The changing of the guard is now official.
Behind the stellar netminding of Gabby Sakowicz and a two-goal performance from Samantha McIlwrick, the Port Moody Blues edged the Dr. Charles Blue Devils 2-1 to cart off the district field hockey title.
In a league where the Gleneagle Talons and Heritage Woods Kodiaks have been the dominating force over the past 10-plus years, both Best and Moody made statements in advancing to the title game.
“This year was a real changing of the guard in the district,” remarked Blues coach Brian Lewis. “We were out-played by Charles Best in the ‘small skills’ area, but the key for us was Gabby. She was just so focused. The last save she made, with two minutes left, was just incredible.”
Sakowicz, a senior, turned aside a Best shooter with but minutes left in regulation.
For much of the game, Best kept pressing for more goals but was turned back by Sakowicz and the Blues defence.
"We were outplayed by Charles Best, their small [game] skills are very solid," the coach noted. "Our ace in the hole was Gabby. She made a number of saves right up until the end."
Best opened the scoring in the first half on a tally by Nicole Godman, while McIlwrick hit the equalizer just before the half ended. The high sweeper would cash in the game-winning marker midway through the final frame on a reverse stack hit.
"Sam is as outstanding in the field as Gabby is in goal," said Lewis. "[McIlwrick] is so talented that if she sees daylight, she can find the holes."
Both Port Moody and Best advanced to the final after recording 2-1 wins over Heritage Woods and Gleneagle, respectively.
"The league this year was extremely tight as the top four teams were very equal and on any given day, any one of them could've been the district champions," noted Best coach Carol Coulson.
Port Moody, Best, Gleneagle and Heritage Woods now advance to the Valley tournament.
Lewis said his squad now will try to convert this new momentum and advance to the provincials for a second straight year — last year they finished 10th overall.
"It's going to be a dogfight at the Fraser Valleys," said the longtime field hockey skipper. "There's not a lot of separation between us, Best, Gleneagle and Heritage Woods."
The Fraser Valleys are being hosted by Tamanawis, while the provincials are Nov. 13-15 in Burnaby.
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