Guilford edges West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy in overtime to win SCC girls hockey championship

Guilford players celebrate with the championship banner after winning the SCC title on Friday night.

Guilford players celebrate with the championship banner after winning the SCC title on Friday night.

Mike Madera / For Hearst Connecticut Media

WEST HAVEN — With all the momentum stolen, the Guilford girls hockey team had to dig deep in the intermission before overtime.

The message was clear. Get shots on goal.

The Grizzlies took the message to heart and on the 11th shot of the extra session, Sofia Cuozzo deflected in a point shot by tournament Most Outstanding Player Kim Evans to send Guilford erupting from the bench as the Grizzlies topped West Haven / Sacred Heart Academy 4-3 in the Southern Connecticut Conference championship game at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven on Friday.

“I was in front of the net and it happened to hit my stick,” Cuozzo said. “We talked about getting shots in the locker room. We took a nice deep breath and talked about what we needed to do. We wanted to get in front of the net and that is what I tried to do.”

The title was Guilford’s second in three years, after topping Amity/Cheshire/North Haven in 2020. West Haven / Sacred Heart Academy was looking to win its second straight title over the Grizzlies.

“I feel like we dominated the whole game,” Guilford coach Rick Binkowski said after his team improved to 13-6. “Their goalie is fantastic. She has always been that way for four years. Their coaches are top notch.

“Our girls dug down deep. They gave it everything they had. We came right back. It was an incredible game.”

The Grizzlies dominated overtime with an 11-5 shot advantage, but West Haven / Sacred Heart Academy goaltender Grace Nowak kept the hopes of the Westie Sharks alive with 10 saves. Her best was just 30 seconds in when she denied Daniella Vickerman in front with a pad save.

The Westie Sharks only had five shots in the extra session, but they were of high quality. Julianna Picard was denied in front by Guilford goalie Julia McDonald two minutes in, and Anne Plunkett hit the post with 8:25 to go, before Guilford won the title with a power play goal by Cuozzo.

“We left it all on the ice,” West Haven / Sacred Heart Academy coach Erin Blake said after her team closed the season at 9-13. “This was our best game of the year. What a better time for it. The girls went out and played for the seniors. They left it all out there.”

The third period was a thrill from the start as Guilford took the lead early after trailing entering the period, before the Westie Sharks used a brilliant goal by Meghan Dupre with 1:43 left to send the game to overtime.

Trailing by a goal, the Grizzlies evened the contest at two when Maddie Epke was left alone in the slot and beat West Haven / Sacred Heart Academy goaltender Grace Nowak between the pads 3:59 into the third.

Just 27 seconds later, Guilford took the lead when Vickerman’s quick shot in front found the back of the net off assists from Olivia Gill and Cuozzo.

“We gave everything we had from start to finish,” Binkowski said. “We came right back. It was an incredible game.”

The game looked as if it would end with Guilford taking home the title, but the ice started to tilt in favor of the Westie Sharks in the final five minutes of regulation. Dupre was denied in front with 4:30 remaining, before Guilford took two penalties in 42 seconds in the final 3:42.

With two seconds remaining in the two-man advantage, Dupre went the length of the ice before ripping a shot to the top right corner with 1:43 remaining in the third to force overtime.

“I did not take her off the ice,” Blake said of Dupre. “With her offense and defense, she kept us in this along with Grace (Nowak). Grace was amazing. She was phenomenal. She has been phenomenal all year.”

The game was fast-paced from the start with the Grizzlies controlling a majority of the opening 30 minutes, but trailing 2-1.

With Nowak turning aside a variety of shots early, the Grizzlies were knocking on the door. Guilford finally found the back of the net when Evans took a pass from Epke and fired a shot through a screen from the point for a 1-0 lead with 8:31 left in the opening period.

“I play with Grace (Nowak) on my club team,” Epke said. “I know how amazing she is. She has stopped us before. We had to take smart shots.”

The Westie Sharks wasted no time drawing even, needing just 3:06 to respond when Dupre fired a rocket from the slot past Guilford goaltender Julia McDonald with 5:25 remaining in the opening period.

West Haven / Sacred Heart Academy continued the pressure, but McDonald denied Plunkett and Taylor Alfano in a span of one minute, before Emilee DeGrand found Plunkett alone in the slot for a 2-1 lead with 2:47 remaining in the opening period.

The goal by Plunkett held through the middle period despite Guilford holding a 15-6 shot advantage. Nowak was the story of the period as she turned aside 15 shots, including a laser by Epke in the slot with a glove save with 8:50 remaining.

West Haven / Sacred Heart Academy’s best opportunities came in the final five minutes as Chase Ireland’s backhander in front just trickled through the crease, and a blast from the point by Alfano was turned aside by McDonald’s pad save with 1:10 to go.

Nowak finished with 47 saves, while McDonald stopped 25 shots for Guilford.

Player of the Game

Sofia Cuozzo — Sophomore finished with a goal and an assist, including the game-winning tally in overtime.


“This team was incredible tonight. At the end, minute after minute, they gave it their all. They gave everything they had from start to finish.”

— Guilford coach Rick Binkowski


WH/SHA2 0 1 0 — 3

Guilford1 0 2 1 — 4

First Period: G — Kim Evans (Maddie Epke) 8:31; W — Meghan Dupre 5:25; W — Anne Plunkett (Emilee DeGrand) 2:47; Third Period: G — Maddie Epke (Ryleigh Gagnon) 11:28; G — Daniella Vickerman (Olivia Gill, Sofia Cuozzo) 11:01; W — Meghan Dupre 1:43; Overtime: G — Sofia Cuozzo (Kim Evans) 5:57; Shots — W: 28; G:51; Saves — W: Grace Nowak — 47; G: Julia McDonald — 25

Records: G 13-6; W 9-13