The Mid-Fairfield Connecticut Stars under-14 girls hockey team had already defeated the Connecticut Polar Bears four times this season. The fifth time may have been the hardest.
The Stars scored two third-period goals to top the Polar Bears, 3-1, in the first game of the Tier I New England Regional at the Shelton Sports Center. The Stars play two more preliminary round games Saturday. The semifinals and finals are scheduled for Sunday.
With two players in the penalty box, Katie Savage scored a shorthanded goal with 14:08 left in the third period to give the Stars (38-5) their first lead of the game. Ashley Carbone scored with 2:51 left to get some breathing room. Sarah McNamara had a goal and an assist for the Stars.
"These games are like my children,'' said Norwalk's Moe Tarrant, the team's coach. "They're all different. Especially when you're dealing with 14-year-old girls in their first New England tournament. They were a little sluggish in the first period but came out and strong in the second period."
Norwalk's Nicole Lue and Annie DeFrino are members of the Stars, who are ranked fourth in the country by the website Myhockeyrankings.com . The team also includes Darien's Sasha Fritts and Fairfield's Taegan Blackwell.
The Stars defeated the Polar Bears twice en route to the state tournament title, 5-0 and 4-1. They also beat them twice during Connecticut Hockey Conference games. The Polar Bears struck first with 12:31 left in the first period on a goal by Karen Hudson and took a 1-0 lead into the locker room after the first period.
"I have one of the best offensive coaches I've ever had, Ryan Equale, and he told them to just keep shooting,'' Tarrant said. "That was the message we told them between periods. We just had to keep firing."
The Stars dominated the second period and peppered Polar Bears' goalie Caitlyn DaRosa with 20 shots. McNamara tied it with 10:53 left in the second, assisted by Katelyn Pantera. Starting goalie Emma Farrel (three saves) suffered an injury with 8:33 left in the period but stayed in the game until the third when DeFrino (five saves) replaced her.
Savage got the game-winner when she poked the puck past a defenseman and raced in alone on DaRosa. She buried the puck in the back of the net to give the Stars their first lead. DaRosa (47 saves) kept the game tight until Carbone's goal iced it.
"Any time in the playoffs you get nervous,'' Tarrant said. "You can always run into a hot goalie. They're goalie was tremendous, but we were able to get a couple. I thought after we got our first goal we would settle down and be OK. When we scored it helped us settle down."
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