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Friday, March 11, 2011
Hingham ends St. Mary's streak at 100 games

By Bruce Lerch

STONEHAM, Mass. -- Six games ago, Hingham girls' hockey coach Tom Findley decided to move sophomore defenseman Jane Freda off the blue line and onto his top line to ride alongside fellow sophomore Sarah Schwenzfeier and freshman Catherine Linehan.

That move is starting to make Findley look like a genius.

In Thursday night's Division 1 quarterfinals, Freda scored the game-tying and game-winning goals to help No. 8 Hingham stun three-time defending state champion and top seed St. Mary's, 3-2 in overtime at Stoneham Arena, eliminating the Spartans (20-1-3) from the tournament and stopping their nearly four-year long unbeaten streak at 100 games.

"That was the greatest high school game I've been associated with," Tom Findley said. "That's a great program over there in St. Mary's. That feat will never be done again. Our kids were prepared. We've played so well the last six games."

Added St. Mary's coach Frank Pagliuca, "Obviously a disappointing way to go out but you can't play one period of hockey and expect to beat a great team like Hingham. We didn't show up for the first two periods and a lot of that had to do with Hingham. I thought they played a great game, they deserved the victory."

The night's other hero spent her night between the Hingham (18-4-2) pipes. Senior goalie Beth Findley, daughter of Coach Findley, made 13 of her 20 saves in the third period. None, however, were bigger than the amazing stop she made with just 55 seconds left in regulation.

St. Mary's forward Gina Beth Manganiello made a strong rush down the right wing and got off a shot as she cut toward the middle. Findley made the initial stop, but Manganiello continued around behind the net and went to jam the puck inside the far post. With her head turned to the left, Findley somehow shot her right leg across the crease just in time to make what was a game-saving stop.

"I've been working on that a lot in practice," Findley said of her big save. "Last year, one of the goals that Sabrina Iannetti scored on me was a wraparound and I really wanted that one back so I've been working really hard on that, getting over fast. I owe a lot of credit to my defenseman Catherine Chittick. She really helped me out a lot there."

That set the stage for the overtime, and it took just 45 seconds for the game to end. Freda made a play at her own blue line to disrupt a shot by St. Mary's Hannah Quin and caromed the loose puck off the boards to herself. Freda broke in on Spartans goalie Sarah Foss, and with Rachel Donohoe hustling back to prevent her from cutting across, Freda instead let the puck fly and it trickled past Foss to give the Harborwomen their first victory over St. Mary's in eight tries.

"I just saw the puck, I flipped it off the boards and I took a shot hoping to get a rebound and it went in instead," described Freda of her game-winner. "It's like a dream. I still can't wrap my head around it."

Hingham had been struggling to find its offensive identity after dropping a 4-2 decision to St. Mary's in the latter stages of the regular season. Coach Findley bumped Freda up to the first line in hopes of creating a spark.

"We needed a little more pace up there," Findley said of the change. "She had played with Sarah (Schwenzfeier) before and Cat Linehan. Two sophomores and a freshman, that's our big line. They are young but they are so disciplined and they have so much poise."

Freda also made the play that helped set up the game's first goal. Hingham opened the second period with a power play, and Freda was set up for a hard shot from inside the right faceoff circle. Foss (17 saves) made the stop, but the rebound fluttered out to her left where Schwenzfeier swooped in and buried it to give Hingham a 1-0 lead.

The Spartans showed a renewed energy in the third, and their hard work led to a pair of quick goals midway through the frame. First, it was Bridget Donovan scoring on a rebound of a shot by Iannetti to tie it with seven minutes left, then just 34 seconds later, Donovan cycled the puck over to Quin, who rifled a shot past Findley for her first career goal.

"I was very proud of my kids for coming back in the third period but again, you can't do that in a game like this against a great team like that," Pagliuca said. "You can't turn it on and off and that's been an issue all year.

Rather than wilt under the Spartans attack, however, the Harborwomen responded as Freda buried a loose puck from in front with 5:36 left in regulation to tie it.

The game would not have gone to overtime without the play of either Findley or Foss. Foss made three huge stops over the final three minutes, and caught another break when Freda lifted a shot just too high over the crossbar behind her.

And of course, Beth Findley came through with the save of the night, and maybe the most important stop in the seven year history of the Hingham girls' hockey program.

"She's my kid so I don't normally say much about her but she won us that game," praised Tom Findley. "That last save was unbelievable. I don't know how she got over there that quick but she did. She made the save and that's why she's an elite goalie."