By David Miles, Sports Correspondent
It had been 11 years since the WUHS girls’ hockey team won a home playoff game. So perhaps it was not surprising that the Wasps needed to endure an additional seven-and-a-half minutes of overtime before downing Brattleboro 1-0 on an unassisted goal by Sadie Kuhn.
It’s not that Woodstock did not have its chances. The green-and-white outshot the Colonels 13-4 over the first two periods. The puck was in the Woodstock end of the ice practically the entire second period; it just never found its way to the back of the net.
Woodstock also had three power play advantages spread throughout the course of the game, but did not score on any of them. On the middle one the visitors did not even clear the puck out of the zone until only 13 seconds remained on the power play.
And, with just 20 seconds remaining in regulation, Anna Hepler fed Hannah Coates perfectly on a two-on-one, but Keagan Jameson made the game-saving stop. It was one of many excellent saves by the Brattleboro goalkeeper.
Woodstock’s Bridgit Black was strong in net too and never better than when the Colonels had two good looks late in overtime. But the Colonels pressed a little too much on that occasion and got in too deep. When Kuhn gathered in the loose puck that squirted out of the corner there was only one defender back with her.
That was a far cry from most of the game when three Brattleboro players stuck with her every time she tried one of her patented end-to-end rushes. They were able to thwart most of those by forcing her wide and giving her little or no angle on which to shoot on goal.
This time it was different.
“There was only one defender in the middle, so it was easier to get around,” said Kuhn. “As I came in on goal, I faked right and then went left and beat the goalie. Some times it’s risky to make a move like that, but I just relied on my instincts.”
The fake was successful and therefore the shot was too. And after over 52 minutes of scoreless hockey, the game was over and the Wasps were celebrating.
“Sadie was very patient on that play,” said Coach Ian Coates. “She recognized the situation. She made the right move, her deke was excellent and that allowed her to score the game winning goal.”
The quarterfinal match-up was the fourth time the two teams have met this season. Woodstock won all three regular season contests, but two of them were close. Even the first win was only 3-0 and it was Brattleboro’s season opener while Woodstock had a game under its belts at that time.
‘We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Coates. “We certainly weren’t overconfident. And even though we dominated in shots on goal for much of the night, it was anybody’s game.
“After two periods, I told them to just ‘Stay the course’ during intermission. We wanted to keep playing defense first and we knew our chances would come.”
For the most part Woodstock was able to keep Brattleboro’s leading scorer, Axis Balsey, in check. She only got loose once or twice, primarily because the Wasps defense kept their sticks on her stick while she was in the scoring area. That was a point Coates emphasized going into the game and his charges responded.
It was a fast game much of the time with few stoppages of play. As it got deeper into the game, one defensive breakdown or turnover might prove decisive. Despite controlling play, one mistake by the Wasps could be crucial.
“We were both confident and nervous going into that final period,” said Kuhn. “We felt that we deserved to win the way we were playing, but that did not mean we would win. And you never want to lose a game that you think you deserve to win.”
Kuhn admitted that was a “scary” moment when Brattleboro pressured Black seven minutes into overtime. So when she got the puck for that one final time, she made sure that the team that deserved to win did get the victory.
With the triumph Woodstock advances to play Missisquoi in the semifinals. The two teams split in the regular season, each winning at home. The game will be Monday afternoon at the Union Arena at 5:45 p.m.
It is only the second time the girls’ hockey team has reached the semifinal round, the previous time being in 2003. And it is the first hockey semifinal round game for either the boys’ or girls’ team in, once again, 11 years.