Boston High School: Alison Butler

Snapshot: St. Anselm's 'Miss Hockey' line

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
6:00
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St. Anselm women's hockey captured the ECAC Open Women's Championship on Sunday, defeating Holy Cross, and that Hawks squad has a distinct Massachusetts tinge with all three of our ESPN Boston Miss Hockey award winners represented.

Sabrina Ianetti (St. Mary's, 2011), Martha Findley (Duxbury, 2012) and Alison Butler (St. Mary's, 2013) all made their way to Manchester after graduation and, for most of this season, the trio played together on the same forward line.

The line arrangement came with adjustment as Findley (below left in photo) converted to forward after having played defense with the Dragons.

Butler (below right) put together an impressive campaign as a true freshman, scoring eight goals for 14 points in 27 games, while Ianetti, a junior, posted 6-5-11 totals.

D3 softball semi: St. Mary's 4, Case 3

June, 13, 2013
6/13/13
1:59
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TAUNTON, Mass. – St. Mary’s coach Colleen Newbury looks through Red Sox Nation glasses when viewing the relationship between pitchers Brooke L’Abbe and Mia Nowicki.

“She’s like our [Jonathan] Papelbon,” Newbury said Wednesday after the Spartans edged Case, 4-3, in a Division 3 state semifinal game. “It’s a big joke – Papelbon for [John] Lackey.

“We usually use three pitchers. Brooke [L'Abbe] did a great job keeping them off-balance. She’s our leader – our true captain for two years. We usually go to Jordan D’Orsi during middle relief and then go to Mia in the late innings. But today we felt like Mia could overpower them a little bit which she did.

“She’s very poised,” added Newbury. “You would never know she’s an eighth grader. It’s very unusual but she’s a strong kid. She’s very athletic and nothing seems to bother her.”

Nowicki was so strong that she blanked South Sectional champ Case (23-4) on one hit over the last three innings replete with three strikeouts and zero walks and faced just one batter over the minimum.

As a result the Spartans (20-5) will face Assabet Valley on Saturday at Worcester State for the state championship.

Making St. Mary’s victory even more impressive was the fact that in their four sectional tournament games, the Cardinals had outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 46-9.

“Wow … I had no idea,” Newbury said when informed of Case’s offensive prowess during the sectionals. “I think Brooke pitched well. I think we just gave them some runs early and then Mia was lights out. She has been.

“The goal is four (innings) and three if we can do it so it worked out great.”

St. Mary’s scored its initial run in the top of the first when Alison Butler walked and eventually came around on Molly Coyle’s double.

But Case countered with three runs in its half of the first.

A hustling Danielle Robillard scored all the way from second on Kelsey Pacheco’s infield hit. Then, after Katie Van Lingen doubled, two runs came home on an errant throw by shortstop Coyle.

The Spartans chipped one run off their 3-1 deficit in the second when Kaleigh Fenigan was hit by a Leslie Dennis pitch with the bases loaded.

St. Mary’s tied it in the fifth on consecutive singles by Coyle, L’Abbe and Tatiana Doucette.

Then, in the seventh, Doucette laced a two-out double to center, advanced on a wild pitch and scored the winning run when Cassandra LaFuci hit a liner to shortstop Haley Sousa who dropped the ball for an error.

“We knew we were facing a tough opponent,” Newbury said. “They’ve been to the state title game the last few years and lost so, obviously, their goal was to get back to that game and win. It was just a matter of getting going.”

Our MIAA girls' hockey All-State Team

April, 1, 2013
4/01/13
7:11
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FIRST LINE
All-StateF - Alison Butler, Sr., St. Mary's
This year's ESPN Boston Miss Hockey award winner, Butler captained the Spartans to their fourth Division 1 state title, scoring the game-winning goal against Arlington Catholic at the Garden. The St. Anselm's commit was third in Division 1 in scoring with 37-25-62 totals. It is her second ESPN Boston All-State nomination.
All-StateF - Hannah Murphy, Sr., Duxbury
The fulcrum to Duxbury''s run of three straight Division 2 state championships. Murphy, a three-sport athlete, finished fifth among all Division 2 scorers, putting up 29-24-53 totals. Murphy will play lacrosse at UMass-Amherst.
All-StateF - Kayla Smith, Sr., Woburn
One of the most talented pure scorers in the state, Smith finished second in Division 1 across the state in scoring with 34 goals and 24 assists for 63 points. The three-time ESPN Boston All-Stater will continue her hockey career at Salve Regina.
All-StateD - Cassandra Connolly, Sr., Woburn
The repeat ESPN Boston All-Stater finished fourth on the Tanners in points (2-15-17) while helping goaltender Courtney Davis notch seven shutouts on the season. Connolly will continue her playing career at the University of New England next year.
All-StateD - Hannah Wright, Sr., Arlington
A shut-down, physical blue-liner, Wright also finished tied for fourth on the Spy Ponders with 17 points (3 goals, 14 assists). She will attend Castleton State College next year where she will play hockey.
All-StateG - Shannon O'Neil, Sr., Austin Prep
Pitched a remarkable 10 shutouts on the season, along with a dazzling 96.8 save percentage. O'Neil, a Franklin Pierce commit, was also among the statewide leaders in goals against average with a 1.08 marka.
SECOND LINE
All-StateF - Kaleigh Finigan, Sr., St. Mary's
Despite missing time with an injury, Finigan still managed to finish second on the Spartans in scoring - following Alison Butleró with 17-28-45 totals. The Medford resident is also a standout on St. Mary's softball team.
All-StateF - Jane Freda, Sr., Hingham
A two-time ESPN Boston All-State selection, the Harborwomen captain finished among the Top 10 scorers in the state, tallying 31 goals to go along with 16 assists.
All-StateF - Ashley Moran, Jr., Woburn
The rangy winger made great strides this season, finishing among the Top 10 scorers in the state, posting 25 goals and 31 assists.
All-StateD - Brooke Matherson, Jr., Walpole
The blue-liner led the Rebels in scoring this year with 33 points points and her 24 goals were also a team-best. Matherson is also a standout player on Walpole's field hockey team.

All-StateD - Annie Messuri, Jr., Acton-Boxborough
Messuri was named the DCL/MVC Large division Most Valuable Player this year after posting 13-17-30 totals.
All-StateG - Courtney Davis, Jr., Woburn
Led the Tanners to an undefeated regular season while registering seven shutouts. The three-year starter registered a 92.1 save percentage while posting a 1.35 goals against average.

BEST OF THE REST - HONORABLE MENTION
Forwards

Carolyn Avery, Sr., Lexington
Megan Barrett, Frosh., Acton-Boxborough
Christie Caliendo, Sr., Billerica
Leah Cardarelli, Soph., Acton-Boxborough
Molly Connolly, Sr., Wellesley
Amanda Conway, Soph., Tewksbury/Methuen
Gabby Crugnale, Sr., St. Mary's
Jackie Denning, Sr., Lexington
Cecily Docktor, Soph., Wellesley
Kara Donati, Sr., Winthrop/Lynn
Erin Dwyer, Sr., Archbishop Williams
Marissa Fichter, Soph., Duxbury
Ela Hazar, Jr., Westwood
Shannon Hickey, Sr., Arlington
Emily Kelly, Jr., Norwood
Olivia Konaxis, Sr., Beverly/Danvers
Brittani Lanzilli, Jr., Medford
Maggie Layo, Jr., Sandwich
Sara Lehman, Sr., Lexington
Emily Lissner, Jr., Woburn
Kim Lizotte, Sr., Westford Academy
Emily Loprete, Soph., Watertown/Melrose
Meaghan McKenna, Sr., Canton
Rachel Moore, Soph., Falmouth
Ali O'Leary, Frosh., Reading
Adrieana Rossini, Soph., Arlington Catholic
Nicole Woods, Jr., Beverly/Danvers

Defense
Allison Cunningham, Soph., Arlington Catholic
Tatiana Doucette, Jr., St. Mary's
Erin Ferrara, Sr., Fontbonne Academy
Hannah Ghelfi, Soph., Falmouth
Alexandria Gong, Sr., Hingham
Ally Hammel, Jr., Duxbury
Melissa Richard, Sr., Arlington Catholic
Caroline Seibold, Frosh., Reading

Goalies
Megan Messuri, Jr., Arlington Catholic
Rachel Myette, Jr., Duxbury
Madison Scavotto, So., Falmouth
Lauren Skinnion, Jr., St. Mary's

Coach of the Year
Frank Pagliuca, St. Mary's (Lynn)

While piloting to the Spartans to four Division 1 state championships, perhaps Pagliuca's finest job behind the bench came this year, as St. Mary's knocked off Catholic Central rival Arlington Catholic in a rematch of the 2012 title game.

Finalists:
Todd Fletcher, Westford Academy
Michael Golden, Reading
Friend Weiler, Duxbury

Girls All-Star: North 4, South 2

March, 31, 2013
3/31/13
4:26
AM ET
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Earlier this week, Alison Butler was honored as ESPNBoston.com's Miss Hockey, an award that recognizes the top female high school hockey player in the state. On Saturday, the St. Mary's of Lynn star suited up for the final time as a high schooler, taking part in the inaugural Aleppo Shriners MSHCA High School All-Star Classic.

As she has done throughout her tenure at St. Mary's, which included a Division 1 MIAA state championship a couple of weeks back, Butler, yet again, put her pure offensive talents on display as she scored a pair of goals to help lead the North All-Stars to a 4-2 victory over the South All-Stars at the DCU Center.

"I hadn't skated in nearly two weeks so it took a couple of shifts to get my hockey legs back," said Butler, who now set her sights on playing for St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. next season.

Butler scored the lone goal in the opening period _ a hard wrist shot from the low right slot that slipped underneath the catching glove of South goaltender Mimi Borkan (Medfield) coming with only seven seconds left. She would add her second tally during the final minute of the second period, tipping in a rebound past Braintree netminder Rachael Brazil which would stake the North squad out to a 3-1 advantage.

"It's kind of sad that (high school hockey) is over for me," said Butler. "I wish I could play another year because it has been a lot of fun but I also can't wait to go to St. Anselm. I'm excited the way things have gone for me (at St. Mary's). My hard worked has paid off."

It was looking as though the opening period would result in a scoreless standstill. But with time ticking down, Butler, with the puck on her stick, was left all alone coming down the right side. Seeing her opportunity, Butler ripped a shot past Borkan giving her squad the early lead.

"Alison is such a great player," said North head coach Amanda Ciarletta, who is also coaches the Lexington High girls team. "I don't have the privilege of coaching her over the season but she hustles all the time, is fast and makes smart plays. It was fun being able to coach her today."

Just 1:11 into the middle period Westford Academy's Kim Lizotte would extend the North advantage to two goals after gaining control of a loose puck inside the South crease and sticking it into the back of the net.

Throughout the early portion of this contest, the South team was having its fair share of difficulty trying to generate much offense. That would change, however, at 7:28 of the second period after Duxbury's Hannah Murphy flew down the right halfboard and
blasted a shot from 25 feet out that snuck underneath the cross bar making it a 2-1 game.

"This was a fun event for everyone," said South and Franklin High head coach Margie Burke. "A lot of these girls have played against one another in high school and club teams so it is great for them to comeback and play together on one team. It's an all-star game and it's all about having fun."

North was able to cling to its one-goal lead until Butler netted her second score seven minutes later.

The final period became an old-fashioned offensive shootout with each team getting quality chances on net. Falmouth High product Alexa Scribner managed to inch her club closer by putting back a rebound score coming at 4:07 which made it 3-2.

Hoping to sieze momentum off of that goal, South spent the remaining minutes of the period working feverishly in attempting to notch the equalizer. But such hopes were cast aside after Lexington's Sara Lehman broke into the South zone, skating past two defenseman and beating Duxbury netminder Rachel Myette with a pretty backhand goal at 8:12 which gave North back its two-goal cushion and the victory.

"That's a typical Sara Lehman goal," Ciarletta said. "She one of my players on my team at Lexington and it's always great to see her hands working and moving the puck. Today she got the goalie beat which was great. She practices those kinds of plays all the time in practice. I'm really happy she was able to get a goal for us, especially on a play like that."

St. Mary's Butler is ESPN Boston Miss Hockey

March, 27, 2013
3/27/13
12:36
PM ET
ESPNBoston.com and its High School section today announced that Alison Butler, senior forward for the St. Mary’s Spartans, is the recipient of its third annual "Miss Hockey" award, presented to the top female high school hockey player in Massachusetts.

The Miss Hockey Award winner was chosen by a panel of experts made up of ESPNBoston.com staff, correspondents and high school hockey coaches. Butler will be presented with the award at a later date.

“St. Mary’s has earned the reputation as the MIAA’s premiere girls’ hockey program, but this year’s championship might have been its most remarkable and Alison was no small part of that,” said Scott Barboza, co-editor of ESPN Boston High Schools and coordinator of the site’s hockey coverage. “While injuries constantly threatened the Spartans’ run, she was the one constant, scoring timely goals and providing leadership.”

Butler led the Spartans to their fourth overall Division 1 state title last Sunday in a 2-1 win over Catholic Central rival Arlington Catholic.

The Danvers resident tallied 37 goals and 25 assists for 62 points on the season, while leading a short-handed Spartans bench squad back to the TD Garden. There, Butler finished her high school career on top, scoring the game-winning goal in the third period against Arlington Catholic, repaying the Cougars for state championship win over St. Mary’s a year ago.

“Alison had a tremendous year,” Spartans head coach Frank Pagliuca said. “She made a tremendous impact on the ice for our team. The best parts of her game are the little things that she does on the ice that sometimes are overlooked and do not show up on a stat sheet.

“More importantly, Alison was a great leader and captain off the ice. She was the glue that held the team together and really got the team to believe in themselves. I truly believe that she was the best player in the state this year for these reasons.”

Butler will continue her hockey career at Saint Anselm College.

Some parting thoughts on the hockey season

March, 25, 2013
3/25/13
10:59
AM ET
Flanked by a swarm of reporters, Sean Murphy’s eyes darted about as he searched for the words to say. The Burlington senior forward was never the center of attention during his high school career, so he didn’t have much experience in such a setting. He scored two goals at the TD Garden last week as the Red Devils’ repeated as Division 1 state champions. It was his first time playing at the Garden, having watched last year’s final unfold from the perspective of a fan. This was the first year Murphy made Burlington’s varsity hockey squad.

As Murphy responded to questions, teammates and members of the Red Devils’ coaching staff ribbed him. Their good-natured jabs caused Murphy periodically to break down and smile while he tried to maintain focus on the interview. They all knew the circumstances surrounding Murphy’s accomplishment. He’d done from off the team outright to hero.

During freshman year, Burlington didn’t host a freshman team. Murphy failed to make the junior varsity squad, so he went a year without playing for his high school. In sophomore year, Murphy earned a spot on the J.V. team, but it was the Red Devils’ lower team (the J.V. had been split into two teams). The next year, he moved up to the higher J.V. team, as many of his classmates won their first state crown. Finally, as a senior, Murphy made the varsity team.

He only scored one goal during the regular season, but Murphy broke out in the tournament, scoring five goals in the postseason, including two in the championship game.

When Murphy attracted the attention in the postgame following the Red Devils’ 4-2 victory over Marshfield on Sunday, Burlington head coach Bob Conceison watched a few paces away. He beamed and was eager to tell of Murphy’s story of stick-to-itiveness.

“That’s the kind of story that makes high school hockey great,” Conceison said.

A SORT OF CHANGING OF THE GUARD
As Malden Catholic won its third straight Super 8 championship, it would seem as though the Lancers simply picked up where they left off. But anybody who watched the defending champions’ season unfold would tell you this most recent run was anything but a sure thing.

In many years, this year’s MC model was uncharacteristic from the previous. Yes, the Lancers still had more top-end talent than anyone, with three Division 1 college recruits (and counting). But this was in broad strokes a young team and, more so, one that lacked experience in a Super 8 environment. Building on the contributions of talented senior leaders (Mike Vecchione in 2011 and Brendan Collier in ’12) in the last two years, the Lancers had to learn to do it on their own this year.

Helping to bridge the gap was senior captain Mike Iovanna, one of a handful of seniors on MC’s roster this year. Iovanna is self-described as someone who leads by example. The soft-spoken UMass commit has been a key cog in the Lancers’ run all along, but took on a greater role this year, inheriting the “C” on his sweater.

“You know what the expectations are,” Iovanna said of taking on the role of captain. “Knowing what Mike [Vecchione] and Brendan [Collier] meant in the room, I was able to learn from them.

“But I also know that I’m a different person from them. I’m a pretty quiet guy, but I knew I could set an example for the younger players as they had done for me.”

Iovanna combined with junior left wing Tyler Sifferlen and sophomore center Ara Nazarian to tally nearly half (113) of MC’s points on the season (245) on its top line. Aside from creating the Lancers’ scoring punch, Iovanna also contributed intangibles on MC’s top penalty killing forward unit beside Nazarian — who changed the face of the tournament with his four short-handed goals.

But aside from the first line, the Lancers relied on a new wave for contributions.

“They have their own identity, but it’s a new core,” Lancers head coach John McLean said. “It’s young, very talented players, with [Austin] Goldstein, [Matt] Filipe, [Jake] Witkowski and [Will] Lawrence on D, I thought John [McLean III] played well.”

Nothing was handed to this MC group; it was earned. Sitting a 5-6-3 as the calendar was about to flip to February, the Lancers had to learn on the fly.

“Right around Central Catholic, that was a big win for us and the kid’s became a team,” McLean said. “We went out to Springfield and, for whatever reason, Springfield always worked for us. We went on a roll.

Of course, none of that reflects the emotional component that followed MC hockey this year. Former head coach and athletic director Chris Serino succumbed after a long fight with cancer shortly before the season began.

His imprint remained in MC’s three-peat.

“It’s still Chris’s team a little bit,” McLean said.

COMINGS AND GOINGS
Here’s a look at some recent updates in where some of the state’s top players are headed next year:
  • One of our favorite players to watch during the last couple of years was Burlington forward C.J. Grinnell. Grinnell led the Red Devils again in scoring (13-19-32) and is considering prep and junior options for next year, with Connecticut’s Canterbury School as a leading candidate. Just a thought that some college coach out there is going to get one heck of a player in a couple years.
  • Springfield Cathedral wasn’t able to get over the MC hump in the Super 8, but will more than likely have several of its graduating players skating on past this year. First-line winger Dominic Blad is heading to South Kent while defenseman Matt Foley is weighing options between Phillips Exeter, Choate Rosemary Hall and Berkshire School, along with college choices for the following year. All-State-caliber defenseman Jack Williams and center Artie Potter are also exploring options for next year.
  • The Woburn girls’ hockey program had perhaps the greatest collection of talent in the state this year. Case and point were made last week as two of the Tanners’ top skaters announced their college plans. Forward Kayla Smith gave her commitment to Salve Regina while defenseman Cassandra Connolly will be headed to the University of New England.
MR. AND MISS HOCKEY AWARD FINALISTS
We’ll be handing out our awards Monday when we name our Mr. and Miss Hockey Award winners, as the best players in MIAA hockey this year. Here’s a look at our four finalists for the honors, in alphabetical order:

Mr. Hockey:
  • Liam Coughlin, Sr. C, Catholic Memorial: The rangy pivot helped lift the Knights to the Super 8 semifinals, leading the team with 28 goals and 20 assists for 48 points.
  • Peter Cronin, Sr., G BC High: Undoubtedly, the state’s best goaltender for two years running. The three-year starter posted a 94.6 save percentage along with seven shutouts this year.
  • Ara Nazarian, Soph. C, Malden Catholic: Led the Lancers in scoring (26-20-46) during the regular season in addition to leading all players in Super 8 scoring, while tallying an unheard of four short-handed goals for the three-time defending champions.
  • Brian Pinho, Sr. C, St. John’s Prep: A natural playmaker with vision, the Providence College commit led the Catholic Conference champions with 12-24-36 totals.
Miss Hockey:
  • Alison Butler, Sr. F, St. Mary’s (Lynn): Among the leading scorers in the state (37-25-62), Butler saved her best for last, netting the game-winning goal in the state championship game.
  • Hannah Murphy, Sr. F, Duxbury: The Dragons captain capped her prolific career with the program’s third straight state championship win, scoring 29 goals and adding 24 assists.
  • Shannon O’Neil, Sr. G, Austin Prep: Led all Division 1 starting goaltenders with a 1.08 GAA and eye-popping 96.8 save percentage to go along with 10 shutouts.
  • Kayla Smith, Sr. F, Woburn: Perhaps the most feared scorer in the state, Smith finished with 34-29-64 totals for the Tanners.

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: St. Mary's 3, Woburn 2 (SO)

March, 11, 2013
3/11/13
2:30
AM ET


BILLERICA, Mass. -- After three regulations frames and an overtime, Ashley Wojewodzic sat on the bench watching shooter after shooter take to the ice as her St. Mary's teammates engaged in an epic shootout with Woburn for the right to play for a Div. 1 state championship next Sunday at TD Garden.

The eighth-grade defenseman hadn't taken a shift all night but wasn't worried, figuring with all the talent on the two teams, someone in the first five shooters would score a goal. Spartans goalie Lauren Skinnion and Tanners netminder Courtney Davis felt otherwise, however, as they took turns snapping off every shot, every deke and snagging every puck that came their way.

Finally, after nine players had taken a turn, St. Mary's coach Frank Pagliuca looked down the bench and called for 'Wojo' to get out there. With the huge crowd hanging on every move, the youngster was rightfully nervous. She was the last Spartans shooter before the lineup went back to the top and the game would be decided by the multitude of all-stars on each roster.

After a word of encouragement from fellow defenseman Amanda Donahoe, Wojewodzic went to center ice, skated in drifting to her right, pulling Davis over in the process, then slipped the puck right between the pads for the first goal of the shootout. Woburn's Shannon Walsh had one last chance to extend it but her shot hit the post and the Spartans poured onto the ice to celebrate.

"I didn't expect it at all," Wojewodzic said of hearing her name called. "I thought one of the first five shooters were going to get it in and it just kept going and going and going. Then I heard [Pagliuca] call my name and my eyes went open and he just looked at me and told me to go and I was really nervous.

She added, "I was just a little nervous. It was nervewracking getting out in front of everybody that was here because there were so any people out here. Everyone was watching me, it was scary."

Nerves or not, the eighth-grade defensemen came off the bench cold and sent her team back to TD Garden to play for the Div. 1 girls hockey state championship for the fifth time in the last six years with a 3-2 victory over No. 1 seed Woburn.

"Every team practices the shootout," Pagliuca said. "We kind of knew our list, 1-10, what we were going to do, we were just trying to figure out the order that we wanted to go in. Congrats to Ashley, she came up and pulled a great move. We told the kids to look five-hole, Ashley got her to open up and finished the job."

THIRD PERIOD FRENZY
That overtime or a shootout was even needed to decide a winner is a story unto itself. St. Mary's (18-3-4) had built a 2-0 lead on goals by freshman blueliner Vanessa Van Buskirk and senior forward Gabby Crugnale, the latter coming off an end to end rush that saw her stick a shot so perfect that Davis' water bottle went flying off the net behind her at 9:13 of the second period.

The Tanners got the first one back when Emily Lissner pounced on a bad giveaway in the Spartans zone and passed over to Ashley Moran, who fed Kayla Smith for an easy one-timer just 1:44 later.

Both Davis (19 saves) and Skinnion (27 saves) kept their respective cages clean until the final 91 seconds when Smith was the beneficiary of a fortuitous deflection off a Spartan defender. The puck landed right on her stick and Smith buried it to tie the game at 2-2.

St. Mary's needed just 20 seconds to pull back in front as Kaleigh Finigan, playing her first game in four weeks after missing time with a shoulder injury, got the puck to Crugnale, who poked it to Alison Butler for the finish.

Rather than fold up the tent, the Tanners showed their heart and tied it up once again as Erica Lissner sniped a perfect shot from the left-wing circle with just 33 seconds remaining to force the overtime.

"I was really proud of the fact that we stuck with it, didn't get too panicked," praised Woburn coach Bob MacCurtain. "I'm really proud of the kids. It was crazy. Coaches nightmare, probably the fans like it. In a tournament game this tight, there's a lot of momentum shifts and fortunately we were able to get the last one to send it into overtime."

FINIGAN'S RETURN
During the first game of the season-ending 8 Showcase in Hingham, Kaleigh Finigan suffered a shoulder injury that ended up being diagnosed as an elevated clavicle. A stalwart on the Spartans top line since transferring in from Austin Prep two years ago, Finigan has provided St. Mary's with the combination of tremendous skill and a physical presence that no other player in the state quite possesses.

The senior sat out the final regular season game and all of the postseason. She dressed for the Spartans last game against Austin Prep but did not play. Finigan got an assist on the Spartans last goal in regulation and her return helped bring an edge back to the team on the ice.

"Kaleigh gave us kind of an adrenaline shot today, getting her back in the lineup," Pagliuca said. "That physical presence we've been missing the last couple of games. She wasn't 100 percent but she sucked it up and came back for us and have us a huge lift."

A potential Div. 1 scholarship softball player, Finigan had plenty of reason to take it easy but that simply isn't in her makeup. Missing out on another chance to make a run at state title? Not going to happen.

"I told my team, get me back to the semis and I'm going to play for you guys," Finigan said. "They played for me the whole time and I wanted to get back and help them win. I want those young girls to feel how we felt last year. I want them to know what the playoffs is. This is the best time of the year."

SHOOTOUT NOT A FAVORITE
It has become almost a rite of passage every March that the shootout rears its ugly head during the girls Div. 1 postseason. Since 2007, there have been at least two games decided by shootouts in each year except 2010, when there was only one.

St. Mary's has been involved in three, winning two, and Pagliuca has been outspoken each year against the format. The coach was a bit more understated this time, but his point was made clear.

"You know, we've been on the other side of those," he said. "I hate shootouts. It shouldn't be allowed but it is what it is. Unfortunately in that situation somebody has to lose the game."

MacCurtain's teams have been involved in four shootouts since 2007, splitting those games. He refused to make any excuses, but his thoughts on the subject were made pretty clear as well.

"It just makes a team sport an individual sport," the Woburn coach stated. "I'm not complaining because we knew what it was going in but it's a tough way to end the season."

MacCurtain added, "As you're watching, I think from a coach's perspective I was glad I had Courtney in my net, I felt confident. With some of the kids we had shooting I thought we would get one but I just think the team aspect gets taken away from it."

Skinnion, who made 10 stops in the shootout on top of her 27 saves in the game, said, "I would rather have it play out just because I don't want to win a game because someone got a lucky shot. I want to win by playing the game. But its what we have to do."

Spartans standout Alison Butler may have summed up the way the players and coaches on the bench feel about shootouts, simply stating, "I hate them. I think I was going to have a heart attack."

D1 girls: St. Mary's 3, Austin Prep 0

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
2:59
AM ET


STONEHAM, Mass. – Alison Butler had the book on Austin Prep goaltender Shannon O’Neil. The St. Mary’s of Lynn winger knew Tuesday night’s opponent well, having battled the Cougars twice during the regular season. She’s also been a teammate of O’Neil’s, playing travel hockey together in summer and fall tournaments.

Still, beating the Cougars’ senior netminder is easier said than done. O’Neil entered Tuesday’s action leading the state in shutouts with 10, in addition to maintaining a Vezina-caliber 96.8 save percentage during the regular season.

Yet, the Division 1 state quarter-final matchup at the Stoneham Arena went to the shooter. Butler led the No. 4 seed Spartans to a 3-0 win over their Catholic Central League rivals. The senior captain figured in each of St. Mary’s goals, netting two of her own in addition to dishing out the assist on the Spartans’ final tally.

It all went to plan.

“We had to come out strong and get one quick on Shannon [O’Neil],” Butler said, reflecting on the team’s game plan for the evening.

Butler did just that, forcing an AP defensive zone turnover behind the Cougars’ net and finished out front on the back-hand, beating O’Neil top shelf 2:50 into the first. She followed suit in the second period with a power-play goal at 2:05 of the second with assists from Tatiana Doucette and Samantha Callahan.

St. Mary’s (14-3-5) then struck 54 seconds later, with Butler throwing the saucer pass onto Madison Molea’s stick on a 2-on-1 break.

In premiere matchup of one of the state’s top forwards against one of its top netminders, Butler was on point.

“If she has an open opportunity,” Cougars head coach Stephanie Wood said of Butler, “she’ll rarely miss.”

Spartans goaltender Lauren Skinnion was the one earning the shutout over her counterpart, making 14 saves in victory, seven of which came in the first period.

“Lauren Skinnion was awesome tonight,” St. Mary’s head coach Frank Pagliuca said. “She made some big saves in the third period, she really kept them at bay.”

With the victory over AP, the Spartans set up another anticipated matchup, as they’ll face top-seeded Woburn on Sunday at the Chelmsford Forum in a semi-final bout to determine who will skate on Garden ice.

END OF A RUN, START TO THE FUTURE
While O’Neil played her final game in a sensation season, the future certainly is bright at AP (12-8-4).

The Cougars will graduate just four players from their roster, including their starting goaltender. There are seven freshman on the roster, in addition to three eight-graders, so there’s a youth movement afoot.

And they’re talented. Two of AP’s top six leading scorers (Michaela Boyle and Mauri Anthony) aren’t even freshman. It’s second-leading scorer, Maddy Ricci (8-9-17), is a sophomore and freshman forward Kathleen McHugh (8-8-16) was third.

The Cougars’ bumper crop of young talent even prompted Pagliuca, after the game, to call AP a favorite for the league title entering next season.

While the maturation process will continue, it’s doubtful the Cougars have hit their stride just yet.

“They’re babies still,” Wood said.

The 8: Duxbury shuts out AC

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
3:32
AM ET
HINGHAM, Mass. -- The running theme when playing against the Duxbury girls hockey team this season has been pretty simple - sure, you may be able to hang with them for a period or two, but in the end, the chances are fairly strong that their depth, strength and overall ability will eventually wear you down.

Such was the case Thursday in the opening game of the second day of The 8 Showcase as the second-ranked Dragons did all their scoring in the third period to shoot past No. 4 Arlington Catholic, 3-0, in a clash of the two reigning girls hockey state champions at Pilgrim Arena.

Liz Collins and Marissa Fichter scored back-to-back goals in a 54-second span and Carly Campbell added an empty-netter in the final seconds to ice the win.

"Our second and third lines won this game," stated Duxbury coach Friend Weiler. "They were matched up against first and second in both games and they prevailed and worked hard."

AC (13-4-2) goalie Megan Messuri more than held her own against the Duxbury (17-1-2) onslaught, making 15 of her 22 saves during the first two frames to keep the Dragons off the scoreboard.

"Megan in general as a goaltender is consistent. She's always been consistent for us," praised Cougars coach Maggie Taverna. "Sometimes a goal will come in here and there on her but overall, she's a consistent kid. She loves the sport and she loves the game. She always plays well, always."

Duxbury goalie Rachel Myette stopped 16 shots for her seventh shutout and it took nearly 38 minutes for either side to break through. The Dragons finally did with something a flukey goal as Collins fired off a shot through a screen in front that Messuri never saw at 7:21 of the third.

Less than a minute later, a two-on-one breakaway developed with Jacqui Nolan making a perfect pass across to Fichter streaking down the middle, and the sophomore buried her opportunity. AC used a power play with under three minutes remaining to pull Messuri for an extra skater, then did it again in the final minute, but Myette was able to hold the Cougars off until Campbell finished it with her empty-net tally.

"The girls showed their heart tonight," praised Weiler. "To come out with all the energy and the hard work that they did during the third period, I'm really proud of them. Arlington Catholic is a phenomenal team. They took the middle away for most of the game and we were finally able to work from the outside back in and get some better opportunities. Thankfully we were able to convert because the girls were moving and cycling it around."

Fichter and Myette were named to The 8 Showcase All-Star team, while Messuri and Jackie Sindoris were the selections from Arlington Catholic.

ST. MARY'S 2, LEXINGTON 2
The Minutemaids got off to a strong start with a pair of first period goals, but the injury-plagued Spartans rallied behind star forward Alison Butler, who scored twice to force her team's second tie of the showcase.

Lexington (12-5-3) shot right out of the gate as Jackie Denning converted a nice feed from Sara Lehman for a power play goal just 2:43 into the game. Shortly after killing off a penalty of their own, Lehman found herself on the receiving end of a pass from linemate Carolyn Avery and finished strong as the Minutemaids opened up a 2-0 lead.

"On Sara's goal, we've been working hard with her on reading the defenseman in front of her and trying to make a defenseman move and step out to the side instead of going through and she did that," explained Lexington coach Mandy Ciarletta. "Her focus and determintaion resulted in a goal for her. It was good that she saw the net. It was nice that Jackie was able to get a goal as well."

Junior goalie Amanda Charlton was tough beat for the second straight night, stopping 14 St. Mary's shots in the first and finishing with 31 saves. the Spartans finally broke through with 5:40 left in the opening frame as Gabby Crugnale fired a shot that Charlton initially gloved, but the puck popped out and Butler was in prime position to bang home the rebound.

In the second, Butler got loose for a breakaway but was stoned by Charlton. The heady senior followed the rebound, however, and got off a shot from the low, left-wing circle that somehow found its through in between Charlton's left shoulder and the near post to tie the game at 1:48.

Despite playing without All-State forward Kaleigh Finigan, who suffered a shoulder injury in Tuesday's scoreless draw against Duxbury, the Spartans still managed to put together 33 shots and numerous scoring chances. Defenseman Tatiana Doucette rifled a shot that rattled around under the crossbar and should have been ruled a goal but the referee was out of position to see the play. Then, with 1:10 left in the game, Butler got loose once again for a breakway and made a late deke but Charlton managed to shoot her left leg out in the nick of time to deflect the puck with her pad to preserve the tie.

"We have to mentally focus a little bit more before we get on the ice and I think it showed tonight," admitted Spartans head coach Frank Pagliuca. "We came out slow and good teams like Lexington are going to take advantage of that and they popped a couple in. I'm a little disappointed how we played overall but we'll take the point and move on. We have to be ready to go right from the drop of the puck. We can't wait and decide to turn it on and turn it off. Teams are too good for us to do that and that's what we'll take from tonight - mentally show up ready to play."

Lehman and Avery were Lexington's selections to The 8 Showcase All-Star Team, while Butler and Crugnale earned the honors from St. Mary's.

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.

Recap: No. 5 St. Mary's 5, No. 14 Fontbonne 3

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
9:33
PM ET


QUINCY, Mass. -- Filling the left wing spot alongside Alison Butler and Kaleigh Finigan has been a work in progress for St. Mary's coach Frank Pagliuca but he may have found a diamond in the rough in the form of freshman Sam Callahan.

Playing in just her second game with the two ESPN Boston All-State forwards, Callahan came up with two goals and an assist and played a key role in the fifth-ranked Spartans 5-3 victory over No. 14 Fontbonne in a nonleague tilt Thursday afternoon at Shea Rink.

Butler also had two goals and assisted on two others while Finigan contributed a goal and an assist to the cause as the Spartans (9-2-1) top line accounted for nine points in the win.

"I put Sammy on that line a couple games ago and she gives that line an extra physical presence out there," Pagliuca explained. "She has good hands and she's working hard and she's keeping up with those two. I thought the third period they played very well. That was one of the better periods they played together as a group."

That top unit struck quickly as Butler won a faceoff in the Ducks (8-5-1) zone that went right to Callahan, who snapped off a quick shot for the game's first goal just 31 seconds in.

"I think that we click well," Callahan said of playing with Butler and Finigan. "We know how to move the puck back and forth, which is something that usually takes time and I thought happened pretty quickly with us."

Fontbonne gradually took control of the tempo and got a strong contribution from one its own freshman as Katherine Nolan tied the game on a backhander from just off the post at the end of the first and added a power play goal at 5:55 of the middle frame. The Ducks got one more from senior captain McKenna Russell, who raced into the Spartans zone and ripped a perfect shot to the far post to make it a 3-1 game.

St. Mary's got one back with 2:23 left in the second as Callahan and Butler worked a beautiful give-and-go play with Butler knocking home the open look off the return pass. Continuing the energy into the third, the Spartans reeled off three scores in just under three minutes to put the game away.

Callahan had the tying goal, banging home a rebound of a shot by Finigan just 34 seconds in, then Finigan and Butler added markers of their own to push the lead to 5-3.

DOUCETTE BRINGS THE D
With Fontbonne showing a willingness to play an active, physical style, a lot of pressure was put on the St. Mary's blue line corps. The Spartans top three defensemen - Tatiana Doucette, Amanda Donahoe and Vanessa Van Buskirk - have been steadily improving throughout the season. Doucette in particular has emerged as one of the better blue liners in the state this year, taking over a line of succession that has seen stalwarts such as Alex Smith, Michelle Macchione, Angela Dandreo, Rachel Donahoe and Hannah Quin among others play key roles.

Doucette brings a level of physicality that seems to energize her teammates. She is also extremely adept in the clearing game and may well be one of the better puck-handlers on the squad.

"I thought Tatiana Doucette had a great game tonight," Pagliuca said. "She's really started to elevate herself and play very well. Her composure and her skating ability back there to track down loose pucks to and to make outlet passes has helped us tremendously."

Her effort, and those of her teammates, was crucial in the third period once the Spartans got the lead. Fontbonne has shown a willingness to play a physical and aggressive style all season long, something that helped them take the 3-1 lead in the first place.

But when it came to crunch time, Doucette and her defensive teammates stepped up, getting an added contribution from eight-grader Ashley Wojewodzic after Donahoe left in the third with an injury.

"In the locker room we were talking about how we needed to come back and work together as a team so we just came out and pushed," Doucette explained. "We just wanted it really badly. We didn't walk them to walk all over us. We just work hard at practice and we communicate well on the ice too. We talk a lot and feel comfortable with each other and we try to have fun so it makes it easier."

SECOND LINE CONTRIBUTIONS
While all of the offense came from the Spartans top line, the second unit has more than done its job throughout the winter. Senior Gabrielle Crugnale has the talent to skate up top but is more valuable to the team in the middle of the second group. She is the team's third leading scorer (9-6-15) and has been a constant while centering a number of forwards who rotate in and out on the wings.

"I thought Gabby had a good game as well on that other line," Pagliuca said. "That whole line in general, we rotated a couple forwards through that line, they contributed. They got the puck in deep and forechecked aggressively. That's what we want."

"We have extra bodies that we rotate through," he continued. "The one thing that we really focused on was conditioning this year because we have smaller numbers and its starting to pay off in the third period against a team like that. Especially when you don't have that rest in between the first and the second. I was proud of our kids tonight."

Recap: No. 5 St. Mary's (Lynn) 4, No. 3 AC 1

December, 20, 2012
12/20/12
12:26
AM ET
LYNN, Mass. -- The official roster for the St. Mary's girls hockey team lists just 16 names. With a couple of those missing for Wednesday night's clash with Catholic Central League rival and defending Div. 1 state champion Arlington Catholic, Spartans fans would have been excused for thinking a long night was in store.

Instead, Frank Pagliuca's club received key contributions from several players thrust into larger-than-normal roles. Oh, and they still have Alison Butler, Kaleigh Finigan and Lauren Skinnion, too.

Finigan scored twice, Butler had two assists and an empty-netter and Skinnion turned in a 31-save performance that helped No. 5 St. Mary's grab a 4-1 victory over the third-ranked Cougars in a rematch of last year's Div. 1 state final at Connery Rink.

"A lot of girls stepped up tonight," Pagliuca praised. "Obviously we had to make a couple of roster adjustments tonight but I thought some players really stepped it up. My two defenseman, Amanda [Donahoe] and Vanessa [Van Buskirk] played tremendous tonight, as well as Lauren. One of our eighth-graders, Sarah Ryan, really stepped up. We moved her from defense to forward at the beginning of the year and she’s really starting to pick it up. She took advantage of the opportunity. And the usual suspects, Alison and Kaleigh were strong tonight."

From the opening faceoff, it looked indeed like it could be a long night for the Spartans (2-1-1) as Arlington Catholic (2-1-0) dominated the first period. The Cougars piled up 11 shots and sophomore standout Adrieana Rossini potted the game's first goal, winning a race to a loose puck at center ice and racing in alone for a breakaway goal at 2:59. The assists on the play went to Duggan Delano and Jess Piracini.

"I thought our puck pursuit was very poor the first period," Pagliuca admitted. "I thought we were sitting and reacting instead of playing it as the game came to us a little bit. I thought we were waiting too much. We didn’t pursue the puck, we didn't pressure the puck enough in all three zones. I thought once we made a forecheck adjustment, we started to get our legs going and started to force them to make some decision with the puck and we capitalized on them."

Capitalize they did as Finigan and Butler began to go to work. With under five minutes remaining in the first, Butler forced a turnover and fed Finigan for a quick blast to tie the game at 1-1. Then, in the second, Ryan made a terrific play along the boards and sprung Finigan loose for a breakaway on which she went deep enough to draw AC goalie Megan Messuri (22 saves) out of the net for an open look.

"I know where she is and she knows where I am," Finigan said about playing alongside Butler. "Same thing as last year. We just have to go right to the net. Don’t let up, shoot right at the net and get rebounds."

Senior Gabby Crugnale provided a backbreaking score with just 13 seconds to go in the second, flying into the slot to collect a pass from Butler and sniping the go-ahead goal.

AC managed to regain control on the ice, but Skinnion was at her best in the end, singlehandedly preserving the lead with three consecutive clutch saves on a Cougars power play in the early minutes and another midway through the frame on a Rossini breakaway bid to preserve the lead.

"Lauren was tremendous," Pagliuca said. "The last two games she’s been really stepping it up. She’s been making the key saves and not giving up the rebounds. and I thought she played tremendously again tonight as well."

UNEXPECTED BUT SPARTAN CONTRIBUTION ON D
Butler finished things off with her empty-netter with 36 seconds to play, but the senior All-State forward may have made as big an impact while playing behind the blue line.

The Spartans normally dress just four defensemen and Donahoe and Van Buskirk were forced to and a mammoth amount of time on the ice due to some missing players. Eighth-grader Ashley Wojewodzic contributed several strong shifts while Pagliuca also moved Butler back on defense on occasion, and by the end of the game, it was Butler charged with marking the dangerous Rossini.

"It’s fun I guess," Butler said with a smile and a tired shrug. "It's not my favorite but I’ll do whatever it takes. I used to play defense all the time when I was little so I'm kind of used to it but it's a different pace up in high school. But it's alright. I played defense a couple times last year but not taking a regular shift. I'm a little tired but happy."

MIAA girls' hockey preseason All-State team

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
5:04
PM ET
Continuing our preseason MIAA hockey previews, here's our girls' hockey preseason All-State team:

FIRST TEAM
F - Kayla Smith, Sr., Woburn
F - Alison Butler, Sr., St. Mary’s (Lynn)
F - Hannah Murphy, Sr., Duxbury
D - Hannah Wright, Sr., Arlington
D - Cassandra Connolly, Sr., Woburn
G - Courtney Davis, Jr., Woburn

SECOND TEAM
F - Jane Freda, Jr., Hingham
F - Brittani Lanzilli, Jr., Medford
F - Kaleigh Finigan, Sr., St. Mary’s (Lynn)
D - Brooke Matherson, Jr., Walpole
D - Annie Messuri, Jr., Acton-Boxborough
G - Rachel Myette, Jr., Duxbury

Recap: Duxbury 4, St. Mary's (Lynn) 1

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
1:20
AM ET
LYNN, Mass. -- One thing hockey fans can expect to see a lot of when the Duxbury girls take the ice is pressure. In heavy doses.

That pressure came last night in the form of a relentless forecheck, which in turn created scoring chances that the Dragons were able to cash in on. Ally Hammel and Meredith Wright each had a goal and assist and Rachel Myette stopped 16 shots to help Duxbury take a 4-1 victory over St. Mary's at Connery Rink Wednesday night.

Despite a roster featuring just two seniors and four juniors, the Dragons (2-0) are as deep and talented a team as you'll find in Massachusetts. And every one of those girls that hops over the boards has one thing in mind for her shift - attack.

"Our gameplan going in was to put the pressure on them, get that wave after wave of attackers coming in and force them in the neutral zone and make them make the tough pass and continue to have the support to go in there as the second girl in," said Duxbury coach Friend Weiler. "They are such a strong, explosive team and we wanted to make sure we kind of put them back on their heels and not let them get it started."

In addition to pressure, Weiler wants his team to put bodies around opposing creases. That activity led directly to the Dragons first goal as Hammel stuck a shot from the left point through traffic with 3:16 to play in the first period.

Duxbury increased its lead to 3-0 early in the second as Hannah Murphy and Wright scored within 46 seconds of one another. The Dragons second power play chance resulted in another score as Jacqui Nolan won a faceoff back to younger sister Julia for a hard shot that found the back of the net.

"It's about going to the net, fundamental hockey," Weiler said. "Against a great team like St. Mary's, you can't afford to make mental errors and I just wanted the girls to stay sharp and have a high-energy, high-tempo game and try to keep up with them. And they were able to do that by going hard to the net and converting when we needed to."

St. Mary's (1-1) got one back as Gabby Crugnale got loose for breakaway and fired one past Myette at 9:39 of the second, a goal that seemed to shift the momentum of the game. The Spartans became the team applying the pressure, while Duxbury was forced to sit back and play defense.

Myette turned in a strong final frame, however, and the Dragons killed off four penalties from the end of the second through the third to take the win.

SPECIAL TEAMS WAS KEY
The quarter of Hammel, Jacqui Nolan, Liz Collins and Payton Donato took the lead role on Duxbury's shorthanded unit and performed beyond admirably. Faced with the prospect of defending dominant offensive talents such as Alison Butler and Kaleigh Finigan, the Dragons managed to hold St. Mary's scoreless on all five power play opportunities they drew.

"I have a lot of faith in my penalty-kill," praised Weiler. "They do a great job of staying aggressive and not giving them room to move or room to pass. They're taking away passing lanes and really keeping the pressure on. You don't want to get back in a defensive shell. You want to maintain that high intensity, the high pressure, and put it back on them."

FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
Despite the final outcome, there were certainly plenty of positives for St. Mary's to take away. First and foremost, they know they won't likely face another team with the speed, talent and intensity of Duxbury.

The Spartans never quit, and even after falling into a 4-0 hole they actually took control of the tempo. Scoring chances were there and, while being a little snake-bit at times in this one, the finishing touch will come because the talent is there.

"At times I thought we did a good job of puck pursuit, getting on the puck quick and forcing them to turn the puck over, which is all positive," St. Mary's coach Frank Pagliuca said. "Even though we got down 4-0, the kids kept fighting back and Gabby had a great goal there to get us back in the game."

"The last five minutes of the second period I thought we did a good job of getting on them and pressuring them and we had opportunities, we just didn't finish them. But that's the way hockey is sometimes."

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