By Larry Moko
Coach Paul Altobelli’s Bishop Ryan Celtics are on a roll.
Since either tying or losing their first four games of the 2017-18 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic girls’ high school hockey season, the Celtics have reeled off an eight-game winning streak.
The surging BR squad capped off its run Tuesday by defeating the Cardinal Newman Cardinals 3-0 at Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena to take the HWCAA league championship.
It marked the first girls’ hockey title in the school’s history.
Next up for the Celtics will be the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference AAA final against the Halton winner on Wednesday, March 7 at Morgan Firestone Arena. Game time is 2 p.m.
“At the beginning of the season we started slow,” Bishop Ryan defenceman Chelsea Lawson said. “We hadn’t bonded yet.
“After we came back from the Christmas break, we all kind of focused on working as a team. Since then we’ve really been successful.”
Lawson, the Bishop Ryan captain, is in her fifth season of high school hockey and sixth overall (with clubs in Ancaster, Hamilton and Stoney Creek).
“It would be the best thing of my life to get to OFSAA,” she said.
After a scoreless opening period, the Celtics struck for two second-period goals. The first came on a partial breakaway by forward Kaytlin Strich, who made a clever deke to put the puck behind Newman’s Grade 9 netminder, Megan Warrener.
A 15-foot wrist shot on the power-play five minutes later by an unguarded Camielle Mio at the side of the net gave BR a two-goal cushion. Stephanie Kircos then capped the scoring two minutes into the third period.
The shutout went to Lauren Bain who had to be particularly sharp during the final few minutes when Newman pressed on the power play.
“Lauren was amazing in net,” said Altobelli, who has coached girls’ hockey at BR since its HWCAA inception in 1998. “She stopped a lot of good shots in order to maintain that shutout.”
Cardinal Newman also enjoyed a successful season. The fourth-place Cardinals finished with a 5-4-1 record before eliminating the Bishop Tonnos Titans, 5-4, and the first-place St. Thomas More Knights, 2-1, in a quarter-final and semifinal, respectively.
“We didn’t take that team lightly,” Altobelli said of the Cardinals. “They’re gritty and tough with a great goaltender. That was a big upset for Newman to defeat the first-place team.”
Newman coach Heather Mamony said she was very pleased with the team’s performance and its never-give-up attitude this season.
“We came from two years of winning one game,” she said. “So the fact that we made it to the championship game is a win for us. I know our players are disappointed because we didn’t get the gold, but I said to them they’ve done so much for girls’ hockey at Newman.
“We have a young team – a lot of Grade 9s. We hope that as we’re together more we’ll be able to build on our skills as a team.”
Lawson said she, too, was pleased to see Newman enjoy more success on the ice this season. “They deserve it,” she said. “They are really good sports. They’re always nice.”
Other players on the Celtics roster include Julia McDonald, Candace Rees, Nicki Startek, Aurielle Tobias, Sara Andrews, Olivia Amoroso, Emily Barlow, Angelina Maiolo, Madison Mair, Sofia Goffredo, Emma Mihajlovic, Marissa Bertrand, Camielle Mio, Mari Novakovic, Samantha Preston, Katrina Lipscome and Ellaraye Tobias.
Said Altobelli: “We have a Grade 9 line, a Grade 10 line and a senior line. I was never worried about whatever line went out there.”
The championship game was the first in the past 12 years that the Bishop Tonnos Titans have not appeared in.
In the other recent HWCAA semifinal, the third-place St. Mary Crusaders lost 2-1 to Bishop Ryan. The Crusaders, however, will play in the GHAC final against a Halton AA opponent on March 7. Game time at Mountain Arena is 2:30 p.m.
Source: Marnie Jadon