STONEHAM, Mass. -- There simply is no better rivalry in Massachusetts high school girls' hockey than the one between Hingham and St. Mary's.
Winners of the last four Division 1 state championships, the two teams have faced off 11 times since the Harborwomen made the jump up to Div. 1 in 2009. Saturday evening at Stoneham Arena, they added another classic battle what is becoming a storied series.
Hingham rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the third period on goals by Sarah Schwenzfeier and Samantha Ryder, the latter coming with just three seconds remaining in regulation, but it was the Spartans who prevailed in the end as Ann Marie Manganiello scored on the final attempt of the first round of a shootout to give No. 3 St. Mary's a 4-3 victory over defending champion and 10th seed Hingham.
"Our kids have been resilient all year," Spartans head coach Frank Pagliuca said. "People have counted us out all year and we just keep fighting. That group has it. They bust their butt all game. It says something when you give up a goal with three seconds left and come back and play a good overtime and finish it off in the shootout. I can't be more proud of this group and what they did tonight."
Ryder, a freshman, scored the first goal of the shootout for the Harborwomen (18-7-1), but Alison Butler fired a wrist shot off goalie Taylor Walsh's glove to tie it for the Spartans (21-3-1).
Three more shooters stepped up and were denied by Walsh (23 saves) and St. Mary's netminder Lauren Skinnion (25 saves), setting the stage for Manganiello. The sophomore walked in, used a head fake to slide Walsh over, and beat her between the pads for the winner.
"Right after the goal I skated straight to my sister [Gina Beth] and I was like, 'I did it,'" Manganiello said afterward. "[Pagliuca] really helped me on the bench. He said, 'You've got this. You did this, you know this, you know what you have to do. And as I was going down, I was thinking, I've been here just as long as the seniors have, I've lost with them, I've won with them, and I wanted to win for them so that's what I tried to do."
How this game even got to overtime is a story unto itself. The Harborwomen took a 1-0 lead in the first period when Schwenzfeier chipped the puck out to linemate Jane Freda, who picked the top corner behind Skinnion on Hingham's first shot of the game.
In the second, St. Mary's scored three straight times, getting one apiece from its top line of Brittani Lanzilli, Alison Butler and Kaleigh Finigan. Defenseman Rachel Donahoe assisted on two of the tallies.
Schwenzfeier started the Hingham comeback in the third, floating around the Spartans cage for a shot then stuffing her own rebound through at 4:45. Hingham head coach Tom Findley pulled Walsh for an extra skater with 31 seconds left in regulation and Jane Freda chased down a dump-in by Schwenzfeier, getting off a shot that rebounded right to Ryder, who buried it with 3.7 seconds showing on the clock.
"I just told them they had to put it behind them," Pagliuca when asked what he told his team heading into overtime. "I know its hard but its a zero-zero game now and next team that scores now is going to win."
Butler, a junior captain who immense in killing off a penalty with under two minutes to play, was also asked about the Spartans mindset after Ryder's goal and said, "The game's not over. We just have to keep going, keep fighting and we'll get to where we want to be."
GOALIES TOUGH IN THE EXTRA FRAME
With the excitement of the overtime and a shootout between two of the state's perennial power programs, it took a pair of standout performances by a two first-year sophomore starters between the pipes to keep things scoreless in the extra frame.
Walsh and Skinnion, both sophomores who have improved by leaps and bounds over the course of the season, stood toe to toe and took each team's best shots to force the shootout. Butler fired a one-timer from the slot which Walsh stopped and managed to hold off both Finigan and Lanzilli, who were jamming at the rebound, until the net came off its moorings behind her.
"Taylor's our MVP. Without her, we don't have a chance," praised Hingham coach Tom Findley. "The team is built from the back out. You have to have a good goalie, you have to four or five good defensemen, and if you have that you're going to be in some games and you're going to win some. I think at the end, Taylor just stepped up. I'm so proud of her."
At the other end, Hingham defenseman Alexandria Gong made a terrific end-to-end rush and got a clean shot off that Skinnion was able to handle with 3:15 left. Less than two minutes later, Schwenzfeier had a great bid after forcing a turnover at the Spartans blue line and got off a hard shot through a defender that Skinnion was able to corral.
"[Lauren was] phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal," Pagliuca said of his goalie. "Players have stepped up this year and she's right at the top. To stop Freda and Sarah [Schwenzfeier[ in the shootout, that says something right there. She was outstanding. She gave us a chance to win the shootout. I can't be more happy with her play this year."