Boston High School: McKenna Russell

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

January, 24, 2013

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.

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."

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. 3 Duxbury 1, No. 14 Fontbonne 1

January, 20, 2013
KINGSTON, Mass. - Two teams with expectations of reaching TD Garden in March to vie for a state championship put on an excellent display of back and forth girls ice hockey in its finest form Saturday evening at The Bog.

14th-ranked Fontbonne got a goal from Shannon McIssac less than five minutes into the third period, but No. 3 Duxbury rallied late with a tally from Marissa Fichter as the two teams skated to a 1-1 draw.

The Ducks Samantha Moussailli and the Dragons Rachel Myette kept things scoreless through the first two frames, each making several spectacular stops along the way. Fontbonne (8-4-1) struck first in the third as a hustle play on the forecheck by McKenna Russell led to a shot through traffic that was deflected home by McIssac at 4:42.

Duxbury turned the heat for a strong finish and finally got rewarded with 1:15 remaining in the game. Jacqui Nolan rifled a shot on goal from the upper middle of the Fontbonne zone. Moussalli made the initial save but a scramble ensued in her crease. Hannah Murphy got a whack at the first rebound and then Fichter swopped in to bury the next chance.

The Dragons had two great chances to walk away with a win as both Ally Hammel and Murphy got off terrific looks in the final six seconds but Moussailli capped a brilliant effort with those two final stops.

"That was probably one of the best games I've seen in a couple of years," Fontbonne head coach Bob Huxley said. "It was back and forth, great skating on both sides. I only played two lines with an extra player but we matched them pretty evenly I thought. The goalies played well on both sides."

Added Dragons head coach Friend Weiler, "There's obviously a long history between the two programs and its gets them fired up., Its good to have games like this where you can go back to the drawing a little bit and work on some things and know that they're out there and we could conceivably see them again."

Talent has never been an issue with Fontbonne. This is a program that won a Div. 2 state championship three years ago and took Duxbury to the final seconds at TD Garden two seasons back.

What the Ducks have now that they didn't have last year is goaltending. Moussalli and co-starter Jessica Oliveri are both talented freshmen and take turns starting. On this night, Moussail was particularly brilliant in the middle frame, weathering a six-shot flurry from about five feet in front of her crease while killing off a penalty.

Regardless of which girl is between the pipes, the Ducks have confidence in both that they haven't had since those back to back runs to the state finals.

"Both of our goalies have been changing up back and forth and they've both played excellent," Huxley said. "If you put the two of them next to each other with blinders on, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between them. They complement each other in practice and they work hard together in practice. They're competing for a spot but they are also helping each other compete. They are just great kids and they really work well together as teammates."

In a year where Fontbonne has already claimed a number of signature victories over the likes of Acton-Boxborough, Hingham and Austin Prep, Huxley knows that Duxbury is the team that matters most because they hold the trophy that his program wants to get back.

"I said to the kids, this is the road to the Garden right here, through Duxbury," he explained. "They are the two-time defending state champions so that's the team you have to come out and compete against."

The reaction to picking up the one point was a little more subdued on the Duxbury side, the manner in which his charges reacted to the urgency of the situation gave Weiler reason to smile, among a few other things.

"The girls didn't give up and I'm proud of them about that," he said. "They didn't pack it in, they actually got stronger as the game went on. I thought our defensemen communicated a little bit better, which is a constant thing that we're harping on all the time. I think that some girls matured a little bit tonight and they know what its going to take to win. A tough team like Fontbonne gets you battle tested and I think that we have a lot to work on but I'm confident that when we need to, we'll work hard."

Recap: No. 25 Fontbonne 2, No. 13 Austin Prep 0

January, 3, 2013
QUINCY, Mass. -- Sometimes when you go up against a goalie of Austin Prep’s Shannon O’Neil’s caliber the only thing you can ask for is a little bit of luck.

For 43 minutes, O’Neil twisted, turned and tossed aside Fontbonne Academy’s offensive advances until a lucky bounce finally went the Ducks’ way.

McKenna Russell had a shot tipped inside the blue line and it jumped high in the air over the head of O’Neil and into the net with 1:28 to go and the Ducks added an empty-netter later for a 2-0 victory over Austin Prep (4-2-2) in a nonleague battle on Thursday at Shea Rink.

The Ducks (5-3) had 32 shots on O’Neil for the game, with more than half of those coming in high quality situations, but a tipped puck gave Fontbonne the key two points and left the Cougars wishing for the split.

“No,” Russell said when asked if she cared what the goal looked like. “A goal is a goal. It could be an ugly goal, a pretty goal, as long as it’s in the back of the net then I’m fine with it.”

The fact that the puck carried enough momentum off the tipped shot was surprising even to Russell.

“When I shot it I thought I missed the net,” Russell said. “When I turned around it was in the net. It just went right over her shoulder. … [O’Neil] has a big glove. We had to find a way around her and I guess right over her head was the way.”’

The Ducks outshot the Cougars 33-10 and carried the play for the majority of the game. It was the effort of O’Neil to help keep it a contest as her offensive mates struggled to mount any kind of pressure against a stout Ducks’ defense

“She played a great game,” Cougars head coach Stephanie Wood said. “She kept us in the game. We had to kill off a lot of penalties and a four-minute penalty kill through the third period. She is definitely on her game right now as you can see from that third period. It was very unlucky and it’s definitely one I think she would want back. But when Shannon is on she is on.”

The two goals marked the first goals for the Ducks in two games, but now they have a scoreless streak of their own from one of their young goaltenders.

Jessica Olivieri made 10 saves for a shutout. She, along with Samantha Moussalli, are alternating starts as both freshman work themselves into varsity hockey life. Bob Huxley said that each goalie gets an equal amount of playing time and he expressed excitement over the future in net for a program that is no stranger to postseason appearances.

Olivieri made a good save on Michaela Boyle on a 2-on-1 which could have heavily shifted the momentum into the Cougars favor in the second period.