Boston High School: Amanda Donahoe

LYNN, Mass. – St. Mary’s of Lynn girls’ hockey head coach Frank Pagliuca swears shots on goal don’t mean all that much. After all, it’s only the big numbers on the scoreboard that count.

“I don’t care if we get outshot four-to-one,” Pagliuca said after Monday’s scoreless tie with Catholic Central League rival Arlington Catholic.

With a defense as disciplined as the Spartans’, and with senior goaltender Lauren Skinnion looking in mid-season form, Pagliuca is content with how his team played despite being outshot 32-9 by the Cougars.

“This is probably the most complete game we played. It wasn’t pretty at times,” he said. “But structurally, in the ‘D’ zone we did a nice job for the most part after we made a couple adjustments after the first period.”

The Spartans remained unbeaten (3-0-2, 2-0-1 CCL) with Skinnion’s third shutout on the young season.

St. Mary’s currently boasts a scoreless streak of more than two games, extending to the third period of its 4-3 win over Reading on Dec. 23 and including the Spartans’ 1-0 blanking of league foe Austin Prep on Wednesday.

“I challenged them and Lauren [Skinnion] to really raise their games against a great team and they did that tonight,” Pagliuca said. “I actually thought our forwards were much better tonight competing for pucks. We didn’t lose as many pucks as we did in the past.”

AC (4-1-1, 1-0-1) set up shop early, peppering Skinnion with 12 shots through the first period. By the second intermission, the Cougars held a staggering 21-5 advantage in shots-on-goal.

However, as the game wore on, the Spartans’ defensive corps, led by senior assistant captain Tatiana Doucette, strengthened. Despite dressing only four blue-liners (Amanda Donahoe, Vanessa Van Buskirk, Ashley Wojewodzic and Doucette) and logging mountains of ice time, St. Mary’s found increasing success in prohibiting AC from setting up down low on the cycle.

“We had plenty of scoring opportunities, we just never finished,” Cougars head coach Maggie Taverna said. “I think it was a good game, I think there were some times St. Mary’s had us hemmed in, we had them hammed in a couple times. But I thought our scoring chances were pretty good and for us to not put any pucks away … It was puck-luck, we didn’t have any.”

While St. Mary’s was largely able to negate the Cougars’ foot speed presented in snipers Adrieana Rossini and Jess Piracini, the Spartans weren’t always able to create on the rush.

Despite being badly outshot, St. Mary’s had the better scoring chances in the latter stages of the third period. Pagliuca even rolled the dice a little, electing to pull Skinnion in a tie game with seven seconds remaining, as St. Mary’s took a draw in AC’s defensive zone on the power play.

The Spartans had a couple cracks at a potential game-winner, but were shut out, too, by junior goaltender Katherine Crane (9 saves).

While the old rivals were unable to find a resolution in their first meeting of the season, they’ll soon have another chance to take an elusive win, next Wednesday at Ed Burns Arena.

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."

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."

Recap: No. 3 St. Mary's 5, No. 7 AC 2

February, 2, 2012
2/02/12
12:22
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Mass. -- It took all of 25 seconds for the St. Mary's girls' hockey team to show it was capable to answering the bell when adversity came calling. In the bigger picture, the 45 minutes the Spartans put together Wednesday night might do exactly the same.

Kaleigh Finigan had a hat trick and two assists, Alison Butler added two goals and three helpers and Lauren Skinnion stopped 24 shots to help No. 3 St. Mary's topple previously unbeaten No. 7 Arlington Catholic, 5-2, last night at Ed Burns Arena.

In the process, the Spartans (11-4-0 overall, 4-0-0 Catholic Central League) qualified for the postseason, took a one-game lead over the Cougars (14-1-1, 3-1-0) atop the league standings while picking up a much needed bounce-back victory.

"It was good to see us respond to a little bit of adversity, I was proud of them for that," Spartans head coach Frank Pagliuca said. "I thought the game was physical, I thought AC had some opportunities to score and Lauren came up big for us. Great win for us, a good bounce back win. Big league win as well. AC is a great team. They're going to be one of the team's fighting for it at the end."

St. Mary's jumped out fast in this one, something they haven't always been able to do on the season. Butler screamed a pass down to the low slot where Finigan was able to tip it past AC goalie Megan Messuri 4:09 into the game.

The Spartans top line of Finigan, Butler and Brittani Lanzilli (2 A) continued to pressure, and Lanzilli came up with the assist of the year, threading the puck between the skates of an AC defender to Butler, who made a nice move outside the crease to tuck it just past the right skate of Messuri with 2:27 left in the first.

Then, just 21 seconds into the second, Butler sprung Finigan and the junior fired a shot from the high slot that went off a defenseman's stick, shot over the head of Messuri and somehow ended up in the net behind her.

Skinnion made 11 of her 24 stops during the second but Arlington Catholic caught a break when Melissa Richard snuck one through right at the buzzer and Adrieana Rossini kept the momentum going with a shorthanded breakaway goal at 3:25 of the third.

As the walls seemed to be caving in, the Spartans got plays from Finigan, Skinnion and senior captain Rachel Donahoe that turned the tide back in their favor.

Finigan popped in her third goal of the night just 25 seconds after Rossini's tally to stop the bleeding, then Skinnion turned in perhaps her best save of the season as Rossini got loose again, and Donahoe came flying back into her own end to snuff out yet another breakaway bid, this time by Natalie Flynn.

"I thought Rachel Donahoe was unbelievable tonight," Pagliuca said. "She was all over the ice. She's a captain and she's really starting to step up and elevate her game. And Lauren Skinnion I thought was phenomenal."

Butler tacked on one more goal on a rebound of a Finigan shot with 3:45 remaining to close out the scoring.

While the taste of the season's first loss will be sour for the Cougars, they will have a chance to get it back when the two teams meet again next Wednesday at Connery Rink in Lynn (4:30 p.m.).

"When we play St. Mary's there's always that stigma that exists from previous years," admitted AC coach Maggie Taverna. "The kids know like last year, they creamed us 8-1, and they came in excited. Sometimes I feel like they get over-excited and they hold their sticks to tight or they dump pucks and things too quickly. St. Mary's, even though they have a short bench, they're a great team. We're excited to play them again next week. I told the kids, let it stick with you, let it sting a little bit because we have another chance."

'SPARTAN' DEFENSE
Pagliuca's praise of Donahoe was most certainly warranted. A preseason ESPNBoston All-State defenseman and one of just two seniors on the squad, Donahoe turned in a brilliant performance while being matched against the the talented Flynn. Everywhere Flynn went on the ice, Donahoe was was within arms reach. Not only did Donahoe chase Flynn down on the breakaway but she continually forced the Cougars star forward to take wide angles with the puck rather than drive to the net where she is deadly.

"She's definitely one of the players we needed to look out for on the ice," Donahoe said of Flynn. "She has a good shot, she's very good at seeing the game so whenever she's out there we had to make sure she was covered or it wasn't going to be a good deal."

"I was just saying to myself, 'Don't let her shoot and get the puck to the corner,'" the senior continued. "Mainly I was just trying to keep a body on her, keep her to the outside of the goal and not let her get any opportunities to put the puck in the back of the net."

Along with Donahoe, fellow blueliners Tatiana Doucette, Hannah Quin and Amanda Donahoe turned in strong performances. The shots on goal total for AC would have been much higher if not for this unit's relentless work in both blocking and forcing bad shots.

"Lot of blocks, they moved the puck pretty well. We got caught a couple of times flat-footed and AC has some good speedy forwards that exploited us a little but I thought D zone, we played much better. I thought we moved the puck well out of the zone. They came down hard and crashed on the walls and I thought we made a nice adjustment coming out of the zone.

GOLD STAR FOR THE GOALIE
Despite a terrific night for the St. Mary's defense, Arlington Catholic still managed several breakouts and had plenty of good scoring opportunities. If not for the play of Skinnion, AC might still be undefeated and it would be the Spartans looking for revenge in next Wednesday's rematch.

The sophomore was particularly brilliant in the final three minutes of the second period. She zipped to the far post to cover a wraparound attempt by ACs Michaela Scutti, made a great stop on Flynn (who also hit two posts) walking in from the blue line and covered the post as Katie Waitt tried to jam the rebound through.

Then in the third, with the memory of Rossini's breakaway goal still fresh in her mind, Skinnion saw the exact same play develop, adjusted, and made a spectacular stop.

"I didn't want to let in the same goal again," Skinnion admitted when asked about her thought process on the play. "The first time I didn't come back fast enough so I tried to stay back a little bit more. (Rossini) went to the left again and I thought she was probably going to try and do the same thing so I just tried to stay low and make sure I got the pad on the puck."

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