In the sea of legs and sticks in front of her, Clinton captain Mia Lopata somehow found the clear path to the net.
The junior forward, a junior at Clinton High School already committed to taking her hockey talents to Quinnipiac College, scored the only goal in the New York state girls ice hockey state championship to bring home the ultimate title to a program that did not exist six years ago.
Clinton, a team of players from seven school districts, beat Section Seven’s Williamsville, the defending champs, 1-0 Sunday night at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid.
That ability to craft a team from players from all over the Mohawk Valley paid off as the Most Valuable Player of the game went to senior goalie Hailey Millington, who attends Rome Free Academy. She had by far the busier night than did the Flames goalie, as the 16-2-2 Flames kept the Warriors on defense most of the game.
It also helps that Coach Nicole Ruddy has led the program since its beginnings in the inaugural 2015-16 season. Assisting are coaches Rob Kopek and Amanda Lupo, along with manager Danielle Kopek.
Williamsville came into the championship round fresh from a 7-0 victory over Section Six’s Plattsburgh. Clinton, meanwhile, advanced with a 1-0 win over previously unbeaten Salmon River.
Sophomore Abby Kurdziolek (Whitesboro) scored a second period goal on an assist from freshman Drew Kopek (RFA). Millington had nine saves in the shutout and 12th victory for the 12-2-3 Warriors.
Still, while Williamsville had the better record and more experience in the Frozen Four - Clinton’s state title comes fresh off their first-ever Section Three title a couple of weeks ago - the Warriors brought a win streak of seven and unbeaten run of 13 games into the final game of the season.
Millington’s second shutout of the Frozen Four came with a lot of…