QUINCY, Mass. -- Kaleigh Finigan spent enough time on the wrong side of games against St. Mary's while spending the first two years of her high school hockey career playing for Austin Prep. Now, she's wearing a Spartans jersey and giving the team a dimension they have not had in years past.
Finigan's game seems modeled after the traditional power forward role most famously employed in these parts by Cam Neely in his heyday with the Bruins, and also by another Massachusetts native, Kevin Stevens, during the glory years of the Mario Lemieux-led Pittsburgh Penguins.
A junior, Finigan has fit nicely into the Spartans system and has emerged as the team's leading goal scorer, adding a hat trick in Thursday's 7-2 victory over Fontbonne to her growing resume.
"She's feeling more comfortable in the system here at St. Mary's," Spartans head coach Frank Pagliuca said of his first-line right winger. "I think once she moves her feet and she's engaged in the play, she's very effective for us. She's a powerful kid with a good shot."
Finigan isn't the only newcomer to the St. Mary's roster this year, as talented sophomore center Brittani Lanzilli also transferred in after being one of the top scorers in the state last season with Medford High.
While the two of them had some familiarity with one another, the Spartans system was a new world of hockey from where they came. Finigan and Lanzilli have been paired with one of Pagliuca's veterans, junior left wing Alison Butler, and while it may have taken a while for things to come together, the results during the Spartans current eight-game win streak have been stellar.
"I played with Brittani in Medford so I already knew how to play with her," Finigan said. "With Butler to, she really helps out a lot. Especially on the left wing, she can slide that pass to the backdoor. She told us what [Coach Pagliuca] expected from us and from her past years, what she thought we should do. The small tips in practice that she knew from past years, that's helped out too."
Each of the three brings a different skill set to the ice. Butler is the total package, every bit as capable of making the perfect pass as she is scoring goals while covering her responsibilities in the defensive zone. Lanzilli skates with grace and speed and has an uncanny knack for weaving her way through traffic. Finigan is not afraid to mix it up and get physical while displaying a nose for the goal.
Together, the trio has become what Pagliuca hoped they would when he first matched them together.
"Alison's been here for three years and been one of our better players for that time," Pagliuca said. "She really has a sense of calmness with her. She's talking to the two girls on the bench about, 'where you should be, lets try this.'"
"The other girls are feeling more confident," he continued. "They're less hesitant when they're out on the ice. Brittani's been coming a long way, she's improving. When she's going, she's tough to stop and I think they complement each other real well that line."