There will be some new faces on the ice at Gutterson Fieldhouse today for the Division II girls hockey final.
No. 1 Harwood and No. 2 North Country will face off in the title game with only one finals appearance between the schools –Harwood lost to U-32, 4-1 in 2011.
With so many players new to playing on the University of Vermont ice, both coaches expect to deal with some nerves but think that sticking with the game plan will get rid of the early-game jitters.
“It’s just a matter of getting out there,” said North Country head coach Claude Paul. “We have to focus on executing simple plays, it will settle down from there.”
Who adjusts to the bigger ice surface and overcomes the nerves faster might be all that separates these two teams. In the regular season, Harwood (18-3-1) claimed both matchups.
“They have offensive weapons, we have offensive weapons, they have a solid D, we have a solid D,” said Harwood coach Mike Vasseur. “They have a good goalie, we have a good goalie. It’s all about who steps up and who responds.”
For Harwood, Katie Martin, Haley Martini, Haley Spittle and Carrie Johnson are all scoring threats, giving the Highlanders lots of offense.
“They are strong offensively and they come at you, ” Paul said. “It’s not just one line and you can take a break, it’s three lines and they feed off each other.”
The Falcons (16-5-1) have some offensive power of their own, with Whitney Bernier, Corrina Cota and Taylor Morley.
“They have three or four good offensive weapons,” Vasseur said. “We need the goalie to be good and we need to the D to step up.”
The two goalies are two of the best in Division II, with Siena Damon a four-year starter for Harwood and Mikaella Doran a freshman standout for North Country.
The strong play of both goalies this season has made both teams hard to score against, which will make the play of both teams’ forwards important.
The focus for both coaches however is getting their team to focus on their own game and remember not to get caught up in the moment.
“The players are very excited, there are only two teams left,” Vasseur said. “I think any senior on any team, this is what they dream about. We’ll be focusing on playing our game.”
With so many similarities between the two squads, there is only one real predictions either coach would make.
“I am hoping for a nice, exciting game, fast paced, and hopefully, we can play to our potential,” Paul said.