What a day at Northtown Center for the WNY girls hockey Federation semifinals. If there was any question about whether this whole experiment would work out, it was put to rest today. Two thrilling, down-to-the-wire games kept an estimated 100 fans on their feet throughout.
Orchard Park/Frontier upset the Monsignor Martin Association, 2-1. And then, Williamsville topped West Seneca in overtime, 2-1.
MMA's path to the finals seemed like a foregone conclusion. OP/F (10-9) hadn't beaten MMA (17-1) in three tries during the regular season, including an ugly 8-0 loss. But with a 30-save day from eighth-grader Mikaela Ditonto and a stingy overall defensive approach, OP/F pulled the shocker. Bernadette O'Connell scored the game-winner on a mad scramble in front of the net with 1:50 to go.
“Yesterday in practice, we had an in-depth conversation with the girls," OP/F coach Jim McCarthy said. "We lost to this team three times. Straight up, man to man, they’re tough to play against. So yesterday, we fixed our defensive zone coverage, tried to outman them down low, fix what we do in the neutral zone and we just really focused on smart plays.
“They played our system to a ‘T’ and our goaltender absolutely stood on her head. She was outstanding.”
Yet still, the individual performance of the day goes to West Seneca's Sydney Glynn. The freshmen goalie made 54 saves in her team's loss. West Seneca was outshot, 56-6, but somehow forced overtime thanks to Glynn. Blair Pembleton scored both goals for Williamsville, including the OT winner.
"We told the girls to just keep shooting and you'll be rewarded," Williamsville coach Rick Hopkins said. "Any time you're dominating a team (and not winning), it can be frustrating. But the girls weren't frustrated."
Check out Friday's paper for more on both games.