It’s been said that beating a team three times in one season is a tough thing to do, but Ithaca High girls hockey coach Jessica Link isn’t necessarily buying it.
“We beat (Alexandria Bay) twice, so that’s a good feeling to have,” Link said Tuesday in anticipation of her team’s Section 3 semifinal game Thursday night against the Purple Ghosts. “To beat a team three times in one season is always tough, and we beat them by one goal each time, one of them in overtime.
“It’s a good thing that we won those close games against them,” the first-year coach added. “Winning the close ones has been kind of our Achilles’ heel all year. I’d rather have beaten them twice than lost twice going into it, I guess.”
The Little Red (5-8-1) is seeded second in the four-team sectional tournament, which began Wednesday night with the other semifinal, pitting top-seed Skaneateles against No. 4 Oswego. The winners will meet on Saturday, at the site of the highest remaining seed, for the sectional title.
Ithaca defeated Alex Bay, 2-1 in overtime, on Dec. 21 at Lynah Rink, then scored a late goal to pull out a 4-3 road victory three weeks later. They are among the eight games decided by a goal or fewer (including a 1-1 exhibition tie with Skaneateles) that Link’s squad has been involved in this season. Four of her team’s losses are of the one-goal variety, including a 2-1 loss last Wednesday to top-seed Skaneateles at Cass.
The Little Red was edged by Potsdam, 4-2, on the road Saturday in its regular-season finale.
Link, who played college hockey at Brown under legendary former Cornell women’s star Margaret “Digit” Murphy, is hopeful that her team will have the services of freshman forwards Madison Gneo and Julie Miettunen, both of whom have been out for a couple of weeks nursing ankle injuries. Both are key cogs in a balanced offensive attack, Link said.
“We haven’t had all of our offense come from one source,” the coach said. “I’d rather have it like that than have one main target, and it’s been pretty balanced throughout the season.”
Link said she expects nothing from Alex Bay that she and her team haven’t seen in the two previous matchups.
“We’ve had pretty physical games with them, both times around, and they’ve been kind of back and forth,” she said. “Our styles are pretty similar, and I’d expect pretty much the same — a close game that’s pretty hard fought. It isn’t going to be easy for whoever wins.”
While the Ithaca High girls hockey program is no stranger to the playoffs — having won state titles in 2001, ’02, ’03 and ’11, and finished second in ’07 — it’s Link’s first foray into the postseason as a coach. She’s trying to take it in stride.
“This is the fun part of the season, for players, coaches, everybody,” she said. “A little bit more stressful, but I’m excited for the game.”