A first – on to the state tourney for Vineyard girls hockey team

An historic reason for celebrating. — Photo by Robin Davies

It wasn’t exactly a champagne shower in the locker room of the Martha’s Vineyard Arena Saturday – but close enough – as the girls varsity hockey team unleashed the fury of their water bottles and sprayed their teammates in the wake of their celebration following a 2-1 win over Marshfield.

There was good cause for celebration, as the win earned the Vineyarders their first berth in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association post-season tournament in the 14-year history of the girls hockey program.

Coach John Fiorito said he was absent from the water bottle shower on Saturday, but he saw evidence of the celebration when he stepped into the locker room and saw players shouting, smiling, and in some cases doused with water.

The win pushed the Vineyarders to 10-7 on the season, ensuring them a .500 record on the season and qualifying them for the MIAA tournament. They improved to 11-7 just two days later, with a huge win over Medway/Ashland, a powerful Division I team.

In Saturday’s clincher against Marshfield, senior captain Celia Mercier put the Vineyarders ahead in the first period with an assist from Emily Cimeno. Later in the period, Cimeno scored on an assist from Mercier and Lily Gazaille to give the home team a 2-0 advantage.

The Rams scored on a power play in the second period to cut the lead to 2-1, but the Vineyarders buckled down and shut them out for the rest of the game. Goalie Texe Craig had an exceptional game between the pipes, making 22 saves.

Coach Fiorito said his team was a little nervous at the start of the game, considering what was at stake, but shook off those nerves after the first five minutes and settled down to play some strong hockey. “We started to dominate in the second period,” he said. “But still we talked about playing with poise and not letting things get away in the locker room [after the second period]. The girls knew it was close. But Marshfield beat us earlier in the season, so we couldn’t let up.”

The team responded, and held the Rams to only five shots on goal in the final period. “We needed to come up big, especially in that third period, and we did,” the coach said. “I was so proud of them.”

The Vineyarders then beat Medway/Ashland at home on Monday, a win which Coach Fiorito said was just as impressive – if not more – than the clinching game two days earlier. Medway is a Division I team that came in desperately needing a win to qualify for the MIAA tournament.

Medway dominated the Vineyarders in the first period, outshooting them 11-0, but led only 1-0, largely thanks to stellar goaltending again by Craig. The Vineyarders came out with new life in the second period, outshooting Medway 11-1 while taking a 2-1 lead.

Kassidy Bettencourt tied the game 1-1 on an assist from Callie Jackson. With 1:36 left in the period, Maggie Johnson let a blistering slap shot go from the left point that the Medway goaltender stopped, but Jackson redirected it into the net to give the Vineyarders their first lead of the afternoon.

It was a back-and-forth affair in the third period, as both teams had their scoring chances, but Craig came up big and made nine stops in net, and the Vineyarders came away with arguably their best win of the season.

“It’s hard to say that after the big win Saturday, but I think it was our best win of the year,” Mr. Fiorito said. “It showed we can compete with tougher teams. It showed how far this team has come this year.”

The Vineyarders finish out the season with two home games, against Latin Academy on Wednesday and Westwood on Friday, which is senior night. Honors will go to the team’s six seniors: Celia Mercier, Olivia Cimeno, Lily Gazaille, Rilla Hammett, Maggie Johnson, and Lizzie Kelleher.