Aubrey Wilcox drives the ball through a pair of Wyoming Seminary defenders.
A playoff team’s worst nightmare is that an official’s decision will unduly influence the outcome of a game, and that is exactly what happened in the Upper Perk hockey team’s bitter 4-3 season-ending overtime loss to Wyoming Seminary at Emmaus on Saturday.
Casey Umstead was forced to watch her stellar career end from the sidelines after being green-carded 30 seconds into the overtime period. Less than two minutes later, Mallory Lefkowitz notched the game-winner with her second goal of the game to send the Lady Blue Knights into the state semifinals and end the high school careers of 12 Upper Perk seniors.
The disastrous sequence began after Umstead opened the overtime by speeding up the field before being fouled by Becca Shulman.
“I was probably five yards away from the circle, and the girl fouled me and hit the ball away,” Umstead related.
Umstead retrieved the ball and tried to self-start again.
“She fouled me a second time and hit the ball 15 yards away after the whistle had blown. So, I just said to her, ‘Can you not hit the ball after the whistle?’ She said to me, ‘I didn’t hear it’, and then the ref carded both of us for talking to each other.”
The official closest to the play banished both players for two minutes for “chattering,” leaving the teams playing six-on-six.
Upper Perk coach Jamie Warren conversed with the officials after the game.
“They said that they had addressed the chirpiness three times during the game, and before the overtime, they spoke with the captains and said, ‘We’re not going to tolerate it.’
“The officials want to stay in control. It’s a good way to keep it in control,” Warren added wryly.
The controversial ending marred what had been an entertaining game. Three times Sem fought back from one goal deficits.
Umstead got the Tribe on the board early scoring her 50th goal of the season six-and-half minutes into the contest.
But the Lady Blue Knights (16-6-1), the District 2 second seed, started to gain a territorial edge, and pressured the Upper Perk defense. The backline, led by Morgan Aldinger, held strong and kept Wyoming Seminary away from the goal until a stunning turn of events that foreshadowed the end of the game.
With 40 seconds left in the half, Umstead was given a green card and sent off the field. When the ball was put back in play at midfield, Lefkowitz sped down the field toward the circle, weaved her way past several defenders and slipped the ball past goalie Hannah Mack to tie the game.
After halftime, Umstead seized the momentum back for the Tribe shortly after she got off the penalty chair.
Starting from goalie MacKenzie Gagliardi’s left, Umstead penetrated to the front of the cage and whipped goal number 51 past Gagliardi with 2:08 gone to give Upper Perk a 2-1 lead.
“She went out and changed the game,” Warren said.
Once again, however, Wyoming Seminary ramped up the pressure. Upper Perk held off four corner attempts, and Warren called a timeout with 19:01 to play to try and stem the tide.
But Schulman got the equalizer less than two minutes after the timeout and the game was knotted at two.
Shortly thereafter, the Lady Blue Knights picked up a green card and a yellow card within six seconds of each other, and with Wyoming Seminary playing two girls short, the Tribe cashed in on a scramble in front of the goal.
Umstead started the play with a deft pass to Natalie Ciuta who directed the ball on net. The ball changed direction and the goal was credited to Jenna Caciolo making the score 3-2 with 13:53 left.
The pace of the game picked up even more with the teams exchanging scoring chances until Sem got the tying goal from Alexis Quick with 7:55 to play.
“They’ve got a long history of state playoffs,” Warren noted, “and sometimes that can play to your advantage. They weren’t going to give up.”
With the clock winding down, the Tribe (20-5) threatened in the Wyoming Seminary end, getting good scoring chances from three corners, but the game headed to overtime and the ill-fated conclusion.
“This game was just not meant for us to win today, but we put our heart on the field and played hard, and I’m proud of them. I would have liked to move on,” Warren said wistfully.