Boston High School: Adrieanna Rossini

MIAA championship hockey picks

March, 16, 2013
3/16/13
9:55
PM ET
GIRLS’ DIVISION 2
No. 1 Duxbury (21-1-2) vs. No. 2 Falmouth (19-1-2), 11 a.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Duxbury – F Hannah Murphy, F Marissa Fichter, F Jane Dudley, F Meredith Wright, F Julia Nolan, D Ally Hammel, D Payton Donato, G Rachel Myette; Falmouth – F Alexa Scribner, F Rachel Moore, F Madison Haberl, F Kelly Ferreira, D Hannah Ghelfi, D Alexx Good, G Madison Scavotto.

Breakdown: It is perhaps the most predictable of all of Sunday’s matchups and the most anticipated. The Dragons and Clippers renew a burgeoning rivalry, intensified by last year’s duel at the Garden and invigorated by the fact that either team’s lone loss of the season was handed to them by the other. Duxbury has been playing lockdown defense throughout the playoffs and haven’t allowed a goal in more than six games, including the regular season. The Clippers’ young corps will look to get over the hump, building on a bittersweet experience on the Bruins’ home ice sheet one year ago.

X-factor: Scavotto. As dominant as Duxbury’s defense has been in front of and including Myette, the Clippers are capable of the same. And their sophomore netminder is a big reason why. She could steal one.

Pick: Duxbury, 1-0.

GIRLS’ DIVISION 1
No. 4 St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-3-4) vs. No. 7 Arlington Catholic (17-4-2), 9 a.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: St. Mary’s – F Alison Butler, F Kaleigh Finigan, F Gabby Crugnale, F Madison Molea, D Tatiana Doucette, D Amanda Donahoe, G Lauren Skinnion; AC – F Adrieanna Rossini, F Jess Piracini, F Duggan Delano, F Hayle Rudin, D Melissa Richard, G Megan Messuri.

Breakdown: The Catholic Central rivals meet for the second straight year on championship Sunday and, like their Div. 2 counterparts, also split their season series at a game apiece. Behind the benches, both the Spatans’ Frank Pagliuca and the Cougars’ Maggie Taverna have done work worthy of Coach of the Year honors. St. Mary’s has the feel of a team of destiny, neither a short bench nor nagging injuries all season long have kept the Spartans from returning to the biggest stage, all while dispatching No. 1 Woburn in the process.

X-factor: Rossini. You’d be hard pressed to find a young player in recent memory who has scored more clutch playoff goals than the AC sophomore.

Pick: St. Mary’s, 3-2.

BOYS’ DIVISION 3
Swampscott (19-5-0) vs. Westfield (18-3-2), 3:30 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Swampscott – F Corey Carmody, F Noah Maercklein, F Nunzio Morretti, D Chris Carman, D Trevor Massey; Westfield – F Sean Spohr, F Mike Santinello, F Anthony Cagliostro, F Adam Collier, F Neil Parrow, D Nate Barnes.

Breakdown: The Big Blue took down defending D3 finalist and South sectional champion Medway (thanks to an OT goal from Maercklein) to advance to the program’s first title game appearance. Westfield returns to the Garden ice after a one-year hiatus after taking a scorched-earth policy to Western Mass. competition, while averaging more than 5.5 goals per game.

X-factor: Swampscott freshman goaltender Tristan Bradley. The first-year backstop has been a key element to the Big Blue’s success, maintaining a 91.5 save percentage through the season.

Pick: Swampscott, 5-4.

BOYS’ DIVISION 2
Wilmington (20-3-2) vs. Franklin (17-7-2), 1:30 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Wilmington – F Cam Owens, F Brendan McDonough, F Jake Rogers, F Dylan DiNatale, D Brian Pickett, D Cam Collins, G Drew Foley; Franklin – F Cam Curley, F Dennis Pisani, F Aidan Isberg, F Troy Donahue, D Kyle Powers, D Kyle Filbert, G Devon Maloof.

Breakdown: The third of six rematches on the day, after the Wildcats claimed a 3-2 victory over Franklin a year ago on championship Sunday, propelled by a hat trick from Owens. The Panthers will be looking to avoid their third straight fruitless trip to the Garden, having dropped title tilts with Wilmington and Tewksbury. The Wildcats, who had Super 8 aspirations until late in the season, are eying their second straight title.

X-factor: McDonough. He’s been the break-out performer of the tournament and provides a great complement to Owens on Wilmington’s top line.

Pick: Wilmington, 3-2.

BOYS’ DIVISION 1
Burlington (13-6-5) vs. Marshfield (20-6-0), 8:15 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Burlington – F C.J. Grinnell, F Joe Berardi, F Joey Scali, D Adam Crowley, D Sean Costa, G Derek DeCastro; Marshfield – F Mike Carbone, F Pat Burchill, F Joe Admirand, F Pat Shea, D Matt Burchill, D Trevor Salmon.

Breakdown: While this isn’t another rematch, these teams are no strangers to this stage, with the Red Devils and Rams representing as the last two Div. 1 state champions. Both teams were near .500 squads through the first month of the season, and closed their regular-season slates with momentum they’ve carried over into the playoffs. Both these teams can skate with the best of them, but they also pay attention to the little things in the defensive zone as well.

X-factor: Crowley. I’d expect a defensive struggle in this one and so I’m going with the Red Devils’ blue-liner who always makes his presence felt.

Pick: Burlington, 3-1.

BOYS’ DIVISION 1A – SUPER 8
No. 4 Austin Prep (16-1-6) vs. No. 7 Malden Catholic (15-6-3), 6 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: AP – F Nolan Vesey, F Bobby Carpenter, F Frankie Candelino, F George Sennott, F Eric MacAdams, D Andrew Cross, D J.J. Layton, G Elijah Harris; MC – F Ara Nazarian, F Mike Iovanna, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Pat Wrenn, F Austin Goldstein, D Casey Fitzgerald, D Nick Rolli, G Connor Maloney.

Breakdown: AP, while short on years, is not short on talent. I think we all knew coming into this season that they were capable of reaching this stage, but it might have been a question of when. The Cougars earned their way to Sunday after dispatching town rival Reading and then No. 1 seed St. John’s Prep in Wednesday’s semifinal. It seems like years ago since there was a time when the Lancers were in jeopardy of missing the tournament all together, but they’ve played the best hockey in the state during the last month.

X-factor: Nazarian. It’s his tournament, the rest of us are just living in it.

Pick: Malden Catholic, 4-2.

D1 girls: Arlington Catholic 3, Westford Academy 2

March, 11, 2013
3/11/13
1:34
AM ET
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.

The 8: Hingham, Woburn hold on

February, 19, 2013
2/19/13
11:24
PM ET


HINGHAM, Mass. -- Despite allowing two third-period goals, Hingham was able to stay the course and knock off Lexington, 3-2, during Tuesday’s opening day action at The 8 Showcase.

The No. 6 Harborwomen (13-6-2) took control of the game early by putting a lot of pressure on Lexington goalie Amanda Charlton (34 saves).

“We try and play by the model, even if you are up by a couple of goals, to play like we are down two goals,” Hingham head coach Tom Findley said. “We have been playing very well of late, but we need to be able to tighten it up a little bit on some of the smaller plays.”

Charlton was able to limit the Harborwomen attack and gave Lexington (12-5-2) a fighting chance throughout the game.

“They had a lot of shots on her, and she was able to keep us in the game,” Lexington head coach Amanda Ciarletta said about her goalie’s play.

At the other end of the ice, Hingham goalie Taylor Walsh was no slouch, turning away 19 of 21 Lexington shots. One big save was stopping Sara Lehman on a breakaway in the first period by holding the angle. As a result, the Harborwomen were able to come back less than two minutes later and take the early 1-0 lead.

Sam Ryder got Hingham on the board with only 34 seconds left in the first period by splitting the Minutemaids defense. Ryder got in alone with Charlton and made a nifty move to the backhand to finally get Hingham a goal. Charlton had turned away the first 16 shots she faced.

Hingham’s Jane Freda didn’t waste any time in the second period getting her team on the board, scoring 12 seconds in. Freda was able to fly around the defense on the left wing and walk around Charlton for the goal.

“I saw an opening in the defense, so I was able to get around them,” Freda said. “I made a move, and I was able to slide the puck around the goalies pad on my forehand.”

Charlton bounced right back though making several key saves to keep the Minutemaids in the game. Hingham’s Katherine Saleski dangled around the defense and tried to wrist a shot past Charlton, but the goaltender kept her angle to make the save.

In the third period, Charlton made three big stops down low, which allowed Lexington to pull within one goal as Carolyn Avery beat Walsh.

Unfortunately for Lexington, Catherine Linehan got it back as she walked in uncontested and rifled a shot to the back of the twine, which put Hingham up, 3-1.

After robbing Lehman on the first period, Walsh didn’t fare so well as Lehman got a second opportunity late in the third. Lehman got by the Hingham defense was able to beat Walsh with a deke to the backhand.

Lexington didn’t pull the goalie until only 2 seconds were remaining with the face-off in the Hingham zone. Hingham won the face-off however, preventing a last-second shot from the Minutemen.

WOBURN 4, ARLINGTON CATHOLIC 1
In the 2 p.m. matchup between No. 1 Woburn and No. 4 Arlington Catholic, the Tanners mustered up a sound attack to defeat the defending Division 1 champs, 4-1.

“That was one of the best [games] all year, as we did our jobs all over the ice, especially defensively,” Woburn head coach Bob MacCurtain said. “Defensively, last year we were not very good, so to see a performance like this now is a positive.”

Woburn’s Ashley Moran (2 G, 1 A) and Kayla Smith (1 G, 2 A) turned in 3-point games, assisting on each other’s goals.

“I have been really leaning on them the past few weeks,” MacCurtain said. “They were really good moving the puck around out there and making smart decisions.”

Woburn goaltender Courtney Davis was sharp in the Tanner goal turning away 15 of 16 shots from the Cougars (14-3-2).

The Tanners lit the lamp early in the first period on a nifty backhand move by Moran as she slid the puck through the 5-hole of Arlington Catholic goalie Megan Messuri.

“Coach [MacCurtain] told me that I needed to start getting to the net more, so I was able to do that there,” Moran said.

The Cougars came right back with several chances, but Davis stayed square making three consecutive stops to keep the Tanners ahead.

Erica Lissner wasted little time in the second period as she beat Messuri (15 saves) with a backhander within the first two minutes.

Back at the other end, Davis robbed Danielle Kelley with about 8:20 remaining in the second down low on the power play. Before the second period ended, the Cougars finally had a brush with luck. A shot from Jackie Sindoris deflected high, and although Davis gloved the puck, she could not hold on as it fell into the goal.

The Tanners (16-0-3) bounced right back in the third as Smith scored on a breakaway. Moran picked up the assist, feeding Smith on the breakaway.

Moran followed suit minutes later on a two-on-one with Smith by rifling a wrist shot top shelf.

“I had Kayla [Smith] with me and both the goalie and defensemen started pulling over to her, so I just shot the puck,” Moran said.

The Cougars tried to mount a comeback as they had several chances, but Davis was up to the challenge making multiple key saves. Adrieanna Rossini had the best chance on a one-timer in the slot, but Davis sprawled across her crease to make the highlight reel save.

MIAA hockey midseason All-State teams

February, 4, 2013
2/04/13
5:17
PM ET
BOYS
1st Team

F – Liam Coughlin, Sr., Catholic Memorial
F – Brian Pinho, Sr., St. John’s Prep
F – Ara Nazarian, Soph., Malden Catholic
D – Casey Fitzgerald, Soph., Malden Catholic
D – Matt Foley, Sr., Springfield Cathedral
G – Peter Cronin, Sr., BC High

2nd Team
F – Sam D’Antuono, Soph., Hingham
F – Mike Kelleher, Sr., Central Catholic
F – Cam Owens, Sr., Wilmington
D – Bryan Nelson, Jr., St. John's (Shrewsbury)
D – Jack Williams, Sr., Springfield Cathedral
G – Drew Foley, Jr., Wilmington

GIRLS
1st Team

F – Alison Butler, Sr., St. Mary’s (Lynn)
F – Jane Freda, Sr., Hingham
F – Kayla Smith, Sr., Woburn
D – Cassandra Connolly, Sr., Woburn
D – Annie Messuri, Jr., Acton-Boxborough
G – Courtney Davis, Jr., Woburn

2nd Team
F – Kaleigh Finigan, Sr., St. Mary's (Lynn)
F – Hannah Murphy, Sr., Duxbury
F - Adrieanna Rossini, Soph., Arlington Catholic
D – Tatiana Doucette, Jr., St. Mary’s (Lynn)
D – Alexx Good, Sr., Falmouth
G – Maddie Scavotto, Soph., Falmouth

WHO COULD BE THERE
Aside from those named to our first two teams, there are a plenty of deserving candidates across the state that made for some very hard decisions.

Here's a peak at few players who were on the cusp and who are worth keeping tabs on as we near tournament time:

Tom Besinger, Sr. F, BC High: His two-goal performance in Saturday night's comeback win over Catholic Memorial tells you everything you need to know about the shifty center.

Eddie Pratt, Sr. F, Xaverian: It wouldn't be too outlandish to say that you could make a strong case for the power forward (15-11-26) as the Catholic Conference MVP.

Jack Kilty, Sr. F, Medway: Don't let the fact that the Mustangs play in D3 detract from his resume (17-17-34); he could skate on any line in the state.

Nick Rolli, Sr. D, Malden Catholic: It's been an up-and-down year for the Lancers, but the blue-liner is a steadying force, playing on all units.

Alex Buckley, Sr. G, Newburyport: In terms of shots seen, it's hard to beat his 94.8 save percentage.

Tim Birarelli, Soph. G, Beverly: The Panthers' offense gets a lot of the pub, but the second-year backstop has been a revelation this year as they've surrendered just 10 goals on the season.

Brittani Lanzilli, Jr. F, Medford: After transferring back from St. Mary's, she'll lead the Mustangs as far as they can go.

Maggie Layo, Jr. F, Sandwich: Among the leading scorers in the state (11-33-44), she's a huge part why no one will want to cross paths with the Blue Knights in D2.

Hannah Wright, Sr. D, Arlington: As close to a shut-down blue-liner as you'll find in MIAA hockey this year.

Shannon O'Neil, Sr. G, Austin Prep: Perhaps the toughest decision to make among all of them in a particularly good year of goaltending in the girls' game. A 97.2 percentage and six shutouts is about as good as it gets.

D1 Girls: Arlington Catholic 3, Braintree 2 (OT)

March, 11, 2012
3/11/12
12:30
AM ET


STONEHAM, Mass. -- Between the end of the third period and the first five minutes of overtime, Arlington Catholic freshman Adrieana Rossini had four breakaways without a goal.

The fifth, however, did the trick to send the Cougars to the TD Garden next Sunday.

Rossini took a pass from senior Allie Stone, stormed into Braintree’s zone and put a backhanded shot past Wamp freshman goalie Rachael Brazil to give AC a 3-2 win in Saturday night’s MIAA Division 1 girls' hockey state semifinal at Stoneham Arena.

After so many opportunities to put the game away earlier, the game-winner -- which came with 4:37 left in the 12-minute overtime -- clearly came as a relief to Rossini.

“It was a long wait to get it. It took way too long,” she said. “I went on four breakaways with teammates and none of them would go through, and finally one just went in.”

Brazil (33 saves) was brilliant throughout the night, and saved some of her best for last. Rossini dangled past two Wamps with just over a minute to go in regulation, only to be denied at the doorstep by Brazil. Braintree’s net-minder stoned Rossini again at 4:06 of the overtime on almost the exact same play. Two minutes later, Rossini tried to find sophomore Duggan Delano on another break, but Braintree senior Tori Machado did just enough to put Delano off and the shot went wide.

Brazil stopped Rossini on yet another breakaway with 7:18 to play, but was finally beaten a few minutes later. AC head coach Maggie Taverna she had to keep Rossini’s spirits up after those missed chances, and it certainly paid off.

“She would come back after every shift to the bench so angry at herself, and I’m like, ‘Kid, you just gotta keep going. It’s going to come,’” Taverna said. “Eventually, one went in for her, so that was a good thing.”

Braintree (16-6-2) was out-shot 36-17 for the game, but played hard and fought off AC for the most of the contest. The Wamps took a 2-1 lead 1:03 into the third period when junior Brittany Yaxter finished a rebound off a shot from senior teammate Ally Perdios.

Taverna came away impressed with the Wamps, who had just knocked off top-seed Acton-Boxborough in the quarterfinals.

“They’re a very interesting team, because if you just look at them at a practice, maybe they’re not the best skaters,” Taverna said. “But they work hard, they’re gritty, they’re aggressive, and I think any team is gonna have a problem with them. I think that’s why the’ve been so successful in this tournament.”

The Cougars immediately went back on the offensive after Yaxter’s goal, and tied it back up just 3:14 later. Senior Natalie Flynn found freshman Jessica Piracini on a well-executed 2-on-1, and Piracini finished it off to make it 2-2.

Perdios had a great chance to put the Wamps back ahead with 2:23 to play in regulation after skating past two Cougars on a break, but AC sophomore goaltender Megan Messuri came up with her biggest stop of the evening.

Stone opened the scoring at 4:48 of the second period on a shorthanded breakaway, collecting the puck on the right wing and speeding in on goal before backhanding a shot through the 5-hole.

Braintree freshman Haley Payne nearly tied it just over two minutes later on a nice tip from junior Lauren Connelly’s shot from the point, but Messuri made an even better kick save to keep the puck out of the cage.

Braintree eventually did tie it up with just 50.2 seconds left in the frame. Senior Jessica Hasson fired in a wrister from the right point that Messuri had a beat on, but the puck took a wicked deflection off an AC player and looped over Messuri’s shoulder into the net.

The Cougars (19-3-1) out-shot Braintree 10-2 in a scoreless first period, as a penalty on Hasson just 24 seconds into the game gave AC early momentum. One of AC’s best chances came 6:14 into the period, when senior defenseman Rebecca Zappala fired a great pass from her own blue line to Flynn, who was in alone on Brazil but put her backhand shot just over the crossbar.

Brazil was up to the task on all 10 shots on goal, including shots from in front by sophomore Duggan Delano and Rossini.

In the end, though, it was the Cougars’ night. And now, they head to the Garden March 18 to take on St. Mary’s (penalty shootout winners over Hingham in Saturday’s other semifinal) for a state title. The Spartans beat AC twice during the regular season (by 4-2 and 5-2 scores), and the Cougars’ current senior class has never defeated their Catholic Central League rivals.

Stone, the Cougars’ assistant captain, is confident that will change.

“What it’s going to come down to is out-working them,” Stone said. “We’re not gonna lose to them again. We’re not ready to do that. This is the one team that I’ve always wanted to beat in my four years here, and I know that the other 10 seniors on the team feel the same.

“We’re ready to go. We’re gonna come at them with everything we have.”

Recap: No. 4 St. Mary's 4, No. 6 AC 2

February, 9, 2012
2/09/12
12:20
AM ET
LYNN, Mass. -- As a member of the Austin Prep girls hockey team the past two years, Kaleigh Finigan had to sit back and watch as St. Mary's wrapped up Catholic Central League championships in part at the expense of her team.

This year, the junior transfer from Medford found out what it's like to be on winning side, as well as what it feels like to be a major factor behind the Spartans success.

Finigan scored twice and added an assist as the No. 4 Lady Spartans held off No. 6 Arlington Catholic for the second time in a week to take a 4-2 decision Wednesday night at Connery Rink.

"It's very different," said a smiling Finigan on winning the league title. "It's my first time getting it. It means a lot knowing that our team can win the league and keep going on with the wins. And we'll keep going hard. We just want to keep playing better and better every game. That's our goal."

Playing better and better every game is something Finigan and her linemates, Alison Butler and Brittani Lanzilli, have certainly done. Butler added a goal and two assists in last night's victory, while Lanzilli had a goal an assist. Their may be no hotter offensive trio in the state at this stage of the season.

"We decided to leave them together for the last month or so and they're really starting - not only in the offensive zone but even in the defensive zone - they're really starting to trust each other and learn from each other," St. Mary's coach Frank Pagliuca said. "I think Brittani and Kaleigh had a transition coming in here and Alison's done a great job settling them down. As you can see, they're starting to get it. They're not hesitating anymore. They're starting to play with speed and its making a huge difference for us."

Finigan scored twice in the first period as the Spartans (13-3-0, 6-0-0 CCL) jumped out to a quick lead. Her first tally exemplified the communication and trust factor that has evolved on that first line. With Butler working her way around the back of the Cougars (15-2-1, 4-2-0) net, Finigan screamed "Middle!" and Butler hit her right on the tape for an easy one-timer.

"We finally got used to each other and know where we are and communicating more," Butler said. "I just heard her. We've done it a couple of times now this year and I know where she is when I hear her."

Finigan added her second tally on the rebound of a Butler shot right before the end of the first, and Butler took one for herself on a nice backhander from the low slot to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead with 6:24 remaining in the second.

Arlington Catholic found a spark, and Allison Stone got the Cougars right back into the game by scoring just 44 seconds later. thins got a bit sloppy after that as the two teams traded five penalties back and forth, but AC got another goal as Duggan Delano hammered home a rebound of a shot by Adrieanna Rossini (two assists) to cut the deficit to 3-2 with 1:23 left in the frame.

Lanzilli quickly pulled the momentum back to the Spartans side early in the third when she floated around the back of the AC goal and flicked a backhander through while attempting to get off the ice for a line change.

Thanks to goalie Lauren Skinnion (23 saves) and strong defensive play from standout blue liner Rachel Donahoe, the Spartans were able to hold off the Cougars and wrap up another Catholic Central crown.

"It's a great accomplishment," Pagliuca said. "Although our league's not big, we have some tough teams. It's tough to play three league games right in a row and to play (AC) twice in a week is no easy feat. I'm very proud of my kids. They've battled hard all year and they keep getting better.

"That's the thing I'm noticing - every game they're getting better," he continued. "It's not pretty every game but you can see it. You can see them making better decisions overall and you can see us playing with more confidence. It's a wide open year this year and the hot team is going to be successful. We're just trying to play our best going into the tournament."

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