Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester dominated the attack and Jenny Holmquist put up two pretty points in a 4-1 win versus visiting Winslow/Erskine on Saturday, Jan. 30.
The No. 5 Clippers thus capped an 8-10 regular season with a pair of victories, including an upset of No. 3 Lewiston/Monmouth/Oak Hill (10-6-1) on the 27th.
“We’ve been working on aggressive forecheck,” said Clippers head coach Megan Vaughan. “Working on getting the puck in the net. We’re getting there.”
Clippers goalie Miranda O’Shea was happy with her defense’s ability to deny the Raiders quality looks. “The shots they got were just the only shots they could take,” she said. “They were pretty easy for me to stop.”
The Clippers controlled for much of the game, but Winslow/Erskine netminder Kiana Richards proved intimidatingly stalwart. The Raiders even got on the board first, late in the opening period; despite being outshot 14-4 in that stretch, they capitalized on a penalty to Clipper Keely Arnold. Raider Hillary Libby pulled the trigger on the shot, a wrister from 10 feet out that snuck past O’Shea for 1-0.
“I just don’t think they were ready,” Vaughan said of her girls’ misstep. “They weren’t ready for that penalty kill. They were flustered, because we’re a much stronger team, but their goaltender is phenomenal.”
O’Shea faced fewer than 10 shots in the outing. She knew, however, to watch out for intense pressure from Raiders Paige Veilleux and Brittany Mason. “Their 17 and 21 looked pretty nasty out there,” she said.
The Clippers redoubled their pressure in the second, and six minutes in their efforts paid off gorgeously. Katie Clemmer dug up the puck in the right Raiders corner, scooted around Richards’s net and dished 20 feet out to Holmquist, perfectly placed in the high slot and completely undefended. Her lightning wrister, whiteboard perfect, beat Richards stickside. 1-1.
Holmquist described the goal.
“Katie came down along the left side of the boards,” she said, “and around the back of the net. She didn’t have anybody on that side, so she came back around and passed it out front, and I one-timed it blocker-side. Our defensive coach is a goalie coach, so she was like, ‘Blocker side! Blocker side!’”
The Clippers continued to press after that. Clemmer followed Holmquist’s notch immediately with a hard, direct shot, and Holmquist herself turned a beautiful wraparound attempt. If not for Richards, the Raiders would’ve been shredded.
Richards began to crumple under the pressure at the beginning of the third. By that time, however, she’d faced upward of 40 shots.
“These last couple days, we’ve been practicing shots and shot and shots,” Holmquist said. “The last time we played them, we couldn’t get any shots off. Definitely we had a lot of difficulty putting the puck in the back of the net.”
Vaughan told her girls to “just keep shooting, keep screening…we’ve got to get in front of the net and cause some chaos. Goalies like her, they’re going to see everything, so you’ve got to screen her to get the puck in the net. We’ve been working on that.”
Holmquist dealt the Clippers’ second blow – assisted by Kyaira Grondin – when she scored from the left point on a wrister through heavy traffic.
“I didn’t have enough time to calm the puck down, so it was a little flimsy,” she said. “Their goalie comes down quickly, so I was trying to get my shot up high. It dropped really awkwardly and went in.”
“I’m pretty sure Kelsey Meyer was in front of the net, screening,” Holmquist said. “We worked on screening a lot. (Richards) is a great goalie, so we had to make sure we screened her. There were a lot of shots, and for her to only let in four…that’s an amazing job.”
The Raiders shot themselves in the foot around the 11-minute mark, pulling two quick penalties and stumbling into a five-on-three. They successfully killed the first of the minors, but Kelsey Meyer converted on the second, assisted by Clemmer and Kyaira Grondin.
A minute later, with 8:22 remaining in the game, Arnold beat Richards unassisted. From there, the Clippers sailed to victory.
O’Shea was satisfied with the overall result – she was all smiles – but also a bit frustrated at failing to attain a personal goal. “I’m happy we won,” she said, “but I’m pretty sad also…It was going to be my fifth shut-out, you know?”
The Clippers travel to No. 4 Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland for the tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday, Feb. 3.
“I’m pretty happy with where we’re at,” said O’Shea. “The game today, I was really psyched for, and I’m psyched to go into the playoffs.”
Clippers senior goalie Miranda O’Shea (Freeport) faced very few shots against Winslow/Erskine – but she saved them when they counted.The Clippers’ Maddie Wilkes (Freeport) cuts cross-ice as a teammate and a Winslow/Erskine opponent collide near her feet.Kelsey Meyer (Freeport) attacks for the Clippers on Saturday.