Woodstock Academy girls hockey team’s last contest, a junior varsity game Thursday against the Pomfret School, coach Jeff Boshka gave the team a choice.
The team had two ice slots available during the week leading up to the final JV game.
Practice on Sunday, practice on Tuesday, practice both days or neither?
“I threw it out to them and everyone said they wanted to do both, even if it meant another late night which Tuesday was and everyone was there. That just shows they like each other and like to play,” Boshka said with a smile.
The Centaurs completed their first season as a member of the Central Massachusetts girls ice hockey league with a 3-8-3 overall record and a 1-2-3 record in the B Division.
“Overall, I was happy,” Boshka said. “We made some good, positive strides. It was very encouraging with the really good start and then we hit a tough road. There was the hope to pull out a few more wins.”
The Centaurs suffered two close losses early to a pair of Connecticut teams, but then hit their stride with three consecutive victories over Central Mass League opponent, Auburn, 4-3, and two consecutive wins over non-league opponent, Warwick, R.I., 2-1 and 1-0.
They followed up with a pair of ties against conference foes Leominster (2-2) and Oakmont (1-1), the game with Oakmont decided when the visiting Spartans scored in the final 31 seconds.
There is no overtime in the Central Mass League.
“It was exciting when you get a taste, playing within your conference, and you are right in it, right in the mix with everyone in the conference and hanging in there. It was great to be playing for something and seeing how we matched up against other teams,” Boshka said.
But it got a little tougher the remainder of the way.
The Centaurs lost at St. Peter-Marian (5-0), came home and suffered a 4-2 setback to Smithfield, R.I. and went back on the road and settled for a 2-all tie with Auburn.
In the last four games, the Centaurs would score only one goal.
“The goals went away and it’s a quandary as to why,” Boshka said. “We concentrated our drills on shooting and getting in front of the net, all the things you need to do to score, and there was definitely some frustration. You can only win games when you score.”
Junior Eliza Dutson was the team’s leading scorer with six goals and 10 points overall. Senior Chelsea Willis (5 points) had four goals while sophomore Sydney Haskins (6 points) added four assists.
The Centaurs also had it rougher against the Central Mass League A Division teams.
They lost to Longmeadow (8-0) and Shrewsbury (12-0) in addition to St. Peter-Marian.
“The positive attitude really showed in the Longmeadow game. It was away, against a tough team, but we kept a great attitude and framed it as an opportunity. They were playing against a half-dozen players who had already committed to playing in college,” Boshka said. “It gave us something to shoot for. Longmeadow wasn’t executing amazing, complex plays, it was doing the basics and doing them well. I’ve been coaching for a lot of years in a lot of sports (at Woodstock Academy) and I’ve come to the conclusion that if you can do the basics well, you can go far.”
Another positive for the Centaurs was the youth on the team.
There were only three seniors, Marie Gravier, Willis and Linda St. Laurent, in uniform.
There were seven middle school athletes.
It’s the most Boshka has ever had.
He’s used to having just a couple of eighth-graders.
“It seemed like they just became a part of the team and looked forward to it and enjoyed it. It’s a testament to our players to realize the value that the younger players were able to provide to the team, both on and off the ice. There were relationships that were formed. It was a big step forward for us this year,” Boshka said.
The next step for the program will be a big one.
Kat Hannah was recently announced as the new head coach with the goal being to field two girls ice hockey teams based on the model of the prep basketball program at Woodstock Academy.
The Gold team will play a prep/club schedule while the Blue team will remain the high school team.
It’s unsure whether that will come to fruition as soon as next season.
Leominster shuts out Centaurs
The Centaurs (3-7-3) finished up their inaugural Central Massachusetts League B Division season with a 1-2-3 record after a 4-0 loss to Leominster, MA. at Wallace Arena at Fitchburg State on Monday.
Centaurs suffer a pair of losses
The Centaurs suffered their first-ever Central Massachusetts League B Division loss on the road at Cushing Academy on Saturday, falling to Oakmont Regional, 3-1.
Eliza Dutson scored the only goal for Woodstock Academy (3-6-3, 1-1-3), her sixth goal of the season, off assists from Sydney Haskins and Ivy Dowdell.
The loss was the second in a row for the Centaurs who fell to Central Massachusetts League A Division foe, Shrewsbury, 12-0 on Thursday.
Woodstock Academy goes back on the road on Monday for a 6:30 p.m. game against Leominster.
No favorite in Central Mass League B Division
It’s a concept most athletic leagues at any level try to have.
The Central Massachusetts Girls Hockey League has certainly stumbled upon it.
The addition of Woodstock Academy to the league this season has left the “B” Division of the league in a virtual deadlock.
The Centaurs finished in a 2-2 tie on Tuesday against the Auburn Rockets in Auburn, MA.
It gave the Centaurs a 3-4-3 overall record and a 1-0-3 mark in the league with road games still to play against Oakmont and Leominster.
The record put the Centaurs on top of the league standings with five points.
Auburn at 1-1-2 is second with four while Leominster 1-0-1 has three and Oakmont (0-2-2) two.
“It’s amazing,” Woodstock Academy coach Jeff Boshka said of the bunched up standings. “All of us in this conference, it’s super close.”
What makes it that way?
Boshka said it’s probably the depth or lack there of it.
“A lot of us are playing two lines and mixing in a third line here and there,” he said. “It’s equal ability and it’s not like any of us are standing out. We’re just all pretty even. It’s not like anyone is coming in and dominating the games.”
The hosts got on the board first with sophomore Reese Levansavich scoring for the Rockets in the first period.
But Woodstock Academy tied it just 2:19 into the second period when freshman Ivy Dowdle scored her first career varsity goal off an assist from Julianna Buoniconti.
The Centaurs took the lead with 6:24 left in the game when sophomore Sydney Haskins scored her second goal of the season with help from Eliza Dutson and Chelsea Willis.
“I thought going into this game, we were going to score more goals. When we went ahead, I thought it was good and all we had to do was play smart and hold them off,” Boshka said.
It was not to be.
A rebound off an Auburn shot just a minute after Haskins’ goal was not cleared by the Centaur defense and Levansavich picked it up and beat Centaur goalie Marie Gravier (39 saves).
Boshka said since it was a game on the road on a smaller rink than what the Centaurs are used to, it was an acceptable result.
The Centaurs, once again, will have plenty of time off.
Woodstock Academy was coming off an eight-day break going into the Auburn game.
It now gets another week and a half off before it plays host to Shrewsbury, MA. in its final home game on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomfret School.
“Looking to the future, it would probably be nice if we added a couple of games, have a couple of games a week. It gives you something to strive for. The team gets amped up for games,” Boshka said.
Woodstock Academy falls to 2 new opponents
Woodstock Academy had a chance to tie against Smithfield, R.I. on Monday.
But an empty-net goal with 55 seconds left in the game guaranteed the Sentinels’ cooperative program a 4-2 victory over the Centaurs at the Jahn Ice Rink at the Pomfret School.
“We knew that they played Warwick, R.I. and beat them, 6-0, and we beat Warwick (twice, 2-1 and 1-0). It comes down to shooting, though. We took a lot of shots against Warwick, but they were going right at their goalie. Smithfield, meanwhile, has three players who are very good skaters, shooters and puck handlers,” Woodstock Academy coach Jeff Boshka said.
Still, the Centaurs (3-4-2) took the early lead in the non-league game with the Sentinels.
Eighth-grader Julianna Buoniconti scored the first goal just under three minutes into the conteat off assists from Ivy Dowdle and Grace Pokorny.
“It was fantastic, a well-executed play, with a nice pass and a great shot into the top corner,” Boshka said.
It was the second goal of the season for the youngster.
“We are so pleased with her. It’s like, ‘Wow, she’s only in eighth grade.’ We’re excited about that,” Boshka said.
Ava Pomposelli tied the game for the Smithfield/Coventry,R.I./Moses Brown cooperative program 2 ½ minutes later.
The tie remained for much of the second period until Pomposelli broke it 12:16 into the period.
The freshman then put the Sentinels up, 3-1, with another goal just 14 seconds later.
“(Pomposelli) just handled the puck really well,” Boshka said.
But the Centaurs didn’t give up.
Sophomore Sydney Haskins brought Woodstock Academy back within a goal when she took a pass from Eliza Dutson and put it into the net for her first goal of the season.
“She fought hard for that, had a bunch of attempts and just stuck with it, finally got it up and over the goalie,” Boshka said.
The goal came with 5 ½ minutes to play and the Centaurs eventually had to pull goalie Marie Gravier (37 saves) to try and get the equalizer.
“We had the pressure on them with the 6-on-5 advantage, had some good opportunities and just couldn’t keep it in our zone,” Boshka said.
Pomposelli, who else, pounced on the puck and scored her fourth goal of the game into the unprotected net to seal the win for the Sentinels.
The home game with Smithfield was also the Senior Day event for the Centaurs who honored Gravier, Chelsea Willis and Linda St. Laurent prior to the puck being dropped.
It was the second straight loss for the Centaurs who fell to St. Peter-Marian four days before, 5-0, at the Worcester Ice Center.
“They were good, not exceptionally good, we skated with them and hung with them,” Boshka said of the Centaurs' Worcester-based opponents. “We let in a couple of soft goals that Marie probably wishes she had back. I think it could have been a 3-0 game. One thing we have to get better at is shooting, shooting to the open spots and making the goalie move.”
The Centaurs have only one home game remaining with Shrewsbury on Feb. 6.
They still have four games on the road, three are the second matchups with their fellow Central Massachusetts League teams, Auburn, Oakmont Regional and Leominster.
“I think we’re excited to play them again and those will be pretty good battles,” Boshka said.
The Centaurs downed Auburn, 4-3, and tied both Oakmont (1-1) and Leominster (2-2) meaning they still have a chance for the Division B league title.
“It’s going to be close. We’re all hovering around the same record,” Boshka said.
The Centaurs next play on Jan. 28 in Auburn.
“Ever since we started, I have really liked playing Auburn. It’s always been a good matchup. A lot of one goal games and we’re definitely looking forward to it,” Boshka said.
Centaurs settle for a pair of ties
The Woodstock Academy girls hockey team didn’t lose this past week.
Unfortunately, it didn’t win either.
The Centaurs had to settle for a pair of ties including a 1-1 deadlock with Oakmont Regional out of Ashburnham, MA. on Saturday at the Jahn Ice Rink at the Pomfret School.
It was not only that the game ended in a tie but also how it ended that left an empty feeling for the Centaurs.
The Spartans scored the game-tying goal with 31 seconds left.
“It was terrible,” junior captain Eliza Dutson said of the tie. “It’s never a good feeling but we played very well. It was just unlucky for us.”
There is no overtime in high school girls ice hockey.
“I’m still processing it,” Woodstock Academy coach Jeff Boshka said following the game. “Under a minute to go and a goal goes in, it’s a heartbreaker. I felt like we controlled the (third) period and played a good game. It was just a rough bounce.”
The two teams had played essentially even throughout.
The Centaurs had the better of the shots in the first two periods by a whopping three-shot margin, 11-8.
Oakmont outshot the Centaurs, 13-6, in the final period and did see a good chance go for naught when Centaurs senior goalie Marie Gravier was shelled with three straight shots that she managed to turn away.
The Centaurs got the lead off the stick of Dutson five minutes into the third period.
“The pass out to me from Alex (Lee) was great and I just said, ‘I gotta go,’” Dutson said.
The fleet skating Dutson got past the only defender in her way and headed toward Spartan goalie Ashley Bourn skating past her and putting a backhand between her pads into the net.
“We call that a ‘deke’,” Boshka said. “Sometimes, you don’t shoot, you just move the goalie one way and drag it across and you have an open net and that’s what she did. It was pretty good.”
The Centaurs had more chances for an insurance goal including a 5-on-3 power play for over a minute in the final three minutes of the game.
They came up empty.
“We fully expected to capitalize on that. It was an awesome opportunity. We just looked pretty tired and were not able to execute. We had some heavy legs and just couldn’t do what we normally would do,” Boshka said.
Dutson said a reason for that could have been that it was hot inside the rink which cost the team precious energy.
The temperature outside was almost 70 degrees which also made the ice a bit mushier and harder to skate on.
It also took away the normal 10-minute break between the first and second period as it was decided due to conditions, that the ice would only be cut once in the game.
Oakmont tied the game when Gravier was forced to go down to stop a shot. She knocked it away, but lost her stick in the process and the rebound went to Abby Shea who put in the game-tying goal in the final seconds.
The Centaurs were caught a little flat-footed on the defensive end in the first period of its game with Leominster, MA. earlier in the week at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomfret School.
But Woodstock Academy made the adjustment and fought back from an early two-goal deficit to forge a tie with the Blue Devils, 2-2, in a Central Massachusetts League game.
“I think we realized we kind of had to wake up a bit after the first period. We made an adjustment with the defensive zone coverage and it made a huge difference,” Boshka said. “They kept on feeding their defense and it was making it tough for us to break out.”
And it opened up some opportunities for Leominster.
Erin Gamble scored just 1 minute, 18 seconds into the first period and Alanna Hoag added another tally less than two minutes later.
But the Centaurs regained their composure.
“It showed some mental toughness. We didn’t cave in. We were willing to make the adjustments and stick to the plan. It paid off,” Boshka said.
The Centaurs halved the Blue Devils (0-3-1) lead when Julianna Buoniconti scored off assists from Dutson and Jade Hill with 7:27 left in the period.
It was the first goal of the season for Buoniconti, a middle school athlete.
“She’s a hard worker, knows the game and we’re starting to spread out the wealth a little,” Boshka said.
Woodstock Academy tied the game with 7:23 left in regulation when senior Chelsea Willis scored her fourth goal of the season off an assist from Sydney Haskins.
Willis did not come in with an abundance of hockey experience, but has made the most of her role with the Centaurs this season.
“Chelsea gets in the right spot at the right time. It’s what we’ve been coaching her to do, She’s there and she makes plays,” Boshka said. “She gets to the spot where she needs to be and battles. She works hard and gets in position to get her stick on the puck.”
The games with Leominster and Oakmont means the Centaurs have gone through their first round of games with their Central Massachusetts League “B” Division opponents with a 1-0-2 record.
“It’s been a lot of great matchups. I was talking with the Leominster coach (Nancy LeBlanc) before the game and the parity that we in this league is what was missing prior to us coming into the league. She is excited about it as well. It’s been a good move,” Boshka said.
Dutson added the 3-2-2 overall record halfway through the season is pretty good for the Centaurs.
“We’re extremely happy,” Dutson said. “This is the best we’ve ever been in a season. We used to not be able to find many even teams, it was always they were a lot better than us or just not there. Now we have these matchups, it’s good,” Dutson said.
Centaurs make it 3 straight
When Woodstock Academy coach Jeff Boshka went into the locker room at Thayer Arena in Warwick, R.I, following a 1-0 victory over the Titans Friday night, he only had to say one thing to his girls hockey team.
“I just yelled out to them, ‘Who is 3-2?’ and they just all got up and screamed,” Boshka said. “It’s just exciting to have this season bearing some fruit. We are clearly getting better every game.”
It was the second win over the Warwick Co-Op in a week and third consecutive win for the Centaurs who are now over the .500 mark going into their Central Massachusetts League schedule.
The Centaurs scored the win despite another good effort by Warwick goalie Mary Centracchio who had to make 33 saves.
The only one the freshman did not get to came in the second period.
On a power play, sophomore Sydney Haskins passed to senior Chelsea Willis who poked one into the left hand side of the net to give the Centaurs the only goal of the game.
“We got a lot of shots, but she’s a pretty decent goalie and we also shot it right at her a lot. That’s something we’re going to have to work on,” Boshka said.
Woodstock Academy goalie Marie Gravier had to make only eight saves.
Boshka said that was, in part, due to the defense.
“Our defense was stopping Warwick closer to the blue line and not letting Warwick into our zone. We didn’t let them creep in, which was great. I think we’re gaining more confidence there and as the defense gains more confidence, it gives us different looks and more options when we break out,” Boshka said.
The Centaurs now get to play a pair of Central Massachusetts League teams that they have not faced before.
Woodstock Academy hosts Leominster, MA. at 7 p.m. Monday at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomfret School.
The Centaurs also host Oakmont High School at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“”I’m thinking they are right around the level of Auburn (which Woodstock Academy defeated 4-3 in Dec.). The Auburn coach told me that a bunch of us are pretty evenly matched and, as you can see by the scores, everything is really close. We will see,” Boshka said.
The Woodstock Academy coach said it’s just nice to see his team playing well.
“I think we’re seeing some growth and confidence. Our players are gaining understanding of the game coupled with their skill set improving. Put those two things together and a third, our team culture which is really good with a good mindset, a willingness to learn and the desire to play as a team. The theme has been to go out and make plays and if we do, we’re going to have success,” Boshka said.
Woodstock Academy gives itself a Christmas present; 2 wins
It was a nice vacation week for the Woodstock Academy girls hockey team.
After losing its two opening games to Connecticut teams, the Centaurs rebounded with a pair of wins over teams from outside the state line just before and right after the Christmas holiday.
The Centaurs held off Warwick, R.I., 2-1, on Friday at the Jahn Ice Rink at Pomftret School to even their record at 2-2.
Woodstock Academy had opened the week with a 4-3 victory over Auburn, MA. on Monday.
“We’re really happy. We’ve really improved over our first two games which didn’t go so well. The team is starting to figure out the plays and figure out how to work together well. It’s really good,” said senior Chelsea Willis.
Willis got the Centaurs going against the Lady Titans from Warwick on Friday.
With 3:50 left to go in the first period, she was able to poke a goal past Warwick goalie Mary Centracchio.
“It was a mess,” Willis said with a laugh. “It looked bad but all three of us (linemates Eliza Dutson and Sydney Haskins were part of the said ‘mess’) were in front of the net and just hitting (the puck) which was right by her pad. We got it up and over the pad and tucked it in.”
Willis has started to develop a crease presence for Woodstock Academy.
“It’s what we’ve called on her to do. She’s a bigger presence and can keep her stick down on the ice. If we can feed her the puck, she will have opportunities to score,” Woodstock Academy coach Jeff Boshka said.
It was Willis’ second goal of the season.
Dutson added the insurance goal for the Centaurs, her fourth of the year, when she crossed over the blue line all alone and bested Centracchio one-on-one 9 ½ minutes into the second period.
The Centaurs, who outshot the Titans 26-12, had numerous other opportunities.
“I thought we were going to have a little more of a spread there, but Warwick kept fighting and definitely made it hard for us. They had a very good goalie, made some nice saves and we just couldn’t finish,” Boshka said.
The Centaurs also grew a little complacent.
It had the coaching staff a little concerned in between the second and third periods.
“You always wonder about momentum,” Boshka said. “There was some talk at the break that we were skating about 80 percent. We decided to go to shorter shifts so that everyone could go 100 percent and get off the ice to someone with fresh legs.”
The Titans still made it close.
Faith Kennedy scored the first goal of the year for the Warwick team, which was playing its season opener, with 12 minutes left in the game.
“You can’t win by a lot every time,” Willis said with a laugh. “It was a concern, but we held them off. We kept them on the outside like Coach said and it paid off. We listened.”
The Centaurs are going to get pretty familiar with the Titans.
The two teams will play again at 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3 in Warwick.
Against the Auburn Rockets, the Centaurs were clinging to a one-goal lead with 15 seconds left when Woodstock Academy goalie Marie Gravier made a fateful decision.
Somehow, her glove had become stuck and she could not move her hand.
To make matters worse, an Auburn offensive player was coming in and there was a loose puck in front of Gravier.
She just pulled her hand out of the glove and stopped the puck with her bare hand.
“It wasn’t a hard shot, it was just one where she tried to lift it, but it was pretty close and pretty hectic,” Gravier said.
The senior’s heroics saved the day for Woodstock Academy which recorded not only its first win of the season, but also its first-ever win as a member of the Central Massachusetts League.
“It’s so important to start off our real league season like this. I mean it can only go up from here,” Dutson said.
It came against the team whose coach, Pete LaPrad, was instrumental in helping Woodstock Academy gain entry into the Massachusetts league.
“It’s a very competitive game and that’s what this is all about. Girls hockey has come a long way and I know Woodstock Academy is a part of that and it’s really a good thing,” LaPrad said. “It’s good to have good competitive teams to come out and play against.”
Auburn jumped out on top early, getting three goals within 3 ½ minutes between the first and second periods.
Haley Vadenais struck first for the Rockets (1-2-1, 0-2-1 Central Mass) putting one over the right shoulder of Gravier with 2:52 left in the first period.
Auburn would take a 2-0 lead into the second period when Reese Levansavich scored with 44 seconds left.
The Rockets put their size advantage to work in front of the net early.
“We have to get position and battle for position. That has to be a key point,” Woodstock Academy coach Jeff Boshka said in between the first and second periods.
He went into the locker room to discuss it with his team but when they came out, the same thing occurred.
Brooke Lyden passed the puck in from the left wing and Delany Novick was stationed on the opposite post.
Lyden’s pass found her teammate who scored easily just 27 seconds into the second.
It was clearly shaping up to be a long day for the Centaurs who hadn’t, to that point, scored a goal yet in the season.
But Boshka was optimistic.
“There is hope. There is always hope when you have a team that works hard and keeps on trying,” Boshka said.
With 7:49 left in the second period, a little ray of light snuck in when Dutson scored the first goal for the Centaurs.
Newcomer Juliana Buoniconti got the puck just inside the blue line and passed it to the junior for the power-play goal.
“I asked the question (Monday), ‘Who will get us our first goal?’ and there was a loud roar and everyone said, ‘Me,’ knowing full well that Eliza had a very good percentage chance of getting that first goal. She has the skill and desire. She’s hungry,” Boshka said. “It was great and much needed. It got the monkey off our back and then, it was like, ‘Let’s play this game.”
Dutson would make it a one-goal game when she recovered from a pretty solid hit just inside the Auburn blue line, skated across and beat Auburn goalie Kori Hopkinson with 1:25 to play in the period.
Nine seconds later, Willis tied the game.
“We pulled it through. I’m amazed and so proud of them,” Dutson said of the comeback from the three-goal deficit.
Dutson put home the game winner with 5:05 left when Jade Hill sent one off the boards and on to Dutson’s stick.
“The passing was connecting,” Dutson said.
Gravier then came up big late, as she had all day.
The goalie finished with 38 saves as Auburn outshot the Centaurs, 41-11.
“She makes that save with her glove stuck and she’s like, ‘I have to do what I have to do.’ What more can you ask for as a coach? She made the save with her bare hand. She’s all fired up and all in,” Boshka said.
Centaurs play well, but fall in home opener
It was a loss.
But there were few frowns coming off the ice Friday at the Jahn Ice Rink at the Pomfret School.
The effort was a good one for the Woodstock Academy girls hockey team which fell to the Avon-Southington-Wethersfield-Newington-RHAM-Lewis Mills cooperative program, 2-0.
“I think that’s the key word, effort, and so our theme this year is that we’re climbing a mountain,” Woodstock Academy coach Jeff Boshka said. “We’re in a league, playing a varsity schedule, it’s going to be hard. I just ask them to work hard every shift and they do.”
Junior captain Eliza Dutson also liked what she saw.
“This team has such good chemistry,” Dutson said. “We’ve come so far since last year. We’re working together great. There is so much improvement. It’s fantastic.”
The Centaurs played well defensively.
Senior goalie Marie Gravier, who made 36 saves in a 5-0 season-opening loss to East Catholic the week before, was tested again.
But she was up to the task.
Gravier finished with 25 saves.
“Marie gets a lot of shots at her, but she saves the majority of them. She’s good,” Dutson said.
Boshka said he thinks the team is starting to understand the defensive concepts and, as such, are moving and covering better for one another.
“Creating more open ice situations will be very helpful,” Boshka said.
The Centaurs and Nighthawks played to a scoreless first period with neither team getting much in the way of offense rolling.
The Avon Co-Op took only five shots to the Centaurs one.
The Nighthawks put a lot more pressure on in the second period and one of their 15 shots eluded Gravier.
Avon athlete Adele Oprica skated to just inside the blue line and found an open alley, sending it over Gravier’s left shoulder into the net 6:09 into the period.
The Nighthawks added an insurance goal 3:49 into the final period when Morgan Carrera from Southington and Meghan Cahill of Lewis Mills assisted Newington’s Jordan Hopping.
The Centaurs had their chances.
But for a second straight game, couldn’t find the net.
“But we had more shots and more good opportunities in that second and third period. Some good shots. It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re going to keep trying and it’s going to happen,” Boshka said.
Dutson had one of those chances, making a great backhand to avoid the stick of a Nighthawk defender, but seeing her shot gobbled up by goalie Logan Lada in the second period.
Jade Hill and Chelsea Willis also had good opportunities in the second period with Hill and Dutson getting good looks in the third.
“They were so close,” Dutson said. “We’re happy with what we’re seeing. We just need to connect our passes. Most of the girls we have are still new and are still figuring out where they need to be and how to hold their stick, but it’s a work in progress. We’re doing great. I’m really proud of us.”
2019-20 Preview: New league affiliation means bigger expectations
The Woodstock Academy girls hockey program has a bit of a different situation this season.
The team will still play a tri-state schedule, but the majority of its games will take place north of the Massachusetts border.
The Centaurs have joined the Central Massachusetts League, an eight-school girls hockey conference.
“This is fantastic,” said third-year coach Jeff Boshka. “It’s great to have a structure, something to play for, definitely a positive move.”
His players agree.
“It’s amazing. We’ve been trying to do that for a couple of years now. The coaches and girls have been pushing for it and we’re excited,” said senior goalie Marie Gravier. “We were trying to prove ourselves last year and now, it’s big boy time. We want to get in there and show what we have.”
The Centaurs had been playing a hodgepodge of private and public schools in their first three years of existence.
“We are definitely feeling like this is now a varsity and not a club sport. I think that message is clear to the team. I had a talk with them recently, helping them understand the journey that we’ve been on and all the work that has gone on behind the scenes to make this happen and there is a commitment that goes along with that,” Boshka said.
Woodstock Academy will play two league games each against Massachusetts teams, Auburn, Oakmont and Leicester, all members of the “B” Division. The Centaurs will also play one crossover game to the “A” Division of the league including St. Peter-Marian of Worcester, Shrewsbury and Longmeadow.
The only league team that the Centaurs will not play this year is Algonquin Regional.
“Without a doubt, it’s great to have a league title to play for. There is something to play for,” Boshka said.
The Centaurs will not be eligible for any state tournament play in Massachusetts.
There is no state tournament in Connecticut for girls hockey.
Woodstock Academy will open its season on Friday on the road in Newington, taking on East Catholic at 8:20 p.m.
It also will play another Connecticut school, Avon, on Dec. 20 at home at the Pomfret School’s Jahn Ice Rink.
The Centaurs also have two games scheduled with Warwick, R.I. and will play Smithfield, R.I.
“I like what I’ve seen so far,” Boshka said of the team. “There is an excitement. They have been doing off-ice workouts for a while now and we’ve had a couple of practices. The energy is great, the vibe is good.”
The Centaurs are coming off a 5-13 season and lost some key players.
Ellie Jellison, who is now playing at Assumption College, led the Centaurs with nine goals and Emma Ciquera finished with three goals and seven assists.
“Those were just solid, complete hockey players,” Boshka said.
Also gone are Regan Stuyniski, Irene Askitis, Emma Strandson, and Ashleigh Angle.
But Boshka is encouraged by getting not only good athletes to come out for the program, but good athletes who can skate which is a pretty important attribute.
“We are shifting from people who are like ‘Hockey, I will give that a try’ and having not much experience to kids who have some experience either with skating or playing hockey. It just puts us a little farther ahead,” Boshka said.
Boshka said it’s fantastic that the students at Woodstock Academy have the opportunity to participate in different sports such as hockey.
The Academy’s program is the only one of its kind in the Eastern Connecticut Conference and for that matter, in all of Eastern Connecticut, but hockey is not for everyone.
“The learning curve is pretty tough. Without the skating foundation, it’s hard to get up to speed at the high school level,” Boshka said. “The skating has been encouraging so far and now, we work on their hockey skills and knowledge. We should do OK.”
The Centaurs do have an advantage this season.
They do have Gravier in the net.
“She is definitely showing leadership. She has been here from the beginning and she is all in. She has been working hard and just wants it to be a great season,” Boshka said.
Gravier will have to be solid in the net, the Centaurs are lacking experience at the blue line, and also don’t have an experienced backup.
“The coaches are looking for some backups. We had an eighth-grader but the late night practices were pretty rough for her,” Gravier said.
Gravier is one of only four players who remember when the program was elevated to a varsity sport four years ago.
She, Nicole Bavosi, Chelsea Willis and Eliza Dutson comprise the “final four" of that first year.
“I’ve seen this program progress so much. At first, we were just struggling to find girls. It’s crazy to see how far we’ve come. We’re starting to win games and teams are actually looking at us as a real team, before they treated us like a scrimmage,” Gravier said.
Bavosi is the only senior who returns on defense.
Sophomore Brigid McNerney, freshman Bryn Miller, and middle school player Jade Hill are also slated to play in the back with juniors Dutson and Elizabeth and Madeline Silberman rotating in.
“It’s an area we’re working on. We have only a few who naturally play defense and we’re going to have to move people around to find that fourth defenseman. There is some strength there, but it’s an area we have to focus on,” Boshka said.
Dutson was the team’s leading scorer last season with seven goals and six assists. Sophomore Sydney Haskins (4 goals, 5 assists as a freshman) and senior Chelsea Willis (2 goals, 3 assists) all return up front.
“We’re still sorting things out, but the goal is to have a couple of lines that we can really rely on and have a third line that can step in and give some rest to the first two lines,” Boshka said.
Other front line players will include senior newcomer Linda St. Laurent; juniors Hannah Clark, Kileigh Gagnon, Ciarra McKinnon, and Maria Santucci; sophomore Sydnie Willis and freshman Louella Flanagan.
The Centaurs also have middle school players Livie Crawford (forward); Allison Griswold (forward); and Grace Pokorny in addition to Hill.
“The (middle school players) are so looking forward to being part of this in the conversations that I have had with them and their parents. They’re very pumped,” Boshka said. “It’s an added bonus that we will have them for a number of years.”
The Centaurs, outside of the two Connecticut teams, Warwick and Auburn, will be facing completely different opponents this season.
It makes it difficult to set goals, not knowing where the team stands in the grand scheme of things.
“I just want to make it a great experience for them. We’ve really developed a good atmosphere where they look out for each other. They want to bond and be connected. We have a good work ethic. They are doing some kind of workout every day except for Saturdays, either on ice or off ice workouts. We want to continue to develop the culture and the skill,” Boshka said.