IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Jayna Park, who skates around like she’s been shot out of a rocket, got a little animated at the end of regulation.
Instead of darting to and fro — at an extremely high speed —the Loyola Academy all-state forward jumped up and down after scoring the game-tying goal and forcing overtime in a girls hockey state semifinal at The Edge in Bensenville on March 5.
It was a mini celebration full of vim, vigor and valor by the vivacious Park.
But … it wasn’t a lasting one.
Instead, it was the New Trier players who ended up throwing their sticks into the air and storming the ice. With 3:18 left in the second overtime, Kate McLaughlin pushed a shot past LA’s Gabriella Ciesla to give NT a nerve-racking 4-3 victory.
A game like this figured to be in the works. During the season, the two state powers split their four games.
“We stuck to our guns,” said NT head coach Bill Brush. “Stuck to our game plan.
“And we knew that we had to contain Park,” the NT coach added. “She’s an amazing player. She’s always going to be dangerous out there — especially in a see-saw battle.”
Park’s goal in the third period was her 14th of the season. She also had 10 assists and tied freshman forward Caroline Smith for the team lead in points (24).
“Jayne has really stepped up her game in the second half of the season,” said Loyola coach Ralph Dynek. “Earlier in the season, she scored a shortie in three straight. I think she had five for the season.”
The final minutes of regulation — as well as both overtime periods — were played in wild and hectic fashion.
“Shoot, shoot, shoot,” said Dynek. “We kept working the perimeter and trying to gain advantages. Using a lot of slicing scissors plays.”
When LA’s Eleanor Kroeger banged a shot off the boards behind the New Trier goal, Park proved to be the right girl in the right spot.
“Had a fortunate bounce,” Dynek said.
With assists being credited to Stephanie Smith and Caroline Smith, Park slid the puck past Abigail Wieczorek to make it a 3-3 game.
It was quite the comeback for LA, considering that NT shot out to a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Serena Seiple and Julia Laden. NT eventually took a 3-1 advantage on a goal by McLaughlin with 7:41 left in the third period.
Loyola’s first goal of the game was scored by Emma Piatigorsky with 5:32 left in the second period on an assist by Soleil Huizenga-Giesen.
And then, with 4:37 left in the third period, Stephanie Smith scored on an assist from Bryn Jones to make it a 3-2 game.
Playing from behind was taxing.
“We burned a lot of energy just to get back in it,” said Dynek.
The LA coach praised the work of his goalie.
Ciesla, who earned all-state honors as a forward, displayed her versatility once again. Filling in for all-state goalie Kayla Johnson, who has been sidelined with a knee injury for the past several weeks, Ciesla ended up 32 saves.
“Gabriella can play anywhere on the ice,” Dynek said. “And yeah, Kayla is an awesome goalie. But how about Gabriella?”
Notable: In addition to Park, LA’s leading scorers include Caroline Smith (16 goals, 8 assists), Bryn Jones (9 goals, 12 assists), Jenna Rekoske (10 goals, 11 assists), Kaela Finegan (3 goals, 15 assists), Stephanie Smith (7 goals, 10 assists) and Emma Piatigorsky (11 goals, 3 assists).