POTTSTOWN >> The latest chapter of the storied Hill-Lawrenceville rivalry was the rare matinee double feature.
Wednesday afternoon, the school’s’ respective boys and girls ice hockey teams met at Hall-Eccleston Arena for an early-season doubleheader.
In keeping with the general tenor of the rivalry, things turned out rather even, as the Blues and Big Red split the pair of contests. The Hill girls’ team continued their hot start (6-1) with a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Big Red, while Lawrenceville rode a fast start to a 3-1 decision in the nightcap.
The supposed undercard between the girls’ squads ended up stealing the show, as Jordan Hower’s goal with eight seconds to play got the Blues off on the right foot with a last-second, 4-3 win. For Hower, a junior forward from Kennett Square, it was her fifth tally of the season, tying her for the team lead and coming at the perfect time.
The goal came just seconds after Lawrenceville had re-tied the game for a third time with 39 seconds to play and rescued Hill from what appeared to be a looming sudden-death overtime.
“For a couple seconds, (the tying goal) was kind of stunning — but just as quickly it turns into ‘we need a goal, we need it quick,’” said Hower.
“It’s a win, but it’s hard to measure how important a win,” added head coach Ari Baum. “Anytime we beat Lawrenceville, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s in the league or not, it’s much more significant than that. The game goes beyond anything in the standings.”
Liz MacMurray got the Hill girls on the board about halfway through the first period off a feed from Jane McCarter. Lawrenceville’s Julia Wang quickly responded, but Hill regained the lead when defender Madi Morton found the back of the net on a 5-on-3 powerplay with only seconds remaining in the opening period to give Hill the 2-1 lead.
The second stanza remained scoreless, but an early third period hooking call resulted in Lawrenceville’s Gia Massari knotting the contest with 12 minutes remaining in regulation. Allie Corser-James put the Blues back on top, winning a scramble with about five minutes to play for a 3-2 lead, but Lawrenceville’s late tally set the stage for Hower’s late heroics.
Hill’s hot start has also featured a historic 3-1 victory last week against Westminster, significant in that it marked the program’s first victory over one of the perennial powers of girls’ prep ice hockey. Could the Blues’ be on the precipice of joining those ranks?
“We’ve come a long way,” said Baum. “We’d never beaten a team like them before.
“But there’s still nothing quite like beating Lawrenceville.”
In the nightcap, however, the Big Red would exact a measure of revenge, starting fast and pulling away to a 3-1 victory in the boys’ matchup. Two early first-period goals chased starting Hill goaltender Max Cichanowicz, and while Sean Parker came in to stop the bleeding, the Blues were unable to solve Lawrenceville’s TJ Semptimphelter until the 5:07 mark of the second period when Ville Wilpola broke the ice on a shorthanded breakaway.
But it was Lawrenceville’s Nikita Nesterenito who’d finally beat Parker about three minutes into the third period, re-opening the Big Red’s lead to a pair of goals and giving Semptimphelter all the breathing room he’d need.
The win was particularly significant for the Big Red in that it swung the all-time series in their favor — if ever so slightly. According to the Hill boys’ ice hockey Twitter account, the all-time series between the two teams was dead even coming into Wednesday at a record of 72 wins apiece with 14 draws.
“That just speaks to the nature of this rivalry,” said Hill coach Chris Bala, who admitted he only learned that statistic earlier Wednesday and was surprised by just how close the rivalry is.
“These games are rarely one-sided. Even tonight, we had our chances. But they were the better team. We’ll see them again in February up at their rink. We’ll be prepared.”
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