Cougars’ improvement marked by first goal
It was surely an amazing moment when the ConVal girls hockey team scored their first goal in program history last season, but after the euphoria faded and reality set in, it became a little bittersweet. Senior Haley Webber scored that goal; of course, she graduated in the spring, leaving the fate of the Cougar team in the hands of the underclassmen. Maybe one of this year’s seniors, like Casey Kania, Catherine Long or Olivia Thomas, would be the next to put ConVal on the scoreboard. Instead, it was freshman center Hannah Garfinkle who scored the first goal of the season for the Cougars during Monday’s 2-1 loss to Souhegan.
“I remember seeing everything happening in slow motion,” Garfinkle said. “I have to give huge credit to my linemate Taryn Wing for making the assist. She made a fantastic pass in front of the net, and I managed to be there to put the puck in the net.”
Naturally, every ConVal supporter in the building, from player to parent to fan, erupted in excitement.
“The feeling was incredible because of the crowd and my team cheering us on,” Garfinkle said. “I was so excited to get my first varsity goal for my freshman year. I am happy that my team finally has a point on the board.”
This time, though, there’s no need for that bittersweet realization that the one girl who could get the puck into the back of the net will be graduating and leaving the team to rebuild again next season. Garfinkle will anchor the talented young corps of ConVal skaters for the foreseeable future – and who knows how good they will get by next season?
The team is already showing a huge improvement this year; after losing to Souhegan 10-0 not once but twice, the Cougars held them to a mere two goals in Monday’s game – the fewest goals ConVal has allowed in a game all season! Senior goaltender Lilly Grisafi had perhaps her finest game in net of her ConVal career, stopping 63 of the 65 shots she faced.
“The team has made enormous strides not only from the beginning of the season, but even in our past few games,” head coach Courtney McKay said in an interview Tuesday. “The girls have always been a close group – playing in Division I at our skill set instantly bonds girls, because they show their true character when they stick with the team after some of our losses. I think a real change recently was their level of aggressive play. We have been working on putting pressure on teams and forcing mistakes which is exactly what we did last night. The girls were really playing cohesive hockey – making good passes and getting shots.”
McKay said she hopes that strong play will continue as the team wraps up their season on Monday, when they host Exeter at the Winchendon School for the Cougars’ senior night. And though they’ll lose a good group of senior who were on board with the program from its inception, the lessons they were able to pass on to the next wave of ConVal skaters will be present.
“The seniors this year have made such a positive impact on my life, and I am so happy I got the chance to work with these five amazing people,” Garfinkle said. “The seniors have been so supportive of the team, not to mention myself. These girls have also helped boost my confidence on and off the ice. Most of all, the seniors have taught me how to be a better person and hockey player – they also taught me to have a blast while I am on the ice. As the season went on, I became closer with each and every one of them. Now they are some of my closest friends. The team will not be the same without them. I will miss them very much next year.”