It may have been senior night for the Oyster River – Portsmouth girls hockey team, but the underclassmen stole the show on the scoresheet, combining for 3 goals and 5 points.
With their 3-2 victory over the Bishop Brady – Trinity – West co-op team, the team improved to 10-wins in what Coach Jamie Long described as a tight playoff race and as of February 20th, they sit in 3rd place. The game was tight from start to finish, climaxing in the final minute when BB-T-W pulled the game within one goal, and had multiple chances to send the contest to overtime.
Laura Dreher (C), Anna Mazza (C), Morgan Kahn, and Lilli Poitras represented Oyster River, and Carmen Callahan and Kate Shultz represented Portsmouth, all of whom Long spoke highly of, citing hard work, competitiveness, and on-ice performance.
“We really have a great senior class,” Long said in regards to the whole group.
Senior night was a bittersweet moment for many because it meant the athletes have reached the tail end of their high school career.
“Senior night to me is a night where we recognize and celebrate everything that our seniors have given to the program,” said Dreher.
While she enjoyed the celebration, Dreher also mentioned the obvious. “It’s also a sad night, because even though it wasn’t actually our last home game, it signals that my time with the team is coming to an end.”
Sophomore Natalie Lessard, who participated in the opening ceremonies and had 2 assists during the game, said “it’s sad because while I’ve only played with them for 2 years, they’re very friendly, and now they’re leaving.”
The ceremonies ended with the PA announcer reading a faux starting line-up, that introduced the 6 seniors instead of the typical 5 skaters as fun nod, and shortly after it was time for puck drop.
The action started off with back and forth scoring opportunities, but the action took an upward turn when BB-T-W had a breakaway chance with 7:52 left in the first, but was expertly turned away by goalie Amelie Cowison (PHS ‘23).
Just over 2 minutes later, OR-P was able to gain momentum and score via tip-in, when Kate Deans redirected a Natalie Lessard shot from the point past the BB-T-W netminder.
OR-P would go on the power play to close out the first, however was unable to find the back of the net, and the two teams entered the intermission with the Clippercats leading 1-0.
The second period started on a much stronger note for the Clipper Cats, when Dreher went on a breakaway after evading multiple BB-T-W defenders, but was stopped by the goalie on a side-to-side attempt.
Kelly Zhang (ORHS ‘23) gave the Clippercats a 2-0 lead with the first of her 2 goals, which was assisted by 2 seniors, Poitras and Mazza (ORHS), but this lead was cut to 1 by BB-T-W with 2:23 left to play.
“It felt good and meant a lot,” Mazza said about her point on senior night. “It was definitely a more emotional game.”
The teams both came out strong to start the third, exchanging strong offensive rushes, with the BB-T-W netminder sniffing out another drive by Dreher to keep the game close.
2 minutes and 18 seconds into the third, these rushes were interrupted by a BB-T-W penalty, and OR-P went on the powerplay.
The powerplay started off on a poor note for the Clippercats, when Chevy Irizary went on a breakaway for BB-T-W. but Amelie Cawieson (PHS ‘23) came up with a clutch save to keep the momentum going for OR-P.
Lessard and Zhang were able to connect on the ensuing play for another redirect in front, extending the Clippercat lead to 2 with over 10 minutes to play remaining in the period.
BB-T-W wasn’t phased by being down 3-1, and kept their strong offense going up until the final buzzer. With just 1 minute and 8 seconds remaining in the game, BB-T-W capitalized on a scoring change out front and pulled the game within 1 goal with minimal time left to play.
Despite having 6 attackers and an offensive face-off with 11 seconds left, they were unable to force overtime and the Clippercats escaped with the win.
The Clippercats played again the following Wednesday, against a co-op of three nearby schools and local rivals, St. Thomas – Winnacunnet – Dover, where they emerged victorious 7-6.
The Clippercat’s next game is when they play host to the Concord Crimson Wave on February 24th at 8:00 PM, in a game that has heavy implications on the final playoff seeding.
OR-P is 11-3-2, and Concord is 12-2-0, and with such little separation, both teams need a victory to rise above one another to get an optimal first round match-up come playoff time.
“Concord is a big game for us,” said Mazza. “Coming off our ties with Hanover and Exeter we hope to play as well as we did in those games, if not better.”