Updated Feb. 8
Goaltender Julia Bettencourt received an extended team hug on Saturday night after the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) girls hockey team erupted for four goals and a 4-1 win over Newton South–Brookline (NSB) at the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena. Ms. Bettencourt had just turned in a stellar performance, turning away 23 of 24 shots to nail down a win over a skilled and tenacious NSB squad.
The Vineyarders took a 1-0 first period lead, scored twice in the second, and made the 3-0 lead stand up by matching NSB’s late third-period goal with an empty-netter in the final minute.
Freshman Lauren Boyd and sophomore Meghan Sonia, junior Genny Kent, and senior Kylie Hatt scored for the Vineyarders. Ms. Boyd, Natalija Lakis, and Hailey Meader had assists in a balanced team effort.
Ms. Bettencourt made a handful of of highlight-reel saves, particularly in the third period, when NSB poured 11 shots on her. The Vineyard victory avenged a 3-0 NSB win over MVRHS in the season opener, and improves the Vineyarders’ season record to 3-9-2. NSB fell to 3-9-4.
“Julia, yeah, she’s been outstanding all season, and that may have been her best performance. She made some key saves early, and was really strong under their third-period pressure,” MVRHS Coach John Fiorito said. “One of our goals is to improve our performance against teams we play twice a season. NSB dominated us in the season opener, so the kids’ improvement is gratifying.”
“I liked how we played, three strong periods, no letup in effort. Honestly, the record is deceiving. I think we’re a better team than last year. The level of hockey keeps getting stronger, with schools using eighth graders and combining teams from several schools,” he said.
The Vineyarders are hitting a late-season stride, winning Saturday after tying Sandwich and losing 5-4 to Pembroke High School on a goal in the final two minutes. Undefeated Pembroke is ranked second in the state.
The game against NSB was a study in opposite styles. The Vineyarders were dumping the puck and chasing it in the offensive zone, hoping to win the battle of the boards. Led by wunderkind Devon Crowley, NSB rushed the puck into the Vineyarder end and looked for centering passes to the net, where the Vineyarders massed to block and bat NSB chances away.
The Vineyarder style created many icing calls. “No, that was not our strategy. They are a good and fast-skating team, and we wanted to move the puck quickly, so a lot of icing resulted from that,” Mr. Fiorito said. Icing is a violation called when the offensive team puts the puck in an opponent’s zone without first crossing the center ice line. The puck is returned to the offending team’s zone for a faceoff.
The Vineyarders scored first with 2:46 left in the first period. Lauren Boyd put one home from the slot on feeds from hardworking Hailey Meader and Natalija Lakis. Hot-handed Genny Kent (four points in the past three games) somehow found the back of the net, shooting from a seemingly impossible angle after winning a board battle almost behind the NSB net.
Hockey games are often won by winning individual battles that are not reflected on the scoresheet. With 10:51 to go in the second, an NSB forward knocked Sally Caron off her feet in a battle for the puck along the boards near the Vineyarder net. Ms. Caron, sliding on her knees, was able to win control of the puck and swat it out of danger.
Three minutes later, Ms. Meader fought off a ferocious forechecker in the NSB end, maintained puck control, and put a shot on net. Ms. Sonia grabbed the rebound and fired it home for a 3-0 lead after two periods.
The third period seemed an endless cliffhanger, with NSB putting on the pressure with speed and sharp passing. Two “uh-oh” moments included an NSB power play with seven minutes left and Julia Bettencourt stoning Devon Crowley’s sizzling shot in front. The Vineyarders were able to hang on until NSB scored through a scrum in front of the cage with 2:30 left to make it 3-1.
NSB pulled the goalie for an extra skater. The fans did not relax until Kylie Hatt blocked a shot in front of her net and flipped a clearing shot to center ice. Twelve players watched, transfixed, as the puck sauntered slowly down ice and settled inside the left post to seal the deal.
The rejuvenated Vineyarders hope to keep the momentum rolling when they face off next against Sandwich High School on Wednesday at 3 pm at the M.V. Ice Arena.