Sunday, March 9, 2014
D1 girls semifinal: Duxbury 3, A-B 0
By John McGuirk
STONEHAM, Mass. -- Dynasty is a term often considered over-used in sport. Many programs speak it but few are able to sustain it over a long period of time.
The Duxbury girls’ hockey team does not talk in such rhetoric, preferring to do their talking out on the ice. However, if the Dragons are able to win next Sunday, it will be hard not to link this program and dynasty together.
Sunday night, Duxbury made surprisingly easy work of Acton-Boxborough in the Division 1 semfinals, shutting the Colonials out 3-0 at Stoneham Arena.
With the victory, the sixth-seeded Dragons (17-1-6) now sit on the threshold of capturing their fourth consecutive state crown. They will face No. 3 Arlington Catholic (19-2-2) in the final Sunday at TD Garden at a time to be determined.
Duxbury has won the Division 2 state title the last three seasons before moving up to Division 1 status this season. The transition to a higher level never seemed to phase the Dragons, unanimously believing they had the talent and muscle to compete with team at any level.
Against No. 1 seed A-B, they certainly proved it.
After allowing the Colonials (21-3-0) to dictate the tempo during the early stages of this one, Duxbury turned on the after-jets midway through the opening period and never looked back.
Whether it be nerves or A-B coming out full-throttle to start, the Dragons would eventually settle back into their style of fast-break offense, unselfish passing and tight, physical defense to turn this contest in their favor.
Duxbury forward Jane Dudley put her team on the board at 9:53 of the first. Following a scrum inside the Colonials' crease, Dudley was able to find the loose puck and shoot it into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead. Just two minutes later, the Dragons were on the attack again. With Dudley leading a 2-on-1 break from just outside the blue line, her shot caromed off of A-B goaltender Cali Loblundo and onto the stick of Payton Donato, who was streaking down the right side. The sophomore flipped the puck past Loblundo to give the Dragons a two-goal advantage from which the Colonials would never recover.
"I don't think we played well at all tonight," said A-B head coach Brian Fontas. "It's disappointing being the No. 1 seed to go out like this. I'm not taking anything away from Duxbury because they're an excellent team. Bottom line is they know what it takes to get to the Garden. That's why they're going back for a fourth straight year.
“We didn't have a lot of puck luck tonight and sometimes you need that. Duxbury wanted this a little more than we did and got the win as a result. They do every single, little thing right. Their special teams are excellent and their penalty kills are excellent. That team just works extremely hard. They thrive off of work-ethic."
For the remainder of the tilt, the Colonials did manage to step up their play at both ends of the ice some. Duxbury was still getting its share of quality looks on Loblundo (22 saves), but the sophomore stood poised, swatting them away. But for a team that came in having scored 110 goals, A-B's offense had great difficulty setting up shots once inside the Dragons zone.
Duxbury's defense, along with its forwards moving up, put forth a joint effort to keep most of the Colonials shots from the perimeter. Several A-B chances never even reached goalie Rachel Myette (18 saves), as the Dragons were sacrificing their bodies to deflect shots off their intended mark.
"Our defensive play from everybody was really solid," Dragons head coach Friend Weiler said. "We were rotating all six of our defensemen out there. We didn't want to give (A-B) any room to be creative and go hard to the net. We wanted to keep them outside and I think we did that very well for most of the game. Rachel always seems to play the biggest on the biggest stage. She keeps everything calm back there and is the best goalie in the state as far as I'm concerned. At times I thought (A-B) got real physical but our girls showed they were up to the task against that tonight."
After a scoreless second period, the Colonials played like a desperate team over the final 15 minutes. They did start to create a little spacing and were shooting at will every time they stepped over the opposing blue line in an effort to draw even.
But the script never wavered. The Dragons refused to allow A-B to seize any momentum to climb back into this affair as they continued to block shots out in front and knocked the Colonials off of their respective routes with a mix of back- and fore-checking to keep them at bay.
"We're a third period team so we felt it would be key for us to get an early jump on them which we did,'' said Dudley, a junior. "We knew [A-B] has scored on everybody this year so we just made sure we played defensive-minded the whole game. It was defense first tonight. Going into the third, because we have played so well in the third period all year, we knew they weren't going to score two goals against us."
Adding to an already frustrating evening for the Colonials, junior Meredith Wright scored an empty-net goal at 14:11 to account for Duxbury's three-goal margin of victory.