Long Island captures second straight NEWHA championship, downs Sacred Heart Thursday for title

Long Island celebrates its second straight NEWHA championship (photo: LIU Athletics).

Coming from behind for the second consecutive game, Long Island claimed the NEWHA Commissioner’s Cup Thursday with a 5-2 victory over Sacred Heart to conclude the best-of-three series.

LIU, in just its second year of competition, moves to 5-8-0 on the season while Sacred Heart drops to 1-10-0. In lieu of a formal league championship, the Commissioner’s Cup series featured the two NEWHA programs still competing as of this week.

The Sharks won the traditional postseason NEWHA title in 2019, downing Saint Anselm by a 1-0 score.

Matilda af Bjur finished the game with three goals and an assist for LIU, factoring in to four of her team’s five markers, while winning 15 of 22 faceoffs. Alva Johnsson was a plus-3 for the game, dishing out three assists.

The Sharks outshot the Pioneers 35-25.

Kelly Solak put Sacred Heart in front by a 1-0 margin with a goal at 15:02 of the first period, scoring off an Alexa Ocel assist on the power play. The Pioneers fired 10 of the first period’s 15 shots and found the back of the net on the first of their three power play opportunities. Solak had also scored a power-play goal in Tuesday’s narrow loss to LIU.

Trailing for the second consecutive game, af Bjur drew the contest even for the Sharks with a goal at 14:44 of the second period. LIU was not done, opening the game up in the first 7:44 of the third period by pushing the lead to 4-1 with three consecutive goals.

Julia Hoffmann, who scored the overtime winner for the Sharks in game one on Tuesday, put home an unassisted goal at 4:57 before Carrigan Umpherville sent home her team’s third goal just 30 seconds later. The Sharks struck for yet another goal as Bjur tallied her second of the game under two minutes later.

Sacred Heart’s Sophia Lupone scored an unassisted goal at 11:07 of the third period, shrinking the LIU lead to 4-2, but af Bjur completed the hat trick with an empty net goal with 26 seconds to go to secure the victory. Strong play in the final 20 minutes carried the Sharks to victory as the team fired 16 shots while limiting Sacred Heart to just five attempts.

Kenzie Harmison picked up wins in both games of the Commissioner’s Cup series, this time making 23 saves on 25 shots in the decisive game two. Sacred Heart’s Frankie Sanchez drew the loss, despite making 30 saves on 34 attempts.

Jordan Sanislo of Sacred Heart and LIU’s Hoffman each had three blocked shots in the game, leading their teams in that statistic.