Boston High School: Erin Blood

10 (or so) hockey underclassmen to watch

March, 28, 2012
As we wrap up the season that was in MIAA hockey, we take look ahead to next season with 10 (or so) players to watch in the 2012-13 season.

This list is comprised of underclassmen players we saw this season who we thought warranted a little extra attention and who might not be known to all, but who all could steal the stage in the coming years.

1. Tom Besinger, Soph. F, BC High – For what the winger might lack in stature, he makes up for in speed and grit. Although he often gives up size to defensemen, Besinger is fearless in the corners. With a 14-goal, 18-assist output on the season, he could be in for bigger numbers in his junior year with the Eagles.

2. Ara Nazarian, Frosh. F, Malden Catholic – You could make that case that the Lancers’ first-year center was the most consistent player in the Super 8 tournament with five points and more than a couple timely goals. Nazarian figures to be the next in a line of Division 1 prospects to come through the Lancers’ pipeline with a blend of speed and crafty stickwork.

3. Casey Fitzgerald, Frosh. F, Malden Catholic – Speaking of the Lancers’ front-line talent, the first-year blue-liner might have been the best in the state as a freshman. Where his talent can carry him during the next three years is stunning to think. Already a terrific skater, the younger Fitzgerald only scratched the surface with his 2-15-17 totals in 2011-12.

4. Matt Brazel, Soph. F, Hingham – The Harbormen defied a lot of folks’ expectations this season, including us, making yet another Super 8 appearance as a top-six seed. This talented sophomore, along with Sam D’Antuono (9-19-28), will pack a punch for Hingham as long as they don the sweater. Plus, Brazel’s quickly turned himself into one of the top draw-men in the state, as evidenced during the Super 8 tournament.

5. John Carlson, Soph. D, Hingham – The Harbormen blue-liner plays a bit like his Washington Capitals’ namesake, as a rugged physical presence who’s also able to make tape-to-tape breakout passes consistently. Carlson put up 2-10-12 totals last season and was named to the MSHCA Sophomore/Junior all-star team.

6. Dan Eruzione, Soph. F, Winthrop – Eruzione was a driving force behind the Vikings’ Div. 2 North finals appearance and was part of one of the state’s most feared scoring duos along with Chris LeBlanc. He scored 15 goals with 24 assists for 39 points on the season.

7. Mike Donadio, Soph. G, Franklin – A big reason why the Panthers made a repeat appearance at the Garden in the Div. 2 state championship game. The netminder posted a 1.64 goals against average and an 89.9 save percentage in his first year as starter.

8. Adrieana Rossini, Frosh. F, Arlington Catholic – The freshman provided a nice scoring complement to senior Natalie Flynn, scoring eight goals along with 14 assists. Rossini loomed large in the Cougars’ Division 1 state championship run, with a goal in the final versus St. Mary’s of Lynn and potting the game-winner in overtime during the Cougars’ semi-final win over Braintree.

9. Marissa Fichter, Frosh. F, Duxbury – Fichter’s play throughout the Division 2 tournament might have been one of the biggest surprises of the postseason. She posted 13-13-26 totals on the season while skating along with fellow first-year players Jane Dudley and Meredith Wright, meaning the Dragons will be set offensively for years to come — not to mention that netminder Rachel Myette is just a sophomore as well.

10. The Falmouth Youth Movement – We couldn’t really pick just one over the others, but the point remains that the Lady Clippers, like the aforementioned Dragons who they met at the Garden, will stay strong. With first-year head coach Erin Blood leading the way, it starts in nets with freshman Maddie Scavotto (1.35 GAA). Freshmen Madison Haberl (12-12-24), Kelly Ferreira (14-10-24) and Rachel Moore (11-5-16), along with sophomore Alexa Scribner (8-4-12) will hold down the scoring while Hannah Ghelfi (1-6-7), Callan Small (0-4-4) and Kendall Stouffer (0-9-9) provide as good a young blue-line you will find in the state.

D2 girls' final: Duxbury 3, Falmouth 1

March, 18, 2012
Duxbury Girls HockeyJim Tarbox/ESPNBoston.comDuxbury skated to its second straight Div. 2 girls' hockey championship and capping an undefeated season with a victory over Falmouth Sunday at TD Garden.

BOSTON -- They come from a town that’s often referred to as Deluxe-bury and the tag fits the Duxbury girls’ hockey team perfectly.

For the second straight year the Dragons vacated their locker room at the TD Garden in Boston with the MIAA Division 2 championship trophy in tow. The hardware, which makes a matching set in the Duxbury trophy case, came after the Dragons completed an undefeated season with a hard-earned 3-1 win over upstart Falmouth.

Duxbury got a pair of goals from senior captain Hannah Murphy and survived some scary moments late in the game to complete a year without a defeat as the top-ranked team in the state finished up at 22-0-1. Falmouth, a team that certainly could be back to challenge the Dragons again next year, wraps their year at 16-6-1.

The win was the third of the year for the Dragons over the Clippers, who also won 4-0 and 3-2 regular season games over their Southeastern Massachusetts Girls Hockey League rivals.

Dragons head coach Friend Weiler had a look of relief and joy as he entered the press room at the Garden to break things down. Weiler said he was proud of the way his team handled itself in the capper to their undefeated season.

“The goal from the start of the season was to get back here and I just told them [in the locker room celebration] that they passed their final exam,” the coach said. “I’m just so proud of those girls, every one of them comes to the rink every day single day ready to go.”

Goalie Rachel Myette, who made 14 saves in the net, including a couple of huge ones in the third period, said her team’s second championship in a row was quite fulfilling.

“It feels great. We worked really hard to get here,” she said. “It wasn’t easy, but it’s great.”

Clinging to a 2-1 lead late in the game, the Dragons had to finish off their title run by raising the degree of difficulty. Marissa Fichter was sent to the penalty box with 1:18 left to play in the game for a body check, giving Falmouth a chance to get their goalie out and skate the game out on a power play.

Duxbury won the draw in their own end and got the puck out of the zone to kill off most of the remaining time. The Clippers, who feature 10 freshmen and a sophomore on their up-and-coming young roster, were able to get it down low for one last go at Duxbury keeper Rachel Myette (14 saves). Maddie Haberl kicked the puck down low where it was sent up to the point by the defense. Hannah Ghelfi collected it for the Clippers and threw it to the other point for senior captain Brenna Callahan.

The Falmouth captain let a shot rip from the left point, but Murphy was there to block it for Duxbury. The puck caromed hard off of Murphy’s shins and went into the neutral zone where she won a footrace and deposited into the vacant Clippers goal to sew things up for the champions.

“I think we battled them to the end and we made them work for that championship,” Falmouth head coach Erin Blood after the game.

Murphy, the Dragons’ leading goal-scorer for the season, had scored the first of the game for Duxbury just 3:25 into the contest. The forward pilfered the puck out of the left wing corner, circled past the Falmouth defense and beat Maddie Scavotto through the 5-hole to put Duxbury on top, 1-0. The goal was Murphy’s 21st of the season.

Duxbury took it to the Clippers throughout the first period, but despite owning an 11-2 edge in shots on goal, they could not get the Clippers to go away. Scavotto (29 saves) was a big reason for Falmouth’s ability to hang in the game as the freshman goalie came up with save after save, including a robbery of a Murphy bid with 1:19 left in the first.

Falmouth came out of the locker room with renewed vigor in the second period and started to take it to the Dragons. Freshman Rachel Moore, who played inspired hockey throughout the contest for the Clippers, knotted things up at 1-1 at 3:25 of the second period.

Falmouth sophomore forward Alexa Scribner stole the puck with a forecheck on the right wing boards and broke up that side. While getting cross-checked from behind, Scribner lost her handle on the puck, but it ricocheted off her skate and found Moore’s stick in the low slot where the rookie snapped it by Myette (14 saves) to tie the count up.

Duxbury did not panic, though. The Dragons reasserted their dominance and turned the tables for the rest of the second period. Midway through the frame they got the go-ahead goal on a pretty play by Martha Findley along the left wing boards who found a wide-open Liz Collins on the far post for a backdoor goal to regain the lead.

“The coach had been telling us all game long, and all season long, that the backdoor was going to be open for us,” Collins said. “I was wide open on the far post and my friend Martha popped it over to me and I one-timed it.”

Collins said that the go-ahead goal allowed the Dragons to breathe a tad bit easier.

“It was nice to get that one and get some breathing room. It was kind of a cushioning, knowing that even if they scored it would only tie it up,” she said. “I felt no stress on the ice after that, I just figured we were going to win after that.”

Findley said that the champs remained calm through the adversity after Falmouth tied it, and that staying cool paid dividends. “We knew we could get after it, that we needed to generate more shots. I think we knew that we had it, but it was scary being tied,” she said.

With the lead in hand going to the third period the Dragons were confident, but they knew nothing was guaranteed. The Clippers got a nice bid by Kelly Ferreira early in the third and then a break-in on a shorthanded bid by Moore with 4:14 to play, but each time Myette kept the puck out of the net to preserve the lead for the Dragons.

“The last two games with Falmouth…they’ve been the toughest games all year,” Collins said. “They’re one of those teams where if you close your eyes for one second they’re going to come up behind you and score. Every team they’ve played in the playoffs has underestimated them and they came through and won.”

The Clippers said that their slow start was problematic, but Blood was happy to see her team weather the storm early and escape the first down just 1-0. Falmouth did its best to keep up with the high-flying Dragons the rest of the way, and had their chances to pull of the major upset.

Callahan, who was a four-year starter for Clippers, said she was sad to see her career end but that she was pleased with her team’s accomplishment. “I’m so proud of all of these girls,” she said fighting back tears.

Assistant captain Alexx Good picked up the conversation from there.

“We’re so lucky to have an amazing group of seniors, Brenna especially, she had an outstanding season…we’re going to take what we learned from them and hopefully we’ll be back next year.

Coach Blood echoed her players’ sentiments. “We made it to the Garden, we’re pumped about it, and I think we’ll be back.”

MIAA hockey championships primer, picks

March, 16, 2012
All eyes will be on the TD Garden Sunday as championships will be decided in six divisions of MIAA hockey title games.

We'll have you covered all day long, but until then, we provide to you a breakdown of each of the game and our prediction:

GIRLS’ FINALS Division 2
No. 1 Duxbury (21-0-1) vs. No. 7 Falmouth (16-4-1), 11 a.m., TD Garden
The Breakdown: If the Dragons win this game, they make a strong argument that they were the strongest girls’ hockey team in the state, regardless of division, with the potential for an undefeated season. As any strong hockey squad goes, the Dragons are built from goal out with sophomore goaltender Rachel Myette (0.91 GAA) looks for her second state title in as many seasons as starter. Duxbury’s blue line corps is regarded as the deepest in the state, led by ESPN Boston Ms. Hockey contender Martha Findley (4-19-23). Of course, Duxbury has plenty of offensive firepower to go along with their strong defensive play with junior forwards Hannah Murphy (18-27-45) and Lily Connolly (18-20-38) as leading scorers. Falmouth has been one of the stories of the tournament, making a run behind first-year head coach Erin Blood. The Clippers have also received strong play from a young goaltender in freshman Maddie Scavotto (1.26 GAA). Falmouth is also deep and experienced on the blue line with senior captain Brenna Callahan and junior Alexx Good. The Clippers have received scoring punch from a pair of freshman forwards in Kelly Ferreira (13-9-22) and Madison Haberl (11-12-23).

The Pick: The defending Division 2 champion Dragons spent half the season as the No. 1 team in our poll. We’re not about to go against them now. Duxbury, 4-1.

Division 1 No. 3 St. Mary’s (Lynn) (21-3-1) vs. No. 4 Arlington Catholic (20-3-1), 9 a.m.
The Breakdown: If two regular season meetings between these Central Catholic powers weren’t enough, we get a rubber match for all the marbles on Sunday. The Lady Spartans came away with two wins in the teams’ regular season series, including a defining 5-2 decision by St. Mary’s on Feb. 1 after they’d been upset by crosstown rival Winthrop/Lynn. Can’t underscore the coaching in this game enough, as Frank Pagliuca has turned in perhaps his finest performance behind the bench and Maggie Taverna has vaulted the Cougars back onto the state’s biggest stage in Year One. Taverna has been helped by one of the state’s most dynamic scorers in senior Natalie Flynn (19-15-34). Adrieana Rossini (8-14-22) has also come up with some huge postseason goals. On the blue line, AC has one of the state’s best in senior Rebecca Zappala. First-year transfers Kaleigh Finigan (30-goal season) and Brittani Lanzilli (25-28-53) have not disappointed while Alison Butler (team-leading 61 points) has taken a huge step forward. The Spartans blue line is airtight with preseason All-Stater Rachel Donahoe leading the group. Lauren Skinnion (7 SO) has been strong as a first-year starter in nets.

The Pick: Third time’s a charm? Not so. Spartans are too strong. St. Mary’s, 4-2.

BOYS’ FINALS Division 3
Medway (19-6-1) vs. Hudson (21-1-1), 1:30 p.m.

The Breakdown: This marks the return of one of the state’s great public hockey programs to its biggest stage in Hudson (seriously, look it up), with the Hawks making their first state finals appearance since 1978, when they took the Div. 1 title from Burlington. The Central sectional champions are strong up front with a trio of 30-point scorers in seniors Tyler Kirby, Tim Murphy and Blake Seymour. The Mustangs are paced by one of the state’s top snipers in Jake O’Rourke (43-13-56). This matchup will also feature two of most dominant D3 goalies in the state with Hudson junior Shane Barry and Medway junior Mike Narducci facing off with sub-2.00 goals against averages.

The Pick: We’re going with the storyline and perhaps the most consistent D3 team throughout the season. Hudson, 3-2.

Division 2 Wilmington (15-4-5) vs. No. 1 Franklin (19-2-3), 3:30 p.m.
The Breakdown: This might be the most intriguing matchup of the day. Both of these teams were among four Division 2 teams on the Mass. Hockey Coaches Association’s initial Super 8 Watch list a month ago and haven’t disappointed in the tournament. Franklin was here a year ago, when they had their hearts broken by Tewksbury in an overtime stunner. Many observers, including us, had last season pegged as the Panthers’ opportunity to break a nearly three-decade long drought, but Chris Spillane has showed why he’s one of the state’s premier coaches. It also hasn’t hurt that Franklin has received tremendous senior seasons from Adam Hall (17-25-42) and Nick Bertoni (25-15-40). Sophomore netminder Mike Donadio (1.64 GAA) has been a revelation. The Wildcats offense has taken off since Cam Owens’ (14-19-33) return to the lineup, while senior captain Dalton Rolli (9-16-25) is an underrated two-way presence. Junior forward Jake Rogers (12-6-20) has come up with some timely goals in the postseason. Sophomore netminder Drew Foley (1.69 GAA) has played his best when it’s counted most, carrying a three-plus game shutout streak into the Wildcats’ North sectional final with Winthrop.

The Pick: The last time the Panthers hoisted the trophy Coach Spillane skated. Unfortunately for the hockey hotbed, this isn’t the year either. Wilmington, 2-1 (OT).

Division 1 Burlington (17-2-6) vs. Milton (19-3-3), 8:15 p.m.
The Breakdown: The Red Devils pulled off a tough feat, bouncing back from a Super 8 play-in game loss (and a very competitive one at that) to pull themselves into the D1 championship. The Middlesex League champions have plenty of speed to burn, and senior assistant captain Trevor Cimino (17-22-39) is about as good a two-way forward as you’ll find. Along with Joe Berardi (22-13-35), Brett Romkey (17-3-20) and C.J. Grinnell (6-14-20), Burlington can score in piles. We’ve also come away impressed by their defensive corps led by Steve Mattos, in addition to Cody Crocker, Adam Crowley and Brien Diffley. The Wildcats ran the Bay State League gauntlet in the South sectional tournament to get to the Garden. Paul Curran (26-33-59) is one of the best pure scorers in the state, and along with top-liners Brian Higgins (23-29-52) and Terrance Walsh (16-33-49), Milton provides matchup problems. Blue-liner John Murtagh is a rock, logging boatloads of ice time, and senior netminder Jay Hankard is peaking at the right time

The Pick: Red Devils are simply too potent, but they’re the pick mostly because of the way they’re playing defensively right now in front of Derek DeCastro. Burlington, 6-3.

Division 1A No. 5 BC High (13-6-5) vs. No. 1 Malden Catholic (19-1-4), 6 p.m.
The Breakdown: After beating another Catholic Conference rival, St. John’s Prep, to advance to the final, Eagles head coach John Flaherty said he’s had a special feeling about this group. That feeling might have developed after BC High skated to a 2-2 tie with MC on Jan. 25, a game in which the Eagles in some regards out-played the Lancers. This will be the fourth meeting between these teams, with MC taking two wins, including a 3-1 win in the Super 8’s round robin last week. The crucible for BC High is which of their defensive units shows up: The out-of-sorts group that surrendered a 7-spot earlier this season to MC, or the cohesive group that bounced Prep and its top line? Of course, that all starts with junior goaltender Peter Cronin (2.00 GAA), who has turned in another solid tournament. Brian Furey leads a much improved blue-line group. The Eagles are also disciplined in their own zone, with Matt Sullivan (12-16-28) providing as much defensively as he does offensively. Everyone knows of the Lancers top line of Brendan Collier, Ryan Fitzgerald and Mike Iovanna, but freshman center Ara Nazarian has been the breakout star of the tournament, filling the scoresheet in every game and tallying five goals. It’s not just offense with MC, however, as you’d be hard pressed to find a deeper, more dynamic top three than Casey Fitzgerald, Colin MacGillivray and Brendan White. If netminder Connor Maloney plays as he did against Central Catholic in the crossover round, that’s game, set, and match.

The Pick: Doin’ it for CS5. MC, 5-3.

D2 Girls: Falmouth 3, Westwood 2

March, 11, 2012

BOURNE, Mass. -- Back in December when the Falmouth girls’ ice hockey team convened for its first practice, there were far more answers than questions. With a rookie head coach and 10 freshmen in the lineup, a trip to the TD Garden for the state championship seemed like a pretty far-fetched concept.

It became a reality Saturday though.

Two of those freshmen scored goals and another stopped 12 of 14 shots on goal to lead the Clippers to their first-ever appearance in the Division 2 state championship game. Falmouth, the No. 7 seed, knocked off No. 6 Westwood 3-2 to advance to the finals, which will be held next Sunday.

“It’s all on the [players], they’ve worked hard all year, they’ve earned it,” Falmouth head coach Erin Blood said.

After a scoreless first period, the Wolverines scored first, snapping one under Clippers keeper Maddie Scavotto, who has been stellar throughout the season for the Clippers. Falmouth’s defense did not make a lot of mistakes in the game, but the Clippers had a hard time clearing the puck out of its own end and Westwood made them pay as Liz Stuehr rode one along the ice from the middle of the right faceoff circle that beat Scavotto through the 5-hole for a 1-0 lead for Westwood at the 5:06 mark of the middle period.

Ironically, Westwood's goal seemed to do more for the Clippers’ outlook on the game. Falmouth rallied from that point on and took it to the Wolverines.

“We’re young and we’ve got lots of nerves. A lot of the girls have never experience something like this before. We had to settle down, we came out nervous but then we got down to business, we took care of it,” Blood said.

Senior captain and defenseman Brenna Callahan echoed her coach’s sentiments. “It just hit us that we wanted this and that we couldn’t let our nerves get us."

Just three minutes after the Wolverines grabbed the lead, Falmouth struck for a pair of goals in a 14-second span. Falmouth knotted it up on a goal by Callahan and then took the lead on a breakaway off the ensuing faceoff that saw freshman Kelly Ferreira pot the go-ahead goal.

Callahan, a defenseman, let a shot fly that missed the mark. The senior followed the puck and forward Amy Wilson, a junior co-captain, covered Callahan’s position on the left point. The puck found its way back to Wilson, who spied Callahan sneaking through the back door on the far side and she whistled a perfect feed to the far post where Callahan tipped it behind Siobhan Burke to knot things up at 8:15.

Callahan said that the goal came off of a broken play that saw two experienced players make the most out of what was presented to them. “She sent it to me wide and I was there on the back post,” Callahan said. “It was totally improv.”

Before Westwood knew what had hit them the Clippers struck again. Falmouth won the draw back to freshman defenseman Hannah Ghelfi, who threaded a perfect lead pass to fellow rookie Ferreira, who broke for the slot. The puck found Ferreira a step ahead of the blue line and she walked in alone on Burke, besting the keeper with a snap shot to the glove side to make it a 2-1 game just 14 seconds later.

“We let down a little bit, and they picked it up,” Westwood head coach Rick Chrusciel said. “We had one bad shift, we gave up a couple of quick goals…after that I thought we did a nice job regrouping and carried a lot of it the rest of the second period.”

Ferreira, who has scored in each of the Clippers’ postseason games, helped give her team a little breathing room in the third period when she set up another of the Clippers’ fantastic freshmen, Maddie Haberl. Ferreira got the puck behind the Westwood cage and sent a pretty backhand pass from the left of Burke to the high slot for Haberl. The forward ripped a blast to the glove side to the top shelf for a 3-1 lead just 1:59 into the third.

Westwood came right back after that to make it a one-goal game again. Kim Egizi, the Wolverines’ second-leading goal scorer during the regular season, sniped one from the right faceoff dot under Scavotto’s stick side arm to cut the deficit to a single goal with 11:18 left in the semifinal game.

After that, though, the Falmouth defense clamped down. Scavotto was not as busy as she'd been in the previous two postseason games for Falmouth, making 30 or more saves in each. But the Clippers defense, led by Callahan, Alexx Good and Ghelfi, did not allow Westwood to get much going throughout the game. Westwood was held to just two shots on goal in the third period, and just one in the final five minutes, a nice bid by Egizi that was kicked aside.

“We kept them on the outside all game. We spent a lot of time on the D zone in practice. I think defense wins games, so that’s where that comes from,” Blood, a former Boston College defenseman, said. “(Our defense) really kept them to the outside, all game long they were blocking shots…it was just a one-goal game (at the end). We’ve come back from one goal before, so we told them that they couldn’t give up until that final whistle.”

An icing call against the Clippers with 1:22 left to go gave the Wolverines one last hope at a flurry, but they were unable to throw anything at the net. Falmouth cleared the zone and never allowed WHS to set up shop in the offensive end again, nor get Burke off the ice for an extra attacker.

Scavotto was her own toughest critic. The first-year starter, who entered the game with a 1.26 goals against average, said that her teammates picked her up this time around.

“I don’t think that I had my best game, and my team rallied. The third period was probably the best period I’ve seen them play,” Scavotto said. “They kept the puck down the other end of the ice pretty much the whole period, and they shut them down.”