In the two weeks between the original date of the girls federation hockey championship game and the day it was rescheduled because of severe weather, Linda Groff-Mroz’s Monsignor Martin team was able to practice only once.
One of the few things they were able to work on was the penalty kill, and specifically situations where the team was two players short.
Those extra repetitions paid large dividends Thursday at Northtown Center, where a big 5-on-3 kill helped Monsignor Martin beat Williamsville, 2-0, for its second straight girls federation hockey title and fourth in five years.
“Before the game, I was real nervous and I went upstairs because I was shaking and I didn’t need the girls to see that I was nervous,” Groff-Mroz said. “I need to have the bench very, very relaxed because if I get intense, the girls get intense and you can see it in their play.
“I’m always nervous before a big game. But I took a couple of deep breaths, went in and told the girls ‘Listen, we’ve come this far, let’s finish the season like we started it.’ ”
Monsignor Martin did just that, scoring twice in the second period after the big 5-on-3 kill to win the title. Fiona Danahy opened the scoring midway through the period and Kayla Blas made it a two-goal cushion in the final seconds of the frame, scoring a power-play goal with an assist from Catherine Radwan.
“You like a 5-on-3 because you know you’re going to get chances, but what you hate about it is the momentum shift if you’re not successful,” Williamsville coach Rick Hopkins said.
“When we had the 5-on-3, I thought, OK, we have to get one here. I didn’t let the girls know that but we didn’t get one and they got the first. And against a goalie like that when you’re down one, it’s pretty big. And when you’re down two, it’s sometimes almost insurmountable, which it proved to be today.”
That goalie was Monsignor Martin’s Brianna Gawronski, a junior from Mount Mercy who had a shutout in the championship game for the second year in a row.
“I was thinking about that during the game,” she admitted, “but I was like, ‘I can’t think about that, it’ll jinx it.’ ”
And when her team went down two players, “I was like, ‘This is great, I can’t screw up or else it’s done,’ ” she said. “Scoring on them was hard.”
Monsignor Martin’s goals weren’t flashy. They came on players crashing the net to finish rebounds.
“We tell the girls 80 percent of goals are rebounds,” Hopkins said. “Throw it to the net and get to the net. That’s exactly how they got their two.
“We took it to them in the third. There were a couple times girls were jumping up on the bench thinking we had scored but she had it in her glove or deflected it wide.”
The win also completed Monsignor Martin’s undefeated season. The closest call in its 14-win season was a 2-1 overtime game against Williamsville in January.
Williamsville reached the semifinals in the girls sectional tournament, losing to eventual state runner-up Kenmore/Grand Island, 4-1.