STONEHAM, Mass. -- Austin Prep head coach Stephanie Wood doesn't need to be reminded. Neither does her team.
The Cougars realize that for them to make any kind of headway in the upcoming Division 1 postseason tournament later this month, they need to get better production out of their power play unit.
On Saturday night, and facing Catholic Central Large Conference rival Arlington Catholic inside Stoneham Arena, AP had multitude of player-advantage opportunities, including a pair of substantial 5-on-3 chances. But not once did the Cougars capitalize as AC prevailed 2-0.
"We had a lot of chances on the power play but couldn't take advantage, but I also thought their goalie played really well for them tonight," said Wood. "We had a couple of 5-on-3 as well as some other chances to come back in this one but we just couldn't. This season we haven't had much trouble finding the back of the net but today for some reason it didn't happen for us."
With the victory, AC (11-2-1, 4-0-1), winners of the seven straight, moves one step closer to clinching its first CCL title. Coming off a tie two nights ago versus Notre Dame Academy (Hingham), AP drops to 9-2-2 (1-2-0). These two combatants will meet again on Wednesday at Ed Burns Arena in Arlington.
Despite her team doing her no favors by committing a plethora of infractions, AC goalie Katherine Crane played superbly. The junior stopped all 20 shots she faced, including a couple of breakaway chances.
"From the net out, I feel we played our hardest tonight," Crane said. "My mind was telling me don't let them score. It got a little nerve-racking at times out there. [Former AC goaltender] Megan Messuri has been a great role model for me. During practices, she tells me what to do in these types of situations. I feel like she has really prepared me well. Throughout every game I feel like I have gotten better and we have gotten better as a team."
AC controlled the opening period. Working the puck up quickly along the boards, and continuously cycling inside AP's zone, the visiting Cougars would take a 1-0 lead at 9:26. Duggan Delano, a junior forward, standing in the right slot, sent a shot through the leg pads of AP goalie Caty Flagg.
Despite putting up 14 first period shots, AC would have to settle for its one-goal margin heading into the first intermission. The remainder of this tilt turned into a whistle fest. With no penalties called in the opening period, officials made up for it over the final two frames. In all,14 penalties were called over the final 30 minutes, including eight against AC.
The constant stoppage in play, in turn, took away from a relatively entertaining contest. Early in the second period, AP was awarded its first 5-on-3 chance, but failed to get anything past Crane. A brief two-player advantage ensued shortly thereafter with still nothing to show for it. As second period concluded with no scoring from either side, AP knew it needed to put everything on the line coming out for the third.
But early in the frame, AC junior forward Adrieana Rossini had a chance to pad her team's lead after breaking in on Flagg all alone. But the sophomore held her ground and was able to kick aside Rossini's low right side attempt keeping it a one-goal contest.
Moments later, AC sent two more in the penalty box, giving AP a 30 second 5-on-3 to work with. But the result proved no different as the earlier ones as AC's defense and Crane continued to keep AP at bay.
"Katherine has played well for us pretty-much the whole year," AC head coach and former Boston College standout Maggie Taverna said. "Her taking Messuri's spot this year was a worry at first but she has really stepped up to the plate. She has been making some big saves for us. As a team we have practicing a lot on our penalty kill. I'm trying to teach them the rotation that I learned in college from my coaches Katie King-Crowley and Courtney Kennedy. I'm hoping that is going to work. These kids are willing to learn and when they see something they are taught work for them, then they're like OK let's do that. When they start to execute things properly that is when things start to click in their heads."
With time winding down, AP was dealt a crushing blow after sophomore Juliana Dolan managed to put in a backhand shot past Flagg after a mad scramble in front of the crease. The tally extended AC's advantage to two goals with under three minutes to go. AP could do little after that as the Cougars went down quietly.
"The depth of our team is what makes up strong," Taverna said. "We are fortunate where I have six pairs of forwards that I can throw out there at anytime and I have a seventh forward I trust as well."