Lorna Gifis Cook wasn’t sure what to expect when the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team culminated its season by playing in the ‘B’ bracket of the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament.
“I was kind of anxious to see how they would respond since we didn’t make the ‘A’ bracket due to some close losses,” said head coach Cook. “I thought that might be disappointing.”
As the tournament unfolded last month at the Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, the Panthers responded with their best hockey of the winter, topping Shady Side 4-3 in the semis and then topping Portledge School (N.Y.) 4-2 in the final.
“We were led by the seniors,” said Cook reflecting on the successful weekend that left the Panthers with a final record of 10-7.
“They were fired up; Megan [Ofner] had the two best games I saw her have this season. She was all over the ice in that first game; when we came in between the second and third periods you could see how much she wanted to win. We had a fun weekend.”
Cook had a lot of fun this winter serving as interim coach in the place of Kat Smithson, who took the season off to recover from a concussion.
“It was a difficult situation but the girls really made it fun,” said Cook. “They were open to a new coach. They rallied around each other and came together as a team.”
The team’s trio of seniors, Ashley Egner, Lucy Marquez, and Ofner, played a key role in holding things together.
“I was counting on the seniors to make sure that everyone at practice was committed to play and not thinking about their homework or tests,” said Cook.
Egner provided an upbeat approach while Sacred Heart University-bound Ofner raised the bar hockey-wise, earning second-team All-WIHLMA honors as she led the team with 32 points on 19 goals and 13 assists, ending her PDS career with 124 points.
“Ashley had a positive attitude; she was always smiling and she wants everybody to be happy,” said Cook of the Union College-bound Egner who contributed 10 points on five goals and five assists.
“Megan is a very serious hockey player; you can tell that the sport means a lot to her. It would be easy for her to get frustrated and I think Ashley helped her to keep from getting frustrated.”
Back-up goalie Marquez became a spiritual leader. “I didn’t know what Lucy’s role would be before the season but she became the team mom,” said Cook of Marquez, who is heading to Cornell.
“Everyone felt they could go to her. She was not going to get the chance to play a lot with Daisy [Mase] at goalie but she was ready to go hard everyday.
The hard work paid off for PDS younger players as well. Junior Zeeza Cole scored 17 points on 11 goals and six assists while sophomore Mimi Matthews chipped in 13 points on five goals and eight assists and freshman MacKenzie Howe tallied five goals.
Junior goalie Daisy Mase earned All-WIHLMA second team honors with a goals against average of 2.3 and a save percentage of 0.916 while sophomore defenseman Robin Linzmayer added 16 points on the way to making All-WIHLMA honorable mention. Sophomore Colby Triolo contributed two assists as she developed into a solid defenseman.
“I did see a lot of improvement in the players,” said Cook. “Zeeza [Cole] and Mimi [Matthews] stepped up. Colby [Triolo] got better. Robin played well on defense all year. You can’t take Daisy for granted, not too many teams have a goalie like that. MacKenzie had two goals in the WIHLMA in the front of the net; she took abuse all weekend and hung in there.”
Cook, for her part, didn’t take any moment for granted as she got her chance to guide PDS this winter.
“For me, it was special,” said Cook, a former star for the Middlebury College women’s hockey team who helped the Panthers to two NCAA Division III national titles.
“I started with Nassau Hockey when I was five years old so this is the rink where I learned to play. My mom went to Miss Fine’s School. It was a sentimental experience; it was something that meant a lot to me. It was a challenge and a great opportunity; I am very grateful for the experience.”