Before a raucous home crowd, the Martha’s Vineyard girls’ hockey team easily defeated Dennis-Yarmouth, 5-0, on Tuesday in the first round of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament.
The 13th-seeded Vineyarders now advance to play 4th-seeded Norwood Friday at 5 pm at Canton. Norwood had a bye in the first round of the tourney.
It was the first-ever appearance in the state tournament for the girls’ hockey team in the 14-year history of the program, and the Vineyarders made the most of it, scoring early and often to the delight of the home crowd that packed the Martha’s Vineyard Arena, despite it being February vacation week.
Senior co-captain Celia Mercier put the Vineyarders on top 1-0 two minutes into the game on an assist from Emily Cimeno. In the second period the Vineyarders exploded for three goals to put things away.
Mercier, one of six seniors on the team and a four-year starter, finished with two goals and an assist. Texe Craig was strong in goal with 18 saves, including seven in the first period.
Aubrey Ashmun scored six minutes into the second period on an assist from Mercier; Callie Jackson scored at 3:54 on assists from Maggie Johnson and Kassidy Bettencourt and Mercier finished the period on a spectacular breakaway goal assisted by Cimeno. Bettencourt scored in the third period.
Following the win — with his players pig-piling and shouting in celebration on their way to the locker room — coach John Fiorito reflected on his team’s thrilling win and incredible season.
“We talked about getting into the tournament all season,” he said. “And when they took the ice today, I admit I was a little nervous. It was sort of a case of be careful what you wish for. But the girls went out and played their hearts out and came away with the win. They were incredible.”
“They have worked hard all season and it was great to be able to come here and play their first-ever [tournament] game in front of the home crowd,” the coach continued. “This has been an amazing season and I couldn’t be prouder of these girls.”
The coach said he was especially happy for his six seniors, who helped the team shake off their tournament nerves early in the game. “I think they really helped our team settle down early in the game. It was sort of a choppy game early.
“I am so happy [those seniors] had an opportunity to play this game in front of their home crowd: it was the biggest crowd they ever played in front of. They worked so hard all these years, and I think they appreciate so many people came out to see them in their final home game.”
The coach said the Vineyarders have their work cut off for them in the next round against Norwood, a team that plays in a tougher conference and lost in the state semi-finals last year by a single goal. They have one freshman player who scored 29 goals on the season.
“I think we are playing our best hockey of the season,” coach Fiorito said. “Remember, we were 5-5 on the season at one point and we won 9 out of 11 games and three tough games in the past two weeks to get where we are. But we are still underdogs against Norwood. They are very tough.”
But the coach said it was just fine if Tuesday’s win against Dennis-Yarmouth serves as the high-water mark on the season. “We have already accomplished what we set out to do, and the rest is just gravy,” he said. “It has been a great season and I couldn’t have asked for a better set of girls to coach.”