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Guilford, West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy skaters set to collide for SCC girls hockey title

By Rick Menning

WEST HAVEN, CT. -- No. 1 vs. No. 2! Always a dream match-up but even more so when a title is on the line.

That's exactly the scenario facing the Guilford and West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy girls' ice hockey teams as they prepare for the Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) championship game on Friday, Feb. 25 at the Edward L. Bennett Rink. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

Westie Sharks' junior Melissa Tsakonas races out of her defensive zone with the puck during her team's 2-0 victory over the Hamden co-op Dragons in a Southern Connecticut Conference semifinal game on Wednesday, Feb. 23. The hosts prevailed 2-0 at the Edward L. Bennett Rink. (Photo courtesy of Blue Devils Photography.)

The top-seeded Grizzlies and No. 2 Westie Sharks punched their ticket to the winner-take-all showdown by virtue of their respective victories over the Hamden and Amity co-op squads on Wednesday.

West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy defended its home ice at the Edward L. Bennett Rink with a hard-fought 2-0 triumph, while Guilford displayed a potent offense in an 8-3 verdict at the Milford Ice Arena.

While the Westie Sharks combined solid backchecking and stickwork to disrupt every Dragons' attempt to get back in the game after jumping out to the 2-0 lead over the first 11 minutes, the Guilford sharpshooters unleashed a torrid attack on net that resulted in 44 total shots on goal.

Eight of those found the mark as the Blades put up a good fight throughout the first period and early into the second 15 minutes before the Grizzles went into overdrive. The Blades actually led 2-1 with a goal just 1:28 into the second period but Guilford outscored them 7-1 the rest of the way.

Guilford Grizzlies' senior Daniella Vickerman made history Wednesday night in the SCC semifinals when her third-period unassisted goal marked the 100th point in her career with the team. (Photo courtesy of Guilford Grizzlies.)

In Milford, Grizzlies' senior Daniella Vickerman made the first goal in the third period a very memorable one. Surging in untouched from the red line, Vickerman scored on a dazzling one-timer that clinched her 100th point as a member of the Guilford squad.

That historical accomplishment was the icing on the cake to a night of fireworks that also included hat-trick achievements by sophomore Sofia Cuozzo and senior captain Maddie Epke. Epke also had four assists for a seven-point showing.

Another captain, senior Olivia Gill, rounded out the scorefest for the Grizzles with the opening tally in the first period.

In the day's matinee encounter in West Haven, senior Maya Boyhen picked up a loose puck in the low slot and converted a one-timer to the stick side of Dragons' goalie Marcia Colten for the 1-0 advantage. That initial goal came with just under two minutes gone in the contest.

Westie Sharks' freshman Juliann Picard positions herself in the low slot while being tightly defended during the height of the action at the Edward L. Bennett Rink. (Photo courtesy of Blue Devils Photography.)

Then, a little over three minutes later, junior Emilee De Grand went top shelf with a beautiful riser from close range. That was all the Westie Sharks would need as the 'D' took over with a shutdown performance.

That Westie Sharks' defense came up big on several occasions, but especially during the third period when the home team won numerous loose-puck battles as the Dragons tried to rally but were held off the scoreboard.

Goalie Grace Nowak, one of the team's captains, stopped all 21 direct shots on net she faced to post the shutout in a fantastic effort over the 45-minute contest.

Westie Sharks' senior goalie Grace Nowak was poised and focused in shutting down all of the Dragons' scoring opportunities. (Photo courtesy of Blue Devils Photography.)

Amity, a co-op with Cheshire and North Haven, had goals against the Grizzlies scored by Elaina Scasino, Ellen Barto and Samantha "Sami" Drane, who was named this season's Most Valuable Player.

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