By Larry Moko
The Bishop Ryan girls’ high school hockey team has advanced to the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic semifinals, but it wasn’t as easy as one-two-three.
The Celtics scored three unanswered goals in approximately the first five minutes of their quarter-final against the St. Thomas More Knights on Monday and it appeared they were on their way to a one-sided victory.
The Knights fought back, however, before eventually falling 5-3 at Valley Park Arena.
The final goal was scored on a breakaway with eight minutes remaining by Celtics captain, Kaytlin Strich.
“The first five minutes we were on fire,” Celtics coach Paul Altobelli said. “We thought we had the game in the bag.
“We started playing on our heels and they came right at us.”
On goals by Madison Mair, Strich and Stephanie Mair, the Celtics held a 3-1 lead going into the second period. Tiara Faccio had the lone More marker.
The Knights then charged out of the gate 10 seconds after the opening faceoff in the second period to cut the margin to 3-2. It was the first of two goals in the middle frame by Sofia Domanico.
In between Domanico’s two goals, Mair darted through the defence on a rush to collect her second of the contest.
Samantha Preston had two assists for the Celtics.
“We had a slow start,” More coach Trevor Young said. “We got behind the 8-ball and couldn’t make up for it.
“Once we found our stride we were good. We knew we could play with them.”
More’s attack was particularly strong in the late stages when it peppered Celtics goalie Lauren Bain with shots. One of those drives hit the goal post.
“They put a ton of pressure on us in the final four or five minutes,” Altobelli said. “Lauren came up big with a lot of very important saves.”
Said Young: “We felt we were in the game right until the final buzzer went.”
Both coaches praised the performance of Olivia Scibetta, the St. Thomas More goaltender.
“At our first team meeting we looked around and we didn’t have anybody to play goalie,” Young said. “Olivia stepped up. She was awesome. That’s someone who has maybe played in 12 hockey games in her whole life. I’m impressed by that.”
Said Altobelli: “I have to commend the goalie of the other team. Apparently, she stepped up to take that position, having not been a goalie. I told her at the end of the game that I was so proud of her stepping up into that role. She’s not my player, but I want to see all players do extremely well no matter what team they are on.
“I think it was remarkable the learning curve and the skill development that she went through in such a short period of time. To play in a quarter-final like this and have that much pressure on her …”
The fourth-place Celtics (4-6) won both games against St. Thomas More (2-7-1) during the regular schedule.
“More really brought their game today,” said Strich, a veteran right-winger who also plays at the midget AA level for Brantford Ice Cats. “They have a huge third-year team so I think it meant a lot to them as it did to us. STM did the best they could but we came out with the victory.”
With the win, the Celtics face the first-place St. Mary Crusaders (8-1-1) in the next round. The other semifinal Wednesday matches the second-place St. John Henry Newman Cardinals (8-2) against the third-place Bishop Tonnos Titans (7-3).
Source: Marnie Jadon