Saying that the 2018-2019 Girls Prep team is one for the ages is an understatement. Most of the girls on the team will never be on a team this talented ever again. Our depth was always our biggest strength. As Coach Stafford says, “We are known for wearing teams out, then BOOM! Knocking them out! It is our team identity.” We were always able to put anyone on the ice at any time during the game and not worry about the game being at stake.
As the season went on, the Girls Prep team was being challenged less and less because teams continued to cancel games against them. It wasn’t until late January that they had their first loss of the season, to Chicago Mission. But the girls knew that winning a National Championship was going to take hard work and spent the entire week prior to the national tournament preparing for anything that might come as a surprise or catch them off-guard. Due to the stellar year the Girls Prep team had, they went into the tournament full of confidence and with a record of 42-2-2. But with confidence comes added pressure from the coaches, the school, and our fellow students. Many of the girls on the Prep team have already won a National Championship; 15 to be exact. However, there are three girls on the team whose last hope at a national title was to win one this year.
Upon arriving in Irvine, California, the team was surprisingly calm. There was little talk of the nerves that naturally come with the National Championship tournament. The following day, the Prep team had practice and everyone seemed pleased with the level of intensity of practice. A good sign for the upcoming games. As the time for the first game of the tournament grew closer, the nerves increased. They turned out to be premature, however, as the girls flew through the first three games with ease. The first game they won 10-0 against Lady Anaheim Ducks, the second they sailed to a 12-2 win over Mid Fairfield and finished off round-robin play with a 7-2 victory over Selects Academy. Then came the quarterfinal game against the New Jersey Colonials. Once again, the team was victorious with a score of 6-1. When the semifinal game rolled around, the win did not come quite as easily. However, the Girls Prep team earned their 4-1 win over Belle Tire. Everyone went to bed early that night, as they knew the next day would be one they would never forget.
Prior to puck drop, the seniors on the team began to get emotional because they were realizing that this would be their last game in an SSM jersey. Everything they had worked for during those early morning practices was all going to be worth it. A dream fulfilled one last time before graduation. However, the team was in for a rude awakening. The game began, both teams looking strong, but as the first period came to a close, it was SSM 0, Boston Jr. Eagles 2. Then the second period ended…SSM 1, Boston Jr. Eagles 2. SSM was back in it. Few words were spoken in the locker room between periods. Everyone knew what needed to be done: keep possession of the puck. Boston was playing an unconventional style of play. Rather than being aggressive and pursuing the puck, they waited for their opponent to make a mistake, then iced the puck— a play that caused a whistle to be blown and the play to come back into the Boston defensive zone. At the start of the third period, two minutes of play left, Girls Prep pulled their goalie to gain an extra attacker. Thirty seconds were left in the game. Everyone on the ice, on the bench, in the stands, and watching back home was still thinking Girls Prep was going to pull off a victory in the nick of time, just as they had done just two games prior to leaving for California. The final buzzer sounded and the Girls Prep team realized they just lost. Everyone was crying and hugging each other, knowing that their season was over. No words were said as the medals were distributed to each team. Girls Prep left the ice knowing that they left everything they had on the ice. There was nothing else they could have done. They outshot Boston 49-10. Shattuck-St. Mary’s clearly outplayed the Boston Jr. Eagles, but the scoreboard did not show what everyone knew.
Now that the tournament is over and everyone has settled back into their routines of school, skating and working out, the team is still left perplexed. How can a team of this caliber lose the most important game of the year? What went wrong? Did they overlook a team? What can be done to make sure this does not happen to any other SSM team? We may not be national champions, but we are now officially Shattuck-St. Mary’s hockey alumnae and that is a bond that can never be broken.