Lina Mirabella added to her legacy of being a big-time scorer for the Kenmore girls hockey team on Friday evening at the Northtown Center at Amherst.
The sophomore winger scored the game-winning goal in double overtime to propel the Section VI champs to a 2-1 triumph over Lancaster/Iroquois in the Western New York Girls Hockey Federation championship game.
“She scored the sectional title winner for us three years ago, so she scores big goals for us,” Kenmore coach Jeff Orlowski said.
The game winner came 2:27 into the second overtime. Mirabella hustled to pick up a loose puck and buried the winner.
“I came off the bench fired up and I went full speed and shot the puck and was going to go for the rebound, but it went in,” she said.
Kenmore became the first team in the four-year history of the Federation to claim both the Section VI title and the Federation championship in the same year. The meeting was the fourth this season between the two rivals as Lancaster/Iroquois won the two regular season games and Kenmore won the Section VI title matchup last week by identical 2-1 scores.
The game was tight throughout as Lancaster/Iroquois held a 1-0 lead heading into the third period. Orlowski urged his team to keep playing hard and became somewhat prophetic in his intermission speech.
“Between the second and third periods, I turned to Emily King and said ‘Emily you’re going to be the hero today,’ and she scores the tying goal,” he said.
King, a sophomore, evened the score after she intercepted a puck at the blue line and flicked a wrist shot past Lancaster/Iroquois goalie Maddie Norton on the glove side with 5:39 left in regulation.
In overtime, three-time All-WNY goaltender Lauren Pray, who stopped 32 shots, took over, making the biggest save of the game on a 2-on-1 break with 12.8 seconds remaining in the first OT.
“I usually don’t get nervous when I’m playing, but I kept my cool when they passed it across and I used my instincts to slide across and stop the puck,” said Pray.
“She’s a stone wall back there. She makes saves that are unheard of,” Orlowski said of Pray. “It allows our defense to step up, because they know if they make a mistake, she’s going to save them. She’s rock solid.”
Meanwhile, Norton finished with 36 saves for Lancaster/Iroquois. Lancaster/Iroquois opened the scoring 10:52 into the first period, when senior captain Meghan Fonfara ripped one past Pray from the left circle.
Lancaster/Iroquois coach Dave Santoro was proud of his girls, who were attempting a worst to first transition. After going winless its first three years in the Fed, Lancaster added much-needed depth by merging with Iroquois, which didn’t have a program. The girls from both schools quickly jelled to produce a season filled with winning moments – just not a championship one. “We beat the two-time Federation champs (Monsignor Martin) in the semifinals to get here,” said Santoro. “They played their hearts out tonight.”
“It’s unbelievable. This team has been so good this year,” Orlowski said. “To score in double overtime it’s fitting the way this league ran. It was so close top to bottom. ... I’m very proud of my team.”