PARIS — Mt. Blue had to wait a while to cheer. The Cougars had to play out more than 58 minutes to celebrate a goal, then just a couple more minutes to celebrate a standout season.
An undefeated regular season became a reality for Mt. Blue on Tuesday night with a 1-0 victory over Oxford Hills in a KVAC field hockey game at Gouin Athletic Complex.
“I just said, ‘OK, now I will tell you, you are in first place, you are undefeated, and you are going to the playoffs,'” Mt. Blue coach Jody Harmon said to her team after the game.
The Cougars’ (13-0-1) 14th and final regular-season game was a challenge. The Vikings (8-6), on their senior night, were the ones to give it to Mt. Blue.
“Every year, we usually tie and go to overtime,” Harmon said. “(Oxford Hills is) just a competitor that is always intense. They’re very intense, they’re very tough, they’re very physical, and they just come to play. And they always come ready to play us.”
Oxford Hills gave Mt. Blue a close game the first time the two teams met, which was a 2-1 Cougars victory in Farmington in mid-September. The Vikings thought they were even better in the rematch Tuesday night.
“I think this is probably one of the best games (the girls) have played,” Vikings coach Cynthia Goddard said. “They just play with heart and intensity. And as a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”
Oxford Hills took every swing the Cougars gave them heading into the game’s final minutes. But finally Mt. Blue broke through with 1:38 left. On the Cougars’ ninth penalty corner of the game, Vikings goalie Anna Huff was able to make one save, but not a second, and Leah St. Laurent put a rebound past her for the game’s lone goal.
“It was a direct shot,” Huff (16 saves) said. “I got the first save, and then it went over and then I went down, but I wasn’t there in time. There were just a bunch of (Mt. Blue players) in there and they just got it.”
Harmon said her team was horrible on corners all night, and that it came out flat in the first half. An Oxford Hills timeout with 6:35 left gave the Cougars a boost, however.
“We kept saying that, when they had that last timeout, we got to get that ball in there,” Harmon said. “We were playing with it too much outside, we weren’t getting the ball inside the circle. Just get it in and somebody get a stick on it, finish it.”
St. Laurent, the Cougars’ senior captain, was the one to put the finishing touches on the victory.
The goal put a damper on an otherwise successful game plan for the Vikings.
“It’s really been to mark up, make sure there’s no one open in the circle when they’re coming in with the ball,” Huff said. “And just really power out, get the ball out as quick as you can.
“Being senior night, we really wanted to come together … and just put it all out there with heart and our passion for the game, and really just succeed. And I think we did a pretty good job doing that. It just didn’t work out in the end.”
The game was a welcomed precursor to the postseason for both teams. The Cougars took Oxford Hills’ best shot after holding off perennial power Skowhegan in their previous game. The Vikings, meanwhile, got a confidence boost.
“You hope you’re playing your best hockey at the end of the season,” Goddard said, “and knowing that you can stay in a game with a No. 1 seed, I think, is really helpful, looking forward into the playoffs.”
Mt. Blue finishes as the No. 1 seed in Class A North, while Oxford Hills secured the No. 5 seed.