Girls hockey: Jonsson earns all-state honors

According to Brooke Jonsson, being a goalie means being prepared for everything.

Being named to the all-state girls hockey team, however, was something she wasn’t prepared for.

“I wasn’t really expecting it. It’s such an accomplishment,” said Jonsson, a Wilton High senior who plays on the Wilton/Norwalk girls hockey team.

Jonsson is the first member of the team ever named to Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association All-State Team.

She also was named first-team all-FCIAC for the second year in a row.

While the Wilton team has taken its lumps the past two seasons, with only six wins combined, Jonsson has been stellar in goal, keeping the Warriors in games despite facing a barrage of shots.

This past season, she averaged 40 saves per game, making 754 saves in 844 minutes. That came out to about one shot on goal per minute. She finished with an impressive .904 save percentage. She allowed 80 goals in 19 games (an average of just over four goals per game) despite facing 834 shots.

In the team’s loss to Darien in early January, Jonsson officially made 87 saves in 43 minutes of play — although some accounts credited her with 100 saves.

The more shots, the better, she said.

“It feels fun to get shot at,” she said. “I’m a goalie. Goalies are crazy.”

Jonsson began playing hockey in the third grade, and played in the Ridgefield travel program from the fourth grade through seventh grade.

Sixth grade proved to be a pivotal season. Up to then, she had been playing forward.

“The goalie in sixth grade who played for our team didn’t come to a practice and the coach asked us if anyone wanted to be goalie. I raised my hand,” she said, noting that she found out quickly that she was a natural in goal.

“I adjusted really well, even the first practice. I did pretty well for a goalie that was just starting.”

Those first two years, Jonsson had to face a lot of shots. She attended clinics and improved her skills, and in eighth grade tried out for, and made, the powerful Connecticut Ice Cats team run by the Darien Youth Hockey Association.

It was a different experience, as now she had to only face five to 10 shots a game.

“When there’s only five shots, I really had to be on my toes,” she noted.

She played for the Ice Cats in the eighth and ninth grades, and in 2013 helped the team advance all the way to the national championship game, where it lost to a team from Alaska. That team included many players Jonsson would go on to face in the FCIAC, including fellow all-state players Marissa Baker and Chandler Kirby of Darien, and Catherine Granito of New Canaan.

“I loved playing with them. I know how good they are,” she said.

With Wilton graduating its goalie the year before Jonsson arrived, she was able to step into the starting job as a freshman. She’s played all but 11 minutes over the past four seasons, with 20 wins and two shutouts.

After a 5-11 season her first year, the Warriors had one of their best seasons ever in 2014, going 9-9-1 and qualifying for the FCIAC playoffs for only the second time. That team was hit hard by graduation and the following season finished at 3-16-1.

The past two seasons have required Jonsson to step up her game, as she faced a barrage of shots just about every time out. In addition to the 87 saves in the team’s first Darien game, she made 69 saves the second time against the Blue Wave, 58 saves in a loss to New Canaan, and 45 or more saves in four other games.

“I love getting shots. It’s so fun proving myself to the other team — that I’m better than them,” she said. “I liked playing for Wilton, where I got a lot of shots.”

She said the the number of shots she faced meant she needed to be focused all 45 minutes, often without a break in the barrage.

“It’s like taking the SATs and running a marathon all at the same time. It’s mentally draining and physically draining. I have to be so focused,” she said.

Jonsson said being a goalie can be a lonely endeavor, and she’s had to learn how to prepare herself for games mentally, on her own, during warm-ups and during games.

“I had to mellow myself out as a I got older,” she said. “Being a goalie is mostly a mental game. You have to be prepared for everything.”

Jonsson plans to continue to play hockey on a club level, wherever she goes in the future. She feels the Warriors will be in good hands next year with this year’s backup goalie, Izzy Najah, a sophomore who had never played in goal before but showed great promise.

“Izzy’s a great athlete. I think she will only improve and do great things,” she said.

Jonsson is also confident about the Wilton team’s future under coach Pete Maxfield, whose first year at the helm was a success by all accounts.

“It was really a great season. It was just a fun season,” she said. “He’s looking to the future and building the program.”