By Matt Williams
---- — Overtime wasn’t kind to the Pingree girls hockey team in either the 2011 or 2012 Eastern Independent League championship games.
On Saturday, the Highlanders were finally the team that scored the last goal of the EIL season — and got the joyous pig pile and trophy that came with it.
Sophomore Katie Shreenan’s goal with 2:42 remaining in the first overtime lifted Pingree to a 3-2 win over Berwick Academy as the Highlanders captured the EIL title for first time since 2007.
It was the third straight season that these teams met in the EIL final, with Berwick winning in overtime in 2011 and in double overtime last winter. The Highlanders (13-11) were positively thrilled to flip the script this season.
“The girls hardly knew what to do when they scored. It was like, ‘Did that really go in?’ It was really a magical game and the girls rose to the occasion,” said Pingree coach Sarah Carpenter.
Berwick was 12-0 in EIL play this year. They’d beaten Pingree 7-0 in the season opener and also 5-2 midway through the season and led 1-0 after one period Saturday while outshooting Pingree, 10-1.
Junior captain Jillian Witwicki gave her team a huge lift just 17 seconds into the second period, however, with a rebound goal assisted by Pingree teammate Kristina Caradonna.
“We haven’t been a first period team all year, but the energy coming into the second was awesome,” Carpenter said. “We had a really nice crowd of fans and parents and when Jill scored, they really got into it.”
Berwick took the lead later in the second, but Caradonna finished a power play feed from captain Mack Foster and Leah Heinze with 5:26 to go. Neither team scored in the third, putting the EIL final in overtime for the third straight year.
Pingree was actually called on to kill a penalty early in the five-minute extra session and escaped unscathed. The Highlanders called a timeout with an offensive zone faceoff, then saw Shreenan tip in Caradonna’s shot to win the championship. Foster also earned an assist on the winning goal.
“It couldn’t have been any better. So many kids contributed,” said Carpenter, who helped Pingree win the EIL as a player in 1997. “We don’t have a lot of kids, but we do have a lot of heart. I’m so proud of their accomplishment.”
Senior goalie Aly Heffron made 23 saves for the win, including nine of 10 in the first period and all 13 she faced the rest of the way. The Lynnfield native shares the captain’s duties with Witwicki and Foster, a Peabody resident who took charge of her team.
“Mack is the kind of kid that never gives up and she wouldn’t let anyone else give up, either,” said Carpenter. “No matter how exhausted anyone was, Mack made sure they were up and in the game.”
Pingree’s All-EIL players were Witwicki, Foster and Heinze while Heffron, defenseman Adrineh Nalbandian and Caradonna earned honorable mention accolades.