By Morgan Ryan, Special to the News
LAKE PLACID — The Williamsville girls hockey team’s run of championships came to an end Sunday at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid.
Williamsville came into the NYSPHSAA Final Four riding high after winning the Western New York Federation and Section VI tournaments within the last two weeks, but ran into red-hot goaltender in the state final and had to settle for a 1-0 defeat.
Clinton took advantage of a power play opportunity at the 6:37 mark of the third period when Mia Lopata blasted a slap shot from the point that found the back of the net. Abby Kurdziolek was credited with the assist.
Williamsville went into attack mode the rest of the way, ratcheting up the pressure and creating a series of goal-scoring chances.
Shortly after the Clinton goal, senior forwards Emma Roland and Jenna Cavalieri peppered shots toward the net, but Clinton goaltender Hailey Millington was there at every turn.
“It was one of those where it comes down to a one-period game, and they took advantage of their one opportunity,” Williamsville coach Rick Hopkins said. “We were all over them, but just couldn’t bury it. Hat’s off to their goalie, she played a great game.”
Millington was credited with 24 saves on the night, while Williamsville goalie Mia Wendell stopped 12.
It was the second shutout in as many nights for Millington after Clinton edged a Salmon River team that came into the state semifinal with a 19-0-3 record. Millington recorded nine saves Saturday night in the 1-0 victory.
“She has not played a game all season like she did today,” Clinton coach Nicole Ruddy said. “We haven’t been very successful on our power play all year, so to capitalize in a game that matters this much, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
“All it takes is one chance. That power play goal basically got us the championship.”
Williamsville, which won the state title last year at Harborcenter but lost in the Federation tournament, rolled through Saturday’s semifinal with a 7-0 victory over Plattsburgh, of Section VII. The senior-laden team finished with a 16-3-2 record.
“I’m sad. I’m just sad it’s over,” Roland said. “It’s hard right now, but it was such a great senior season. To do so well in the regular season, then win Fed and sectionals was probably one of the best feelings.”
Roland, who recorded a hat trick in the Section VI championship game then scored another three goals in Saturday’s state semifinal, signed earlier in the week to play hockey at Rochester Institute of Technology next season.
“It’s tough on the seniors,” Hopkins said. “Win, lose or draw, tonight was their last game no matter what. You always want to go out a champion but there’s only one team that finishes the season with a win and that’s the champions, and that’s Clinton tonight, so congratulations on a very well-coached team. We have a lot of respect for them.”
Roland was one of 10 seniors on the Williamsville roster.
“They are a special group,” Hopkins said. “It’s always hard to say goodbye to the seniors. I’m extremely proud of the girls in our locker room. They were all leaders.
“The effort was there for us tonight, just the execution came up a little short.”
This weekend’s Final Four tournament was played in the same arena where a young American team coached by Herb Brooks pulled off an unlikely upset over a heavily favored Soviet Union team in the 1980 Winter Olympics in what became known as a “Miracle on Ice.” The U.S. went on to win the gold medal with a victory over Finland.
“Being here in Lake Placid was so much fun,” Roland said. “It was very cool, the experience of knowing who has skated on there before and what a big thing it was for America and hockey.”