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2024 WPPHL Playoffs Recap

By Kevin Conway, 03/11/24, 10:30AM EDT


KES, IronBound claim inaugural PPHL Girls championships League members cap inaugural season with contrasting runs to titles

By Kevin Conway
WALPOLE, Mass. – An unexpected champion was crowned in the 19U Division
during the first-ever Power Prep Hockey League Girls Conference playoff
tournament at Cadillac of Norwood Arena, while a much more predictable
titleholder emerged at the 16U level.
King’s-Edgehill School of Nova Scotia, Canada, decided to wait to play the best
hockey of its PPHL season on Sunday during the 19U semifinals and championship game after barely qualifying following the three-game preliminary round. Meanwhile, IronBound Elite of New Jersey swept through its first-round contests, which included a pair of convincing shutout victories, yet surprisingly fell behind twice in the 16U semifinals against guest club Boston Advantage before storming back for a 4-2 victory then dominating the final against Winchendon School.

King’s-Edgehill won its PPHL debut against Ontario Hockey Academy during the league’s January showcase but then proceeded to drop its next three contests. So not much was expected from the Highlanders entering February’s league playoff tournament. However, there were signs KES could play at least the role of spoiler when it upended No. 1 seed Gilmour Academy in the playoffs weekend opener, 2-1, with a come-from-behind overtime shootout. Despite losing its next two preliminary games, the two points earned against the Lancers were just enough to land the Highlanders in the semifinals against Winchendon, which had beaten KES, 2-1, to complete the preliminary round Saturday night and earn the top seed. In the rematch the following morning, KES goaltender Kristy Michaud turned aside 31 shots—including 15 in the first period, most of which came during a five-minute shorthanded situation—to help keep the game scoreless through the midway point of the third period. That’s when forward Ava Shearer netted the game’s only goal unassisted, and the Highlanders managed to hold on over the final 6:55 to shock the Wapitis.

In the championship game against second-seeded IronBound, Michaud again
turned in a stellar performance, stopping 26 shots and keeping KES in the contest until the Highlanders figured out fellow netminder Sydney Fogu (20 saves). Ellin Rees gave IronBound the lead late in the first period on a pretty set-up from linemates Claudia Castellanos and Elina Zilliox. However, Shearer sent the game to the third period tied at 1-1, netting a goal for the fourth consecutive playoff game with 5:18 left in the second.
Each club had opportunities to take the lead during the first 13 minutes of the
final period but were denied by Michaud and Fogu. As the game began to appear bound for overtime, KES forward Clare Munro managed to bury a Leslie Cuddihy pass past Fogu for what proved to be the game-winning goal with 3:35 remaining. Cuddihy added an empty-netter with 12 seconds left for the 3-1 victory, igniting a wild celebration by the Highlanders.
After posting a 3-1-1-0 playoff record with one shutout win, Michaud was
selected as the Power Prep Hockey League 19U Most Valuable Player, recording an overall 1.58 goals-against average and .946 save percentage during the weekend.

IronBound Elite was favored to capture the first-ever PPHL 16U championship
entering the playoffs following an outstanding regular-season and didn’t
disappoint. IronBound dominated the preliminary round with a pair of shutout victories over Winchendon and Boston Advantage sandwiched around a 3-2 nailbiter against guest club Lovell Academy. After Lovell tied the score at 2-2 with 10:30 remaining, Alexandra O’Brien’s power-play goal off a feed from Sasha Weiner with just 32 second left proved the difference for IronBound.
However, in the semifinal rematch against Boston Advantage, IronBound knew it was in for much more difficult match than in the opening round after BA twice took the lead during the first two periods despite not having as many quality scoring opportunities as the favorites. O’Brien scored the equalizer in the first for IronBound before teammate Annabell Matchett’s shorthanded tally in the second sent the game into the second intermission tied at 2-2.
Anastasia Witmer’s power-play goal, set up by O’Brien, five minutes to the third proved to be the game-winner, and Sammy Dandy added an insurance tally with six minutes remaining, sending IronBound into the final against a rested Winchendon School club, which was a benefactor of a semifinal forfeit victory.
Despite having only a couple of hours to recuperate, IronBound came out hot
against the Wapitis, scoring twice in each of the first two periods, while
goaltender Olivia Park was only tested with eight shots in 34 minutes. Forwards Weiner and Julie Jasaitas netted goals in the first for IronBound, while Anastasia Witner and O’Brien each scored their sixth of the playoffs in the second, sending IronBound into the final period with a commanding 4-0 advantage. Witmer added a power-play tally in the third to cap the scoring for IronBound, while Park was much busier over the final 17 minutes, turning aside 10 shots to earn her second shutout of the playoffs. For giving up just one goal in three starts, Park earned the Power Prep Hockey League 16U MVP Award with impressive 0.36 goals-against average and .982 save percentage during the playoffs weekend.