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Article Published January 5, 2019
Guilford Girls’ Hockey Sees Progress Pay Off
John Lecardo, Sports Writer

All high school programs go through cycles when it comes to fielding an experienced team. This year, the Guilford girls’ ice hockey squad features several players who’ve gained critical experience the past three seasons—and the Indians are seeing their savvy pay off in the win column.

Just two years ago, Guilford had a one-win season with an inexperienced roster. The Indians grew a year wiser last winter, when they finished with a record of 7-12. Thus far this season, Guilford has skated out to solid start of 4-4, having won three of its last four games. In last week’s action, Guilford earned a 5-3 victory against Trumbull-St. Joseph, took a 6-0 loss to West Haven-Sacred Heart Academy, and then posted a 5-0 shutout over Masuk-Barlow-Newtown-Lauralton Hall.

First-year Head Coach Rick Binkowski said the Indians are benefiting from a roster that contains depth in every grade, led by a group of upperclass veterans who’ve learned a lot on the ice.

“We’re enjoying a high concentration of experienced hockey players that we haven’t seen here in a few years,” said Binkowski. “We have a couple girls new to hockey that have been standouts in other sports, and they’ve turned into great hockey players. Teams change year to year, but we’re benefiting from an injection of high-caliber players. The girls are jelling, getting along, and working hard. We’re making our bench deeper to help us get through these games.”

The Indians’ senior class is headlined by goalkeeper Brielle Kendrioski, who’s the team’s lead captain; along with wing Mariah Cretella and defenseman Sarah Ziemba, who are Guilford’s alternate captains.

“Brielle joined the team with zero hockey experience. She started as a skater her freshman year, but became the goalie, and she wants to do whatever it takes to give us the best chance to win,” Coach Binkowski said. “Mariah joined the team as a freshman with no real experience, but she’s our hardest worker, and gives 110 percent. Sarah did figure skating before joining the team as a freshman and has been great.”

Guilford also features seniors Jacquie Violette and Trinity Ireland flying down the ice at the wing position this year.

“Jacquie is an accomplished CrossFit competitor, and her stamina to compete at a high level is unmatched,” said Binkowski. “Trinity joined the team as a sophomore, and is a competitor who works hard.”

Moving to the junior class, Audrey Rowan, Lily Mackey, and Ava Bucci are solid forwards for the Indians. Jaime Neleber and Mary Evans help anchor Guilford’s defense, along with sophomore Christina Garofalo.

“Audrey was our best shot as a freshman, and her and Lily are turning into great hockey players. Ava has courage and tenacity that stands above other players on the team. Her effort is through the roof,” Coach Binkowski said. “Jaime and Mary are great players that have stepped up over the years. Christina is a great skater [and] a great asset to the team.”

The Indians also have a steady class of freshmen that includes forwards Maddie Epke, Daniella Vickerman, Mainey DePetris, Haley Kruczek, and Sydney Miles, as well as defenseman Olivia Gill.

“Maddie, Sydney, and Daniella are incredibly strong and high-skilled players,” said Binkowski. “We look for good stuff out of Mainey and Haley. Olivia does a good job of supporting other lines and players.”

On Dec. 29, the Indians scored a 5-3 victory over Trumbull-St. Joseph on their home ice at DiLungo Rink in East Haven. Epke had a hand in all five of Guilford’s goals, recording two goals with three assists. Violette opened the scoring by netting a goal on an assist from Epke just 20 seconds into the game. Later in the first period, Epke assisted on another goal by Violette. In the second period, Bucci notched a goal on an assist from Epke, who later scored an unassisted goal at the end of the stanza to bring the score to 4-2. In the third period, Trumbull-St Joesph scored a goal to cut Guilford’s lead to 4-3, but Epke came back with an insurance goal to solidify the Indians’ 5-3 victory. Kendrioski made 24 saves in net for Guilford.

On Jan. 3, the Indians lost a 6-0 home contest against West Haven-Sacred Heart Academy at DiLungo Rink. The following day, Guilford earned a 5-0 road victory over Masuk-Barlow-Newtown-Lauralton Hall at The Rinks at Shelton.

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Coach Binkowski wants to Indians to stay the course and get better every day, so they can continue seeing more success as the campaign unfolds.

“We’re going to keep doing the things we’ve been doing. We look to build on each game and keep working harder in practice,” said Binkowski. “We want to bring it to the next level every game and day. We’re playing some strong opponents, but we need to be disciplined and apply what we learn from practice in each game, and the girls have been doing that.”

From the Sidelines

This is Rick Binkowski’s first year as head coach of the Guilford girls’ ice hockey team. Binkowski had served as an assistant coach with the Indians for the last three seasons.

Guilford’s assistant coaches this year are Scott Neleber, Tom Epke, and Indians’ field hockey Head Coach Kitty Palmer.

The Indians are competing in the South Division of the Southern Connecticut Conference this season.