Williston goalie keeps saving the day

Sophomore has over 1,100 saves

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

She may be just five-foot-one and 98 pounds, but sophomore Nicole Bonneau of Williston has come up big between the pipes this season for the 1-19 Champlain Valley Union High girls hockey team.

How big?

Consider an average of more than 30 stops a game this season and a two-year total of saves that has now reached more than 1,150. That’s a lot of pucks, and each was a potential score for the opposition.

“Nicole has been great,” said head coach Tom Ryan on Monday afternoon before the team was to take the ice for practice at Cairns Arena. “She has been getting shelled this year but it has probably made her a better goalie.”

With just the one victory—that a 3-2 triumph over Colchester High way back in early December—it has been a long season for Ryan and the Redhawks, who lost six seniors from last year’s squad that gained the Division 1 semifinals before losing to Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans.

But through it all, this young team with but two seniors has been getting playing time and experience.

On Tuesday, the Redhawks were to get official word on their foe in the first round of the playoffs. Ryan and Bonneau both thought it would be a Wednesday or Thursday contest at Stowe, a team that nudged the Redhawks twice during the regular season.

Last Saturday, CVU fell 5-1 to South Burlington, a game in which Bonneau came up with 37 saves while the Redhawks took just 14 shots at the Rebels’ goal.

However, CVU was down by just 2-1 after two periods, South Burlington getting both of its scores in the first eight minutes of the game but then getting blanked for the rest of the first period and the second by Bonneau who stopped some 25 shots in those stanzas.

“She sure gave you something to write about,” South Burlington coach Jake Cunavelis said of Bonneau to a lingering reporter before the start of the third period.

The Rebels stormed back for two quick goals at the start of the period to keep things from getting out of control. The Rebels were 12-6-1 for the campaign.

Freshman Sasha Gunther scored the lone CVU goal out of a pileup in front of the South Burlington cage. Junior Suzanne Levack and freshman Chrissi Whitaker drew assists.

Whitaker, Levack, sophomore Amanda Kaminsky, Gunther and freshman K.K. Logan among others give great promise for the future.

“Some of these players who started the season are becoming great,” said Bonneau, who is looking ahead with optimism.

While seniors Sam Lednicky and Kara Robinson, both forwards, will be missed, Ryan notes that he has a solid group of junior high players becoming CVU freshmen next winter.

For the busy backstop, the South Burlington game and its 37 stops was about average in a season where in one game Bonneau was called on for an incredible, not to mention acrobatic, 55 saves.

Ryan noted that last year there were two experienced and solid defense stars—Becky Street and Eliza Bradley—in front of Bonneau. Street is playing at St. Lawrence University while Bradley, as a freshman, won the goalie job for the University of Vermont soccer team.

Bonneau said she started skating some five years ago when she was 10. A year later, she put on the goalie pads in the Essex youth league. She has been in the net ever since.

“We were all asked to try it (goaltending)” she recalled. “I liked it.”

With all of these opponents’ shots coming her way, Bonneau was asked if she ever has dreams about the flat discs.

“I try not,” she said with a grin. “But then, I guess I see enough pucks so I don’t have to.”