ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Some say consolation games lack intensity, due to the very nature of the contest.
Nobody told that to St. Mary’s and Williams, who played another stirring game at the ESL Centre in Rochester, N.Y., in the third-place game of the AWCHA Division III championships.
St. Mary’s took the lead late in the second period and then held off a furious charge by Williams in the final 10 minutes to take third place, 2-1.
Once again, Missie Meemken was a wall in net, stopping 25 out of 26 shots thrown her way. And when she let a rebound out, it was the job of the defense to clear it away.
Said defenseman Mindy Westergren, “We want Missie to see the first shot, and when we see the rebound, it’s our job to clear the puck. We don’t want to give up second opportunities. Rebounds are the only way they can beat us. They can’t beat Missie.”
Rebounds were exactly how Williams scored its first goal to tie the game at one apiece at 14:36 of the first. After Lisa Haney’s shot was blocked, the rebound came out in front to an open Sophie de la Barra. De la Barra didn’t waste the opportunity and knocked the puck into an unguarded net as Meemken was unable to get back into position. Bonnie Lui also got an assist.
Before that goal, St. Mary’s capitalized on a strong offensive push early in the game, to take a 1-0 lead.
Going against their usual defense first style of play, St. Mary’s coach Duncan Ryhorchuk said, “I told my team let’s go out creating more chances offensively early on, but in turn not let down our defensive roles.”
Tennie McCabe took advantage of that philosophy at 12:21 when she shot it through the five hold of Monelle Quevillon. Assists went to her wingers, Christy Hicks and Sarah Gibbons.
The winning goal was scored at 16:13 of the second period by Josie Nechodom.
“Mindy kept reminding me, ‘Soft hands, soft hands,’” Nechodom said. “When I saw the puck, I shot it in the net.”
It was a little more difficult than that. A shot by Diane Amsden was going away from Nechodom. She stretched out for it, falling to her knees, but still managed to get a backhander off that slipped through the goalie’s five hole. Laura Wyness got the other assist.
Into the third period they went with St. Mary’s holding onto the one goal lead. Despite their little offensive surge early in the game, this team still depends on defense. They would need to as Williams put on ferocious pressure in the final 10 minutes.
When asked if he was nervous near the end, Ryhorchuk said, “I wasn’t too worried. We played strong defense all year.”
Mindy Westergren agreed, “You think you are going to tense up, but your adrenalin picks up. This is what we are working for all year. Our coach prepares us for this.”
That was a good thing for St. Mary’s, because Williams came close many times. In the waning moments, Caitlin Bowler came in on a clean breakaway. Meemken stoned her.
“I figured she was going to go glove side,” Meemken describes her stop. “So, I gave her room that side because I’m strong on the glove side. I was hoping she would go there.”
Then, the excitement ratcheted up a notch when St. Mary’s Emily Kearns was called for interference with 32 seconds left. Williams pulled its goalie for a two-man advantage, but once again St. Mary’s defense held strong.
“Playing as a team, and the team only lets up one goal, the team gets the credit,” Ryhorchuk says. “I like it when the team plays together.”
Despite the loss, Williams coach Joe Milan was still pleased, “I’m amazed how quickly this team has improved.” He marveled at how Williams was able to play with the competition this weekend.
Likewise, senior Kristen Lee, asked to reflect on her four years at Williams, said, “Greatest time I ever had. It’s been fun. I love this team. It’s magic.”
Williams ends its season at 20-6-1. St. Mary’s concludes the year with a 22-7-1 record as both teams set school records for wins.