STONEHAM, Mass. -- Between the end of the third period and the first five minutes of overtime, Arlington Catholic freshman Adrieana Rossini had four breakaways without a goal.
The fifth, however, did the trick to send the Cougars to the TD Garden next Sunday.
Rossini took a pass from senior Allie Stone, stormed into Braintree’s zone and put a backhanded shot past Wamp freshman goalie Rachael Brazil to give AC a 3-2 win in Saturday night’s MIAA Division 1 girls' hockey state semifinal at Stoneham Arena.
After so many opportunities to put the game away earlier, the game-winner -- which came with 4:37 left in the 12-minute overtime -- clearly came as a relief to Rossini.
“It was a long wait to get it. It took way too long,” she said. “I went on four breakaways with teammates and none of them would go through, and finally one just went in.”
Brazil (33 saves) was brilliant throughout the night, and saved some of her best for last. Rossini dangled past two Wamps with just over a minute to go in regulation, only to be denied at the doorstep by Brazil. Braintree’s net-minder stoned Rossini again at 4:06 of the overtime on almost the exact same play. Two minutes later, Rossini tried to find sophomore Duggan Delano on another break, but Braintree senior Tori Machado did just enough to put Delano off and the shot went wide.
Brazil stopped Rossini on yet another breakaway with 7:18 to play, but was finally beaten a few minutes later. AC head coach Maggie Taverna she had to keep Rossini’s spirits up after those missed chances, and it certainly paid off.
“She would come back after every shift to the bench so angry at herself, and I’m like, ‘Kid, you just gotta keep going. It’s going to come,’” Taverna said. “Eventually, one went in for her, so that was a good thing.”
Braintree (16-6-2) was out-shot 36-17 for the game, but played hard and fought off AC for the most of the contest. The Wamps took a 2-1 lead 1:03 into the third period when junior Brittany Yaxter finished a rebound off a shot from senior teammate Ally Perdios.
Taverna came away impressed with the Wamps, who had just knocked off top-seed Acton-Boxborough in the quarterfinals.
“They’re a very interesting team, because if you just look at them at a practice, maybe they’re not the best skaters,” Taverna said. “But they work hard, they’re gritty, they’re aggressive, and I think any team is gonna have a problem with them. I think that’s why the’ve been so successful in this tournament.”
The Cougars immediately went back on the offensive after Yaxter’s goal, and tied it back up just 3:14 later. Senior Natalie Flynn found freshman Jessica Piracini on a well-executed 2-on-1, and Piracini finished it off to make it 2-2.
Perdios had a great chance to put the Wamps back ahead with 2:23 to play in regulation after skating past two Cougars on a break, but AC sophomore goaltender Megan Messuri came up with her biggest stop of the evening.
Stone opened the scoring at 4:48 of the second period on a shorthanded breakaway, collecting the puck on the right wing and speeding in on goal before backhanding a shot through the 5-hole.
Braintree freshman Haley Payne nearly tied it just over two minutes later on a nice tip from junior Lauren Connelly’s shot from the point, but Messuri made an even better kick save to keep the puck out of the cage.
Braintree eventually did tie it up with just 50.2 seconds left in the frame. Senior Jessica Hasson fired in a wrister from the right point that Messuri had a beat on, but the puck took a wicked deflection off an AC player and looped over Messuri’s shoulder into the net.
The Cougars (19-3-1) out-shot Braintree 10-2 in a scoreless first period, as a penalty on Hasson just 24 seconds into the game gave AC early momentum. One of AC’s best chances came 6:14 into the period, when senior defenseman Rebecca Zappala fired a great pass from her own blue line to Flynn, who was in alone on Brazil but put her backhand shot just over the crossbar.
Brazil was up to the task on all 10 shots on goal, including shots from in front by sophomore Duggan Delano and Rossini.
In the end, though, it was the Cougars’ night. And now, they head to the Garden March 18 to take on St. Mary’s (penalty shootout winners over Hingham in Saturday’s other semifinal) for a state title. The Spartans beat AC twice during the regular season (by 4-2 and 5-2 scores), and the Cougars’ current senior class has never defeated their Catholic Central League rivals.
Stone, the Cougars’ assistant captain, is confident that will change.
“What it’s going to come down to is out-working them,” Stone said. “We’re not gonna lose to them again. We’re not ready to do that. This is the one team that I’ve always wanted to beat in my four years here, and I know that the other 10 seniors on the team feel the same.
“We’re ready to go. We’re gonna come at them with everything we have.”