The champion Wildcats Girls Ice Hockey team
Rye Country Day Girls’ Ice Hockey
Wildcats Ice the Competition to Win Interscholastic Championship
By Melanie Cane
What a great season it was for the Wildcats’ Girl’s Ice Hockey team. They had a 13-4-1 record and won the Miran Division of the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) Championship, shutting out Princeton Day School 3-0 on February 24 at Princeton. This was the second time in the three years Elizabeth Bennett has been coaching the team that they’ve brought home this title, an impressive accomplishment as the Wildcats were moved into a higher division last year.
After rolling to a 9-0 victory over Academy of the Immaculate Heart in the semi-finals February 23, Rye Country Day was ready for the final against Princeton, whom they’d beaten both times they’d played them during the season.
Energized by the roar of the home crowd, the Tigers came out strong and the Wildcats seemed a little flat, but they soon picked up steam. After a lot of back and forth, co-captain Olivia Friedberg brought the puck up the wing and scored a low wrist shot to put Rye Country Day on the board.
“After that, we stayed focused, maintained our positions, and created more opportunities, while maintaining our solid defense,” reflected her twin sister Elizabeth after the game.
Rye Country Day carried their momentum into the second period, putting pressure on Princeton and warding off scoring threats. Ryan Hammel fought for position near the crowded crease. Junior co-captain Caroline Keating came around the net and passed the puck to Hammel who shot through the feet of the defender and the goalkeeper to earn the Wildcats’ second goal.
The Wildcats cemented the win with a third-period goal by Keating. She brought the puck up the ice and passed to Hammel as she reached the line of defense. With the opponents focused on the pass, Keating headed to the net. Hammel shot, the puck deflected off the goalie’s pads, and Keating scored on the rebound.
MK Braun made a dazzling 18 saves.
Elizabeth Friedberg attributed the team’s success to knowing each team member’s playing style. “It didn’t take long in the season for us to start playing cohesively. The plays just clicked, and the offense and defense started anticipating where we each needed to be for our teammates to score.”
Olivia Friedberg added, “Each player gave her all. It really showed during the championship weekend. Throughout the season we worked on a number of drills that emphasized passing sequences and practicing that helped us win that last game.”
Coach Bennett is as excited about the team’s success and she is its future. “This young team does not have any senior players and the young girls really stepped up. We look forward to having the same group back next year with a few newcomers who should be able to step in and contribute right away. Our six rising seniors have the experience to be incredibly capable leaders next season.”