By Larry Moko
Sara Andrews of the Bishop Ryan Celtics failed to score on her two breakaways during the team’s closely-contested Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference championship high school hockey game Wednesday.
The opposing goalie made a save the first time and the other shot rang off the crossbar.
But those failed opportunities didn’t discourage Andrews. The veteran Celtics centre was positioned in the right place at the right time to whack home the deciding goal late in the third period as Bishop Ryan edged Oakville’s Loyola Hawks, 4-3, at Morgan Firestone Arena.
With the victory, Bishop Ryan advances to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations AAA girls’ hockey tournament March 21-23 in Cambridge.
“Sara is a quiet leader,” Celtics coach Paul Altobelli said. “She’s been playing amazingly well. She works so hard on the ice, backchecking and forechecking. She had those breakaways and came to the bench feeling a little down but got ready for her next shift.
“As a senior athlete, she was really determined to win this game.”
The winning goal – with 94 seconds remaining – was set up by Candace Rees who came from behind the Loyola net with the puck.
“It’s amazing,” Andrews said of her reaction to the victory. “I can’t even put it into words. I’m still shaking, now.
“The whole four years of playing for this team was worth it. We literally came from the bottom. Then we got close and finally were able to capitalize today.”
Loyola led 2-1 at the end of the first period on goals by Rebecca DiFillippo and Kenedy Choma. Chelsea Lawson – who was later to be involved in one of the game’s most significant plays – replied for the Celtics.
In the second period, Rees deadlocked the score with two minutes left.
Bishop Ryan then looked to be in line for the win midway through the third when Kaytlin Strich skated in alone and scored with a clever deke. Emmy O’Neill’s power-play goal, however, tied the contest again for Loyola.
The Celtics managed to win despite the loss of their captain, Lawson, early in the second period.
“Chelsea is a starter D,” Altobelli said. “It’s a key position to lose. We were down to four defencemen from five. So we had to keep battling all the way through.
“It turned out very well, though. Other players stepped up and we were able to pull together as a team for her.”
Bishop Ryan will be making its first OFSAA appearance in girls’ hockey. Last week the Celtics defeated the Cardinal Newman Cardinals, 3-0, in the HWCAA final.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” Altobelli said. “We take no opponents for granted. We played a very tough team today.”
Lauren Bain was the goaltender for Bishop Ryan. Other assists on BR goals went to Mackenna Spraggon, Emma Mihajlovic and Strich.