St. Stephen – The St. Stephen Lady Spartans hockey team couldn’t have asked for a better way to end seniors’ night.

Hosted at the Garcelon Civic Center Thursday evening, the Spartans welcomed the Harbour View Vikings of Saint John in their final regular season home game, and honoured seniors Addie Smith and Kali Essensa.

Kate Scott/Courier
Senior netminder of the St. Stephen Lady Spartans hockey team Addie Smith makes a save in the 7-0 shutout victory against the Harbour View Vikings in seniors’ night at the Garcelon Civic Center last Thursday.
Kate Scott/Courier
Senior Kali Essensa of the St. Stephen Lady Spartans hockey team smiles as she makes her way to the Harbour View net and buries a shot, opening the scoring for a 7-0 victory in seniors’ night at the Garcelon Civic Center last Thursday. Senior netminder Addie Smith recorded the shutout.

Essensa opened the scoring with an assist from Kelsey Bedford in the first frame in what became a 7-0 victory, with Smith recording the shutout.

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In the second frame, Emma Tuddenham netted the first goal of the period with assists from Grace Huys and Olivia Amos; Amos found the twine unassisted, as did Leah Carson, and Bedford scored with an assist from Erin Butler.

Amos went on to score her second unassisted goal of the night in third period, and later assisted Butler in her goal with Huys.

The Spartans finished the game firing 33 shots at the Vikings’ netminder (12 in first, 13 in the second, and eight in period three) to the Vikings eight.

As Essensa and Smith reflect on the win with coach Ally Waycott, the two seniors wear infectious smiles.

“It was a great way to start out seniors’ night,” Waycott said of Essensa’s goal. “A great way to end it,” she added, while Essensa finished her thought.

“You couldn’t ask for a better team,” Essensa said with a smile, while Smith finished her sentence.

“Yeah, we had a great team this year.”

But it’s not just seniors’ night that has ended on a high note for the Spartans. The team has won first place in the AA southern conference with an 8-7-2 record (wins, losses, ties) – quite a feat for a team playing with a short bench for the entirety of the season.

Despite a small roster, Essensa said she knew from the beginning of the season finishing first in the conference is something the team could accomplish – with determination and hard work.

“The girls are pretty confident; we just had to work together and we come out with the win,” she said, while Smith added to her sentiment.

“I had faith in us from the start. Even though we had a short bench, we’re all good players, we all work well together,” Smith said, and Waycott agreed.

“I knew we had it in us, but I knew it’d take a lot of work to get there.”

With a short bench, the three agree they were once a team initially underestimated. Once the wins started to roll in, with victories over AAA schools, that changed.

“Once we started reaching up higher and realizing ‘yeah we do have potential’, then that’s when it kicked off,” Essensa explained. Smith agreed.

“I think we always had the potential, we just needed to realize it.”

Now, the Lady Spartans are gearing up to compete in a best of three playoff series. Their opponent is yet to be determined. Finishing first in the southern conference, the team earns a bye into the second round of playoffs, which will begin after March Break.

In anticipation of the upcoming playoffs, Essensa said communication will be her priority, while Waycott said the team needs “a game plan going into their end”.

But there’s one thing they can all agree on.

“I think we can do it,” Waycott said. “We definitely have the potential,” Essensa said, smiling.