Riverdale’s girls make their first semi-final

CUTTHROAT DEFENCE: Riverdale’s Emma Gandy gets the blade-end of Nikki Walleh’s stick as she tries to drive into Oakwood’s zone. The Raiders would lose their Tier 2 semifinal 5-1.

Coach John Fallis lauds squad for their dedication

Four years ago, Riverdale CI was just starting its girls hockey program.

On Feb. 29, the team was taking part in its first ever Tier 2 semi-final game, a testament to the hard work put in by coaches John Fallis and James Lau, along with the dedicated roster.

Unfortunately the girls ran into a tough Oakwood Barons squad, dropping their match 5-1.

The girls were unfazed by the loss, celebrating after the game on the ice, skating to one end and firing back before diving on their bellies letting their momentum carry them to the other side.

“It was a great season. When we started four years ago, I don’t think we won a game or scored a goal, but now we get to the semifinals,” Fallis said. “It’s just good to be here. You can see the girls had a good time.”

During the regular season, Riverdale split their series with the Barons a game apiece. Still, Oakwood came out taking a 2-0 lead heading into the second period. Claire Russell and Nikki Walleh netted the markers.

At the 7:06 mark of the second, Oakwood pushed ahead by another goal thanks to Meredith O’Brien being fed by Zora Vaz and Russell.

The Raiders pressed on and a minute later they would crack Oakwood goalie Maggie Prince’s armour. K.D. O’Hara moved the puck into the Barons’ zone, lost it but teammate Ryan Steyer shot it over Prince’s blocker side.

However, in the third period Oakwood would pull away, seeing two goals being scored within a minute of each other. Russell notched her second, unassisted, by dumping the puck past Riverdale netminder Jenn Yee.

Monica Hammond would get the Barons’ fifth goal by way of Walleh and Alex Garreffa.

It will be the first time in a while Oakwood makes the Tier 2 finals, according to coach Lisa Palozzi.

“It’s very exciting to win 5-1. We were a little nervous,” she said. “We were missing three players but our whole season we’ve been short-shifting forwards.”

Oakwood played with a limited bench, cycling forwards in two at a time. Palozzi credited Russell and Prince for being her key players heading into the final against Silverthorn Spartans, March 6.

Fallis took his time to laud his veterans, seven of which will be lost to graduation. His co-coach Lau took time to highlight the work done by captain Emma Gandy, Steyer and blueliner Ariel Plytas.

“It’s been four years with these girls,” Lau said. “We built this team up from scratch.”

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