WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The showdown turned into a showcase — a showcase for Hartford field hockey. A highly anticipated showdown between the Hurricanes and Rutland quickly became a rout as Hartford won Friday’s game 5-0.
The Hurricanes and Raiders traded one-goal victories in Rutland in classic contests, giving a third meeting the earmarks of another great game.
But the Raiders have been struggling and were coming off a 4-0 loss to Burr and Burton Academy. The struggles continued with Hartford’s Kennedy Mullen netting three goals on the Hurricanes’ Senior Day.
Rutland coach Karen Poljacik was at a loss to explain it all. It was the third straight loss for a Raider team that was once 5-3-1.
She thought back to those two great battles with a Hartford team that is now 10-2-1.
“We can be that team again. We just have to find it,” Poljacik said.
They need to find it quickly. There are two more regular-season games before the playoffs and the search begins Tuesday at Otter Valley.
“All of us were excited for our senior game,” Mullen said. “Our passing was right on point and we worked some nice give-and-goes. We just clicked.”
The Raiders appeared to be bent on atoning for the back-to-back losses to Bellows Falls and BBA in the early minutes. Katie Sunderland made several long runs that she took deep into the circle for the Raiders.
The Hurricanes also had their chances and Mullen got her stick on several balls in the circle.
Mullen scored the first of her goals 7:59 before the half.
Mullen and Greer McCarty had good chances for a pad goal only a minute after the score.
McCarty did score 4:20 before the break with Daisy Phelps getting the assist. The ‘Canes took that 2-0 lead into the half.
The Hurricanes’ domination of the half was reflected in the statistics. They held a 6-1 edge in penalty corners and had five shots to none for the Raiders.
If the Raiders thought they had formulated a plan during the intermission, it was extinguished just 3:30 after play resumed when Phelps scored via Mullen’s assist.
Only 19 seconds later, Mullen scored off Emma Urso’s assist.
Mullen earned her hat trick with 24 minutes remaining.
The Hurricanes finished with 12 penalty corners to seven for the Raiders. They also had a 12-4 edge in shots.
The Raiders never gave up. During a timeout with 9:20 remaining, senior Stefanie Allen implored her teammates to “run to the ball.”
Poljacik praised Kaylee Kosmalski for the job she did on defense and Grace Raymond also had some saving plays in the back for the Raiders.
But there was no stopping the Hartford express on this day.
“This is a super group of seniors we have. They have been with me for three years,” veteran Hartford coach Heather Scudder said.
“We have some defensive issues we need to fix,” Poljacik said. “The girls came ready to play today.
“We had been working on some new stuff and it was nice to see it being executed on the field.”
The Hurricanes are proud of their field hockey history. Their 17 league titles and 11 state championships are prominently displayed on a large red and blue banner behind the West goal.
They are hoping to add another state crown — this year in Division II.
The Hurricanes have had a tough schedule that included New Hampshire power Hanover, a team that edged the ‘Canes 1-0.
They have another tough test Wednesday when they go to Manchester to play on Burr and Burton’s turf field.
“Playing the better teams is a lot more fun,” Mullen said.
There was a time when the Raiders were one of those better teams, giving the Hurricanes all they could handle on two occasions.
Now, Poljacik and the 5-6-1 Raiders will try to rediscover the magic. The quest begins Tuesday at Otter Valley.