Photo: Belmont’s Bridget Gray whose semi-final heroics helped the East Coast Wizards capture the USA Hockey U19 Tier 2A Girls National Championship
Sometimes an athlete is at their best when they get a second chance. And for Belmont’s Bridget Gray, that opportunity came with just one second remaining in the semi-finals of USA Hockey U19 Tier 2A Girls National Championship were held in West Chester, outside of Philadelphia on April 3.
During the tournament, Gray and her team mate, Elizabeth Sullivan of Shrewsbury, shared time between the pipes – playing half of each game alternating between starting and finishing the game – as goalies for the Bedford-based East Coast Wizards, one of 12 U19 Tier II teams to make the national tournament.
After the Wizards – coached by Mike Milofsky, who grew up in Belmont and played for Belmont High – won the three games in the initial group round, they defeated the Minnesota Premier Prep Royal, 6-4, in a morning quarterfinals on Sunday April 3, advancing to a Sunday night semi-final tussle with their Massachusetts rivals, the Boston Junior Eagles.
Taking over in the second half of the game against the high-scoring Junior Eagles (they would tally 25 goals in five games), Gray was peppered with shots that included one ending up in her net with 49 seconds remaining in the third to give the Junior Eagles a 4-3 advantage. But the Belmont High all-star was handed a reprieve when the Wizards’ Jenna Lynch scored with a single second remaining in the contest to send the contest into overtime.
Given a (one) second chance, Gray delivered big time, stopping every chance in the 17 minute sudden death overtime, then during the climatic penalty shot shootout, made three consecutive saves on each of the Junior Eagles who scored on her in the game. With the Wizards having scored two in the first four opportunities, Gray caused the fourth Junior Eagle to miss and secured a miraculous trip to the finals.
In the final on Monday, April 3, the Wizards beat the Wisconsin Selects, 2-1, to win the championship title.
Gray’s 2021 and 2020 Wizard’s teams had also qualified for Nationals, but were unable to participate due to Covid; 2020 was cancelled and in 2021 travel restrictions prevented a trip to Colorado.