This past Tuesday, March eleventh, the Oyster River-Portsmouth (2) girls hockey team took on Berlin-Gorham (3) in a fierce competition in the NHIAA semifinal playoff game.
The game was tight. Berlin-Gorham scored two goals early in the first period, but the ClipperCats fired back; Kelly Zhang (‘23), assisted by Kate Schultz (PHS ‘20), scored at the end of the first and Anna Mazza (‘20) tied up the game unassisted when she stole the puck as Berlin-Gorham tried to clear it from the zone before the end of the second period. When it was still tied 2-2 at the end of the third, the game went into sudden-death overtime and ended with a devastating goal by Berlin-Gorham. Berlin-Gorham was supposed to play Concord (1) in the finals on Saturday, March 14th, but the NHIAA has canceled all winter playoff games due to fear of spreading the coronavirus.
This is a considerable improvement for the ClipperCats who lost 7-0 to Berlin-Gorham earlier this season. Team captain, Laura Dreher (‘20), said, “we were all very sad; there were a lot of tears in the locker room. But I think we know that we’ve come so far and we’re proud of what we accomplished.”
ClipperCats coach, Jamie Long said, “you know, in a game like this someone’s gonna say the other team wanted it more and I think that’s a bunch of crap. I think both teams really wanted it and they left it on the ice.”
Chandler Norling, a consistent fan at the ClipperCat’s games, said, “we actually did insanely well; this is probably the best girls game this year.”
Long said of the beginning of the game when Berlin-Gorham scored their first two goals, “we had the jitters. We weren’t playing our game; we were playing nervous and tight I think, from the goaltender on out.”
By the end of the first period, the team had come into its own. Long said, “this team’s been resilient all year. We come from behind in a lot of games and we came from behind today. Honestly, I thought we outplayed them in the third period and the overtime but we didn’t put enough pucks in the net and they did.”
Greg Poitras is an Oyster River parent who live streams and announces all of the ClipperCats games. He said, “I was impressed by how resilient the ClipperCats were. Down 2-0, there was no sign at all of panic. The confidence was palpable on the ice, on the bench, the coaches. I wasn’t surprised at all when they were able to tie it up 2-2.”
Long spoke about the gameplay in general, “if you look at the game, neither team could sustain a lot of offense. It was one and done usually, one shot and cleared out, one shot and cleared out. That puck sat in front of our net a couple of times and it sat in front of their net a couple of times. ”
Poitras was especially impressed by the performance of the Goalie, Amélie Cowieson (PHS ‘23). “To be a freshman playing in your first playoff hockey at the high school level, with a big crowd, a partisan crowd, and to be able to withstand the number of shots that she faced the last two games and come out with one win and one game to overtime, that’s what stood out in this playoff run,” said Poitras. Cowieson faced twenty-eight shots on net during this game and saved all but three.
While the team is losing six seniors, they also have fifteen underclassmen, Poitras is optimistic about their future. He said, “this team is comprised of players who bring different skills that combine to make an excellent team. They’re well-coached, their freshmen play with a confidence and a poise that’s usually seen in upperclassmen. Things bode extremely well for this program for the next four years.”