By Tris Wykes

Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION – More than half of the Hartford High girls hockey team’s players cannot yet legally drive. Heck, five of the Hurricanes aren’t even in high school. So while Saturday’s 9-4 loss to Division I Rutland at Barwood Arena wasn’t enjoyable, the hosts at least felt it was another stride towards future success.

Hartford High’s Sophie Trombley celebrates after scoring. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“It was definitely scrambly,” said second-year Hurricanes coach Kylie Young, whose Division III team beat Division II Middlebury during its season opener. “There were adjustments we had to make, like not taking the puck up the wall every time, and we finally started taking shots in the third period after being scattered offensively.

“It’s good that we can lose like we did and I still feel proud going into the locker room. We played hard and with a lot of grit in a physical game.”

Freshman forward Madison Barwood scored twice and Sophie Trombley and Brianna Roberts each tallied once for Hartford (1-1) while Emma Bazin had two assists and Nedra Dwinell one. Goaltenders Sydney Stillman and Nella Bowen combined for 25 saves.

Hartford High goaltender Sydney Stillman and defender Julie McDermid cannot prevent Rutland’s Elizabeth Cooley from scoring. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Netminding could be an area of concern for the Hurricanes, who lost four-year starter Zoe Pfeiffer to graduation earlier this year. Stillman, a junior, backed Pfeiffer up the past two seasons and like her former teammate, had never played hockey before entering high school. Bowen, an eighth-grader, is also fairly new to the sport.

This means an understandable adjustment period for Stillman as a starter and Bowen each time she takes the ice. Straight-on shots aren’t much of a problem, but once the goaltenders have to move laterally, the adventure begins. 

Saturday, Stillman surrendered a goal between her pads, another after she thought she’d frozen the puck atop her crease and several others from sharp angles. One of the Ravens also banked in a shot off No. 34’s back.

“Tracking the puck is the hardest thing when you’re new at goaltending,” Young said. “A team like Rutland, that packs in front of the net, that’s really anxiety-provoking and they got some easy ones where she didn’t realize where the puck is.”

Hartford High’s Nora Knutsen cuts behind goaltender Sydney Stillman. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Rutland led, 3-0, after nine minutes and Young used her time out to settle her troops. Shortly thereafter, Hartford’s Barwood scored at the left post with a Bazin assist. Reality struck during the first period’s final minute, however, the visitors scoring twice more and taking a 5-1 lead into the locker room.

The Ravens (2-0) sandwiched a pair of second-period goals around Trombley’s goal, which was the afternoon’s second tally bounced in off a netminder’s spine.

Hartford notched two of the third period’s goals, Barwood scoring her second after only 10 seconds and Roberts striking a little more than a minute later.

The Hurricanes’ top line consists of smooth-skating junior Sophie Trombley and freshmen Barwood and Emma Bazin, both of whom played on the varsity as eighth graders. Saturday’s second line featured senior Roberts with junior Dwinell and freshman Morgan Curtis. 

Rutland High’s Elizabeth Cooley (12) crosses in front of Hartford’s Emma Bazin (5). Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Hartford’s four defensemen are divided into the pairing of senior Grace Bazin and junior Julie McDermid, both Bellows Falls High students, and senior captain Nora Knutsen and eighth-grader Braelyn Park. 

Eighth-grade forwards Aubree Vail, Flynn Moreno and Zoe Zanleoni are at a stage where many of their predecessors elected to remain in youth hockey rather than take their lumps on Hartford teams that went 4-56-3 during three seasons under previous coach Bill Goldsworthy. 

With Young’s arrival and the team’s 5-5 record last winter, however, the higher-level option is more appealing to eighth-graders, in part because high school players skate at least five times a week. That influx has given the Hurricanes more depth and has increased the pace of practices, said their coach.

“We have 17 girls and with very few exceptions, they’re going to see the ice consistently,” said Young, a onetime Hurricane who went on to play in college at Sacred Heart and then-Castleton State. “For our young girls, it’s often more their size than their hockey experience that’s holding them back right now. That was the case for Madison Barwood last year. Her gear was huge on her and it’s only now starting to fit.”

Hartford High goaltender Sydney Stillman makes a save in front of teammate Braelyn Park and Rutland’s Isabel Crossman (17). Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Notes: Bowen is the granddaughter of longtime Hartford field hockey assistant Gail Patch and Park is the granddaughter of Hockey Hall of Fame member and former Boston Bruins star Brad Park… Hartford principal Nelson Fogg, who coached the girls hockey team from its 1990s founding through the 2012-13 season, ran Friday’s practice when the Hurricanes’ current coaches all had other commitments. “The girls said it was the best one of the year,” Young said with a smirk… Fogg was followed as head coach by one of his assistants, Marc Gattie, who went 30-48-6 during four seasons before giving way to Goldsworthy, who remains nearby as a STEM instructor at the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center… Hartford beat Rutland last season and lost to Middlebury in the Division II semifinals… This year’s VPA regular-season standings include six teams in Division I, six in Division II, and five in Division III. The teams are generally rearranged for playoff competition.

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Hartford High’s Braelyn Park (11) splits Rutland’s Molly Abatiell (8) and Alyssa Kennedy (20). Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.