With two goaltenders locked in a duel, it was inevitable that the Division II high school girls hockey state championship between top-seeded Harwood and No. 2 North Country was going to come down to a tip.
Sure enough, 3:40 into overtime, Hayley Martini got her stick on Danielle Kuiper’s point shot and deflected the puck just past North Country goalie Mikaella Doran to give Harwood its first state title in the 1-0 win.
“I was so excited,” Harwood goalie Siena Damon said. “I didn’t even see it go in, but everyone was celebrating and I just lost it.”
“The longer it went on, I knew it was going to take one shot, one lucky bounce,” Harwood head coach Mike Vasseur said. “I was just praying we would get it.”
Before the goal, Doran looked unbeatable, making 20 saves overall. Her best work came in the first period, when the freshman made 12 saves as her team — making its first appearance in a state title game — struggled to find its legs.
“It was deja-vu; I was a freshman the first time I came out here and I told her, at the end, ‘I was in your position and you just have to be proud and you guys will get there,'” Damon said. “They are a great team, and they played just as hard as we did.”
Damon was equally impressive, making 17 saves to earn the shutout. The junior goalie made a couple of highlight-reel saves, including a stop on Corrina Cota’s breakaway midway through the third period.
“My thoughts were, we need to score a goal,” Damon said. “I was freaking out a bit.”
Coming into the game, both coaches predicted a tight game between two very evenly-matched teams. The two teams lived up to the coaches’ predictions, alternating scoring chances and momentum.
The Highlanders (19-3-1) had the early momentum, peppering Doran with 12 shots, including seven on an early power play.
“We were barely surviving; it got to the point, with about six minutes left, that I was hoping just to survive that first period,” North Country coach Claude Paul said. “I would have rather skated that first period, it would have been easier on the nerves. For the most part, we battled. It evened out after a while.”
Doran held down the fort while the North Country skaters found their game, and the Falcons evened things out as the game continued, even out-shooting Harwood in the third period.
“She stood on her head in that first period,” Paul said. “She was the difference in the game. If we get behind there by a couple of goals, the game is over.”
Once overtime started the Highlanders took back the momentum, forcing Doran to make three saves early in the eight-minute extra period.
But Harwood continued to control the puck, passing around the zone before Katie Martin found a wide-open Kuiper at the point.
The sophomore defenseman hammered a shot on net that Martini got her stick on, and the puck trickled over the leg of Doran to give Harwood the title.
“Both goalies played great, both teams played great,” Vasseur said. “There were very few mistakes, a lot of big plays, both goalies stood on their head. It was really good.”
It was the second state title game appearance for the Highlanders, who lost to U-32 two years ago.
“For girls hockey, to get the first championship and be a part of that, it’s feels incredible,” said Damon. “We started at the bottom and now we are up at the top, it’s great to be a part of.”
The Falcons are stocked with young players, and Paul said the program can build off Tuesday’s result.
“It’s a great building block,” Paul said. “This exposes us to this experience; we didn’t know what to expect.
“But somebody has to lose, and unfortunately it was our turn.”