NORTH BILLERICA, Mass. – Adrieanna Rossini had been there before.
In last year’s MIAA Division 1 state semifinal, Rossini scored in overtime to defeat Braintree and send the Cougars to the TD Garden.
Sunday night, the Arlington Catholic sophomore did it again, beating Westford Academy sophomore goalie Kerry Pouliot two-minutes and 57-seconds into the 12-minute overtime to give AC a 3-2 win in the second scintillating semifinal at Chelmsford Forum.
The Cougars will take on St. Mary’s – 4-3 shootout winners over Woburn in the day’s first semifinal – Sunday at the Garden in a rematch of last year’s state final, which was won by AC.
Rossini’s sophomore line-mate, Jessica Piracini, started the game-winning sequence by playing the puck into the Westford zone. It was mishandled and Rossini pounced on it, skated in on goal and putting a forehand past Pouliot’s glove to win the game.
“I was looking to see what was open, and to see if there was any move I could make or any kind of opportunity,” Rossini said. “I felt like the [defenseman] was hooking me, so I kinda’ just shot and hoped for the best.”
It was Rossini’s second goal of the game, having scored at 9:58 of the first on a terrific individual effort down the left wing to make it 2-0 in favor of the Cougars (17-4-2).
“She’s a huge factor every game,” AC head coach Maggie Taverna said. “She’s a great player. She has the ability to change a game…She’s fantastic; she just loves the game of hockey.”
The Grey Ghosts (17-4-2) had all the momentum going into the extra period. Down 2-0 going into the final 15 minutes of regulation, Westford got a goal from junior Bretta Beer from the right face-off circle just 49 seconds into the period.
Rossini rang the post at 5:36 of the third, and Westford senior Kim Lizotte had a great chance of her own just 19 seconds later after stealing the puck deep in the Cougars’ zone. AC junior goalie Megan Messuri made a good stop to preserve the one-goal lead.
Pouliot (18 saves) was tremendous in the third period, making 11 saves. One of those came on a penalty shot with 4:29 left to play, as Piracini was hauled down from behind on a breakaway. Piracini cut in from the left on the penalty shot and ripped a forehand wrister from just outside the crease, but Pouliot made a great glove save. She then made two point-blank stops on Rossini and senior Melissa Richard.
Incredibly, Westford got a penalty shot of its own with exactly three minutes on the clock. Killing off the last seconds of the penalty, sophomore Kathryn Walker broke up a pass in her own zone, sped down the left wing and was tripped from behind while bearing in on goal.
Walker tied it up on the penalty shot, ripping a wrist shot past Messuri and tying the game at 2.
Pouliot made three more saves in the final two minutes of regulation, and head coach Todd Fletcher’s team had sent the game to overtime in dramatic fashion.
“Our girls are just unfazed,” Fletcher said. “Wipe away the score and just play our game. You’ll get what you deserve when we’re playing well and stick to our game plan.”
Taverna said she had a simple message for her players before the start of overtime.
“I just said, ‘You guys are good enough to win this game. You just gotta put a puck in the net,” Taverna said. “Making them believe in themselves is the most important part of the game. If they believe that they can be successful then, more than likely, they will be successful.”
AC’s first goal came from Mickey McLaughlin, who scored from in front off a nice feed by sophomore Duggan Delano from behind the net at 6:42 of the first.
Messuri made 15 saves in the win.