BOSTON -- For four long years, the Arlington Catholic seniors have sat back and watched as St. Mary's consistently held over them. On the last day of their high school careers, those seniors and their teammates finally got one back.
Natalie Flynn, Adrieana Rossini and Allyson Cunningham each scored goals and Megan Messuri came up with 25 saves as the Cougars finally got their victory over the Spartans, winning 3-1 at TD Garden to capture the Div. 1 girls hockey state championship.
"The previous times we've played them, there was that stigma that we've never beaten them and in a state championship game, there's a little bit more on the line and that stigma kind of leaves them," AC head coach Maggie Taverna said. "I think we just came out played our game and played how we've played all year and it ended up working this time."
The Cougars (21-3-1) took the ice with a ferocity and determination that belied the early morning faceoff, while their opponents were surprisingly sluggish. Flynn, the Cougars senior captain and one of the state's premier players, got things started with just under four minutes left in the first, walking down the left wing side and switching to her backhand while cutting across for the game's first goal.
"It's a team effort the whole time but I thought if we scored first we were going to win the game," said Flynn afterward. "That's all I was trying to do, just get the puck in the net first. That's what we did and we went out and won."
AC maintained its high energy start by tacking on a pair right out of the gates in the second. Freshman Rossini, who has been a breakout star of this postseason, pounced on a loose puck during a shorthanded situation and flipped a similar backhander past Spartans goalie Lauren Skinnion at 1:49.
The Cougars won the ensuing faceoff, and Cunningham appeared to be trying to set up a play by dumping the puck in. It went on net, and Skinnion made the initial stop but the trickled through the back of her pads and in just 16 seconds later.
That goal finally seemed to wake up St. Mary's, and Brittani Lanzilli showed off her amazing skating skills on a terrific end to end rush that the sophomore finished with a high, hard wrist shot at 5:39. Lanzilli tried to break loose several more times as her teammates rallied for a few minutes, but ultimately, the Spartans were unable to sustain anything long enough to make something happen.
"I just felt like we were in quicksand for most of the game to be honest with you," St. Mary's head coach Frank Pagliuca said. "We had a little spurt in the second period but I think all credit goes to AC. They were all over us, they were all over the puck. We just didn't get it going tonight."
The other big piece in preventing a Spartan comeback was the play of netminder Messuri. A sophomore transfer from Southfield School, Messuri made several more big stops the rest of the way. The best of those came with under five minutes left to play, as Lanzilli broke in and fed Gina Beth Manganiello for a wide open look from the slot, but Messuri's glove simply flashed up out of nowhere and snagged the puck from the air.
"What I love about Megan is her confidence," Taverna said. "She's a sophomore, so she's young, but at the same time she has that mentality that she doesn't want to be scored on. When she gets scored on she gets angry and it makes her shut the door even more in a sense. Where some kids are the opposite, when they scored on they just melt, and she almost gets more fired up. Today she was unbelievable. She's been unbelievable for us all season and that one glove save she made was so good. She works hard and she hates to lose, it what it comes down to. She hates to lose."
The Cougars still had to kill two penalties over the final 3:16, but they did so without allowing a shot on either, and ultimately wrapped the program's first state championship since 2007.
"It's been unreal," Messuri said. "Its surreal right now, I don't even know how to handle it. We just used our momentum really well. Getting that goal in the first period really set us off."
Added Flynn, "It's just amazing. When I was a freshman there was ten freshmen and we said we wanted to win a state championship. That was our goal. It just happens in our last game as high school players we won it. Its just amazing."