CANTON, February 15 – Canton’s first varsity ice hockey player will begin post-season play on Monday when the Suffield High co-op team faces top-ranked Hall/Conard in the Southern Connecticut Conference’s Northern Division playoffs.
Freshman Sophia Blais is the first Canton High School girl to play varsity ice hockey. Blais is playing with the 13-girl Suffield High co-op program that includes players from Suffield, Enfield, Granby, Ellington and Canton.
The Wildcats conclude the regular season on Saturday when they take on Guilford. But through 16 games, the Wildcat co-op team has posted a record of 9-7 with victories in three of their last four games. They’ve earned a spot in the four-team SCC North tournament.
Blais is a defenseman with the co-op team. With just 13 players on the ice, she gets plenty of ice time.
“She is doing a great job,” Suffield co-op coach Joe Gozzi said. “She is really smooth on defense, carries the puck nicely and has a real nice, relaxed demeanor when she is out there. She is poised, keeps her head up and is a nice addition to the team.”
Blais has been playing hockey since she was five or six years old. For several years, she has been playing with the Connecticut Northern Lights youth hockey team out of Simsbury. When the opportunity arose to join a high school team, Blais was happy to take it.
“I just really love hockey and it was a chance to get more hockey experience,” she said. “I love it because it is (play) at a higher level and I get to be around that.”
Having players from five schools didn’t pose a problem for the co-op squad. “The hockey world is a small world and the girls hockey world is a smaller world,” Gozzi said. “I would almost guarantee that eight out of 10 girls know each other. They’ve played together as younger kids or in showcase tournaments.”
The Wildcats co-op team (9-7, 4-6 SCC North) earned the No. 4 seed in the SCC North tournament and will face top-ranked Hall/Conard (16-2, 10-0 SCC North) on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. at Veteran’s Memorial Rink in West Hartford. The winner advances to the title game on Friday, February 22 at Trinity College in Hartford at 7 p.m.
The top 12 teams earn a spot in the CHSGHA state tournament. The Wildcats are in the hunt for a playoff berth. The Suffield co-op is ranked No. 8 prior to Saturday’s regular season finale at Guilford (9-9).
Girls hockey is not an official CIAC sport because not enough schools sponsor teams. The Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association hosts a state tournament.
Southern Connecticut Conference North Division
As of Friday, February 15
|East Catholic co-op||6-4||10-9|
x-Won division title
Suffield with Ellington, Granby, Ellington and Canton
Avon with Southington, RHAM, East Granby and Wethersfield
East Catholic with Glastonbury and South Windsor
SCC North tournament
Monday, February 18
Simsbury 2, East Catholic co-op 0
Tuesday, February 19
Suffield co-op at Hall/Conard
Friday, February 22
Championship game at Trinity College