BFA-St. Albans and Essex squared off twice in the regular season, with the Comets winning the first matchup 9-0 and the Hornets taking the second game 3-1.
The two teams will meet for the third time this season at Gutterson Fieldhouse tonight at 8 p.m., and the stakes in this game will be much higher in the battle for the Division I girls hockey state crown.
The real question is, which result will we see? Will it be the surprise blowout in the middle of the season?
“That game was a blip on the radar,” said BFA-St. Albans (17-3-2) head coach Luke Cioffi. “Both teams we’re surprised by that result.”
Or will it be the 3-1 Essex win in the last game of the regular season?
“Coming back and beating them certainly helped our confidence,” said Essex (14-5-3) head coach John Maddalena. “We are a young team, but the members of our team know that they can be competitive.”
The No. 3-seeded Hornets enter the game as the defending champions, after defeating South Burlington, 2-1, in the final last season, but they will not have that experience to rely on, with only three seniors on the team.
In order to battle the early game nerves and hang with a very deep BFA-St. Albans team that captured state title in 2011 and 2010, coach Maddalena will rely on senior captains Taylor Hallowell, Erin Murray and Melissa Moldovan .
“We want to get a goal early,” Maddalena said. “We definitely want to score the first goal of the game.”
Hallowell, Kathleen Young or Melanie Theriault have combined to score 48 of the Hornets’ 66 goals this season. Essex will also depend heavily on goaltender Victoria Gibson.
“I expect Gibson to have a really strong game,” said Maddalena. “With some of our inexperience, we will rely on her.”
For top seed, BFA-St. Albans, which is making the program’s 10th appearance in the Division I championship game, the emphasis will be on a balanced, experienced group.
“If we have to lean on anybody, it will be the seniors,” said Cioffi. “But our juniors and sophomores have played in a championship before. It’s going to be about who works the hardest and sticks to their game plan.”
Danielle Schreiner, Chelsea Ellis and Jade Remillard have provided a bulk of the scoring for the Comets this season, but three balanced lines are what the opposing coach is focused on.
“With BFA, you can’t focus on two or three players,” said Maddalena. “They have three solid lines, and six seniors and their younger players are big strong girls.”
Both coaches head into today’s game expecting — and hoping for — an exciting, close affair.
“We expect that on Tuesday, it will be a great game,” said Maddelena.