The Trumbull-St. Joseph girls co-op hockey team recorded the best record in program history. TSJ had struggled in the past, but those struggles appear to be over with head coach Paula Dady at the helm.

The locals put together a 13-7 record and a 7-7 mark in the FCIAC to reach the state tournament for the first time. The squad was seeded seventh out of the eight teams that qualified. They earned a shot at the No. 2 Simsbury (17-2), the two-time Southern Connecticut Conference champions.

Although the state tournament experience was one-and-out, Trumbull-St. Joseph made its mark this season — with Dady being named the FCIAC Coach of the Year.

Junior forward Kaly Gonski led the team in scoring with 46 goals and 13 assists and was named first-team All-FCIAC.

Senior Rebecca Buck, with five goals and 17 assists, also was named first-team All-FCIAC honors on defense.

Senior Kelsy Meise, with two goals and eight assists, earned All-FCIAC second-team honors on defense and sophomore forward Caroline Prezioso, with eight goals and 11 assists, earned All-FCIAC honorable mention.

“This is our second season that we joined up with St. Joseph to form a co-op team,” said Dady. “We went around .500 last year, but this is by far the best season we have ever had and it’s a credit to the hard work that the girls put in.”

When Dady and assistant coach Shannon Curren began assembling this year’s team, they knew they had something special.

They needed to fill the void left by Nina Danforth, who had gone on to play collegiately at Franklin-Pierce. But with a solid defense, led by returnees Buck and Meise, the team was well on its way to establishing itself as a contender in the FCIAC.

“We knew we had a committed bunch of girls and we believed in our assets and our hard work approach,” Dady said. “Our defensive line is the best in the state as far as I’m concerned. Our goalie Gina Moriello really stepped up and we knew right from the start that we were going to be competitive.”

Trumbull-St. Joseph opened up some eyes with a complete team victory over Greenwich by a 6-2 margin to open the season.

The next game was against New Canaan, a team that had won six of the last eight state titles. The co-op gave the Rams a battle before coming up on the short end of a 4-3 overtime loss.

The word was out and spreading throughout the FCIAC that this was not the same old TSJ team. This group believed in itself and each other and that confidence grew throughout the lineup.

By the end of December, the co-op had racked up three victories in impressive fashion; a 4-2 win over Daniel Hand of Madison and a convincing 7-4 victory over West Haven.

January brought about some tough losses; 7-3 to Ridgefield and another gut-check with New Canaan by a slim 5-3 margin. But by the end of the month, the co-op was firmly entrenched in a race for a playoff spot with a solid 11-5 overall mark and a 5-5 ledger in the FCIAC.

“We knew right from the start that we had the potential to be competitive,” Dady added. “Once the team gained a little confidence, we began to play like a team that expected to win.”

Junior Molly Chapman, with six goals and six assists, helped to solidify the offense with senior Rosa Moriello, with one goal and two assists, lending her experience to the mix.

Junior Hanna Duda, with one goal, and sophomores Ashley Osterberg, two goals and six assists, and Baily Brooks, one assist, give Dady something to build on for next season, along with freshman Vicki DeNitto, Amelia Walker and Bruna Venencio.

“I will say that being named Coach of the Year was a total surprise to me,” Dady said. “I attribute that to the team and all the awards that were earned was a total team effort that we all shared in.”

“We will certainly have some big shoes to fill next season as we will lose two-thirds of our defense. But I think what we achieved this year will go a long way at giving the girls some confidence going into next season. It was an outstanding year and I’m so proud of what these girls accomplished.”