In a season that saw the team improve incrementally with each and every contest, the Flatbush Girls Varsity Hockey team put together its most complete effort in the final game of its inaugural schedule, scoring the equalizer in the 3rd Period and play even with the HANC Hurricanes in overtime to earn a hard-fought tie, avoiding defeat for the first time all year on Thursday night (5/11) in Hempstead, Long Island.
The season had been building all year to this moment, the last game of the first season of play for Flatbush Girls Hockey. Save for one game early in the season, these Falcons were competitive in just about every contest all season long, receiving praise from opponent after opponent for their efforts on the floor with more than one coach commenting on how these Falcons clearly did not play like a team that had never taken the court in competition before. But that was small solace to these Falcons. The compliments were nice, but these girls wanted to see results.
In taking the court against the Hurricanes, it marked the first – and only – time the Flatbush team faced an opponent for a second time all season. But, the last time these teams met, HANC came away with a 7-1 win, and they entered the game fully entrenched in second place overall in the Eastern Division of the MYHSAL. Head Coach Chelsea Donovan stressed in the lead up to the game to learn from past experience, and the girls took it to heart with confident play from the opening drop of the puck.
Though shorthanded and missing team leaders Esther Beyda and Jane Zakay, each Falcon stepped up to fill the void, and they matched the play of the host HANC squad from the get go. With Coach Donovan rolling the defensive lines to keep her players as fresh as possible, the pair on the floor never let up. The trio of defensemen – Stella Lessler, Sarah Shayo and Shelly Alkadaa – were relentless in protecting the Flatbush zone. As solid as the defense was, the play behind them in the Falcon net was nothing short of inspired.
Talia Ovadia has been a rock for her teammates all season long. She has worked tirelessly to improve her play and that was eveident throughout the game. Though HANC took the lead, that one goal proved to be the only thing she could not stop all night. By one offical’s count, Ovadia blocked or deflected away over 40 Hurricane shots! Another spectator who has seen her share of MYHSAL hockey this season commented that Ovadia’s performance was better than most of the goalies she has seen, boys included.
But by the start of the third period, Flatbush still trailed 1-0, and the girls were running on fumes. Nevertheless, despite the oncoming exhaustion the girls kept pushing themselves. Finally, in the final period of regulatiuon with the end of the season creeping up on them, the Falcon offense broke through. The tandem of Danielle Malka and Sarah Weingarten converged on the Hurricane net and dushed the puck home. The game was tied! When the buzzer sounded to end regulation, the game was still knotted at 1-1 and the season would be extended at least a few moments more.
The overtime was a battle of wills, and the Flatbush defense, with Ovadia as its anchor, would not give in. The overtime period soon reached its end, and with it the season, but the score remained unchanged and for the first time all year, the Falcons were not in the losing end!
The exuberant shouts of the Falcon Hockey players reverberated around the halls of the Long Island school long after the final buzzer sounded in the overtime period, as the Flatbush girls – who had come so close on a few occasions earlier in the season only to fall short at the end – finished their fist game of the season that did not end up with them on the losing end of the contest.
Afterwards,Assistant Coach Barbara Stern, equally as emotionally drained as her players, reflected on the team’s rookie season. “I can tell you that there was marked improvement in each girls’ performance. Even though we wer shorthanded tonight, and you could see how exhausted the girls were by the 3rd period, they kept pushing themselves and would not let up their drive. There was great excitement and support for one another. There was also sadness about not playing next year with the seniors who will soon be graduating. But what a great end to the year. I am just so happy for our team!”
The players felt similarly, and one of the youngest, Foward Leah Krym, is clearly excited for the future. “I felt that it was our best game yet, and right away we started off super strong in the first period. We knew that this was our last chance this season so we gave it our all. It was both exciting and nerve wracking to play in our first overtime! What a great way to end the season; we can only get better from here. Shoutout to our amazingly dedicated coaches, and to Talia for being the best goalie!!!”
So the inaugural season is now over, and there is a great foundation to build on. The 2017-18 season begins now!!!