Boston High School: MIAA tournament

D1 Softball Final: B-R 9, Holy Name 0

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Holy Name knew all to well the one thing it couldn't afford to do was spot Bridgewater-Raynham an early lead. Falling behind and having to face a dominant pitcher would be a formula for doom.

Somewhere along the way, the Naps lost sight of that premise. The Trojans were literally handed five runs in the first inning of Saturday night's Division 1 state final. That was certainly more than enough run support for Sarah Dawson as the B-R flamethrower took over from there.

Dawson, a 6-foot-1 junior, handcuffed Holy Name all evening long, allowing just one hit and striking out seven to help lead the Trojans to an easy 9-0 victory at Rockwood Field. The state title marks the first for B-R as it completes a remarkable 25-1 season.

"Sarah had good control by using her power today and using her change-up a lot to keep them off-balance," Trojans head coach Mike Carrozza said. "She controlled the game with her power pitches and staying in and out on them and then using her change-up.

"It was a fantastic run for us this year. I think looking back on the last three years we are something like 80-4 so that's a good three years. We had a lot of energy going into this game and a lot of confidence. We showed a lot of patients and the girls knew what they had to do to win and they did it."

In six tournament starts inside the circle, Dawson allowed only one run, as well as tossing a pair of no-hitters. Had it not been for Ama Biney's single off her in the sixth inning, Dawson would've added a third postseason no-hitter to her resume.

"I just went out there focused," said Dawson, a University of Pittsburgh commit. "You need to be focused and know what you want and we all wanted to win a state championship. To do that you've gotta be dominant. All of this probably won't sink in for another week or two. I still can't believe we won a state championship. I'm pretty shocked about that."

Following the five run first, this game was over. The Naps appeared tense to begin this tilt and it showed quickly. Four errors in the opening frame paved the way for B-R. It all started with Madison Shaw, the team's spark plug, reaching on an error. The Fordham University-bound senior hit a hard grounder to first baseman Danielle Rocheleau.

The sophomore could not field it cleanly and Shaw, sprinting down the line and finishing with a head first dive, beat Rocheleau to the base. After stealing second, Shaw came around to score the Trojans' first run on Emily Kurkul's double to centerfield.

"That first inning showed (Holy Name) that we are fighters and we will do anything it takes to get on base," Shaw said. "Getting a big lead like that in the first inning takes a lot of pressure off of Sarah and once the pressure is off she can go out there and throw her game. She does her thing inside the circle and we do our thing at the plate."

With Taylor Poulin running for Kurkul, the inning continued with a walk to Jenny Heller. Kelsey Leuenberger next hit a chopper that was mis-handled by second baseman Heather Drummond allowing Poulin to cross the plate.

The horror show for Holy Name continued one batter later with two more runs crossing the plate. Stephanie Cavallaro hit a comebacker to Naps pitcher Kelsey Saucier but the senior threw off-target to first with Cavallaro reaching safely and Heller scoring.

On the play, Rocheleau, seeing Leuenberger racing home, threw the ball to catcher Deanna DiPilato, who failed to catch it as it rolled towards the backstop fence and extending B-R's lead to 4-0. Things continued to snowball out of control for the Naps in the frame after Cavallaro came home on a Saucier wild pitch.

"Nothing went well for us tonight," said Holy Name head coach Aimee Lee, her team finishing at 22-3. "It's kind of sad because we didn't get to show (B-R) the kind of team we really are. Things seemed to fall apart after that first error and it just went downhill from there."

Except for a couple of Trojan miscues, the Nap batters continued to make a bee-line towards their dugout. Although Holy Name was making contact with some of Dawson's pitches, the majority of them were being hit directly to the defense. B-R would add a solo run off of Saucier (7 hits, 5 Ks) in the fourth on an RBI single off the bat of Kurkul.

Two innings later, the Trojans turned this into a rout. With one out Poulin and Shaw singled. Stacey Korotsky followed by laying down a bunt towards Drummond. The junior immediately came up firing to third in an attempt to nail Poulin. However, her throw sailed wide which allowed both Poulin and Shaw to cross the plate. Heller followed that up by roping a double to left to bring Korotsky in.

"We thought this would a nitty-gritty type of game right to the end," said Shaw. "The last thing on our minds was for us to get five runs in the first inning. When we started off with five runs it really calmed the rest of the team down. It felt pretty good. We feel if we put the ball in play it forces the other team to try and get us out. Sometimes teams make errors along the way and we try to take advantage of those."

D1 Baseball Final: Leominster 6, Norwood 1

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14

WORCESTER, Mass. -- The sun was setting in the distance behind Fitton Field’s left field foul pole as Leominster’s Neil O’Connor was putting the finishing touches on his team’s season.

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Norwood’s John Galvin stepped into the batter’s box. The senior had himself a strong tournament run until that point. He went 4-for-4 at the plate and threw a complete game against Andover in the Eastern Mass. Finals. He was 1-for-3 with an RBI and pitched three strong innings until that point.

[+] EnlargeRich Barnaby
Brendan Hall/ Leominster won its first state title since 1996 under first-year coach Rich Barnaby -- a starting third baseman on that 1996 team.
His team’s season was in the balance and he was able to work a full count. O’Connor went with a high fastball and it was enough to put Galvin away. O’Connor threw his glove high in the air, higher than the protective netting behind home place.

Leominster defeated Norwood 6-1 in the Division 1 State Baseball Final. It is the fourth baseball state title in school history.

“Leominster is a baseball town,” said Blue Devils coach Rich Barnaby. “I was on the 1996 team, which is the last state title team we had. It’s the fourth time we’ve been here and the fourth time we’ve won it. It means a lot to the community.”

Barnaby played third base on that state championship team. Leominster also won state titles in 1986 and 1988.

His team got on the board first in the top of the third on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Brett Corliss. Nick Cordio opened the inning by hitting a rocket to deep left that one-hopped the wall. He advanced to third on a groundout before being knocked in on a well-placed bunt down the first base line.

Norwood tied it in the bottom of the inning when Denis Drummey scored from second on Galvin’s base knock to center. There was going to be a play at the plate, but Corliss’ throw was high enough for Drummey to slide in under the tag.

Leominster tacked on four more runs in the fourth, two coming on wild pitches. Another came on a Corliss sacrifice bunt.

The Blue Devils were able to use small ball tactics to move runners over and put them in position to capitalize on Norwood’s mistakes. When it appeared the bleeding was going to be stopped after one run in the fourth, David Barry’s grounder to second was mishandled by Connor Flynn. All runners were safe and it went on to score two more runs in the inning.

“Since the first practice, Coach has always been preaching small ball, do the little things to get the runs,” said O’Connor. “It payed off. We had a couple of big hits and a couple of big squeezes that helped us out today.”

Neil is nifty: O’Connor threw 98 pitches in the complete game effort, striking out six and only surrendering 4 hits and two walks. His most effective pitch Saturday was his curveball. The University of New Hampshire football commit was able to throw it at any point in the count and keep hitters off balance. He controlled it enough so it caught the inside corner of the plate against right-handed hitters.

“Coach was calling a good game and my curveball was working,” he said. “They’re a very good fastball hitting team and when they sit on the curve they can hit that too. I was just trying to mix it up and keep them guessing as much as I could.”

O’Connor’s curve was so nasty that it began fooling righties into thinking the ball was coming at them. Normally, a hitter takes his first stride toward the pitcher in order to generate power upon contact. Some Norwood hitters were taking their first step backwards away from the plate, believing the pitch was coming in high and tight before it eventually drifted back over the plate for strikes.

“He almost has more confidence in his curveball,” said Barnaby. “The one thing about playing a team we’ve never played before, it took us one or two times through the lineup to adjust to their hitters. They’ve got some good hitters, and they put some good contact on it. That’s a good team.”

Case for Super 8? Entering this postseason, there was discussion and complaints from Central and Western Mass. baseball fans and media regarding no Division 1A “Super 8” tournament representation from those regions. Many had differing opinions of how strong a Central Mass. schedule was in comparison to Eastern Mass. teams. When it came time to select the field, Leominster was one of the teams caught on the outside looking in. The tournament selection committee chose to nominate St. John’s of Shrewsbury for consideration over the 16-4 Blue Devils.

This state title win will only strengthen the argument that Leominster should have been in the “Super 8,” but players were not using the win as an opportunity to gloat Saturday.

“We were just trying to play baseball,” said O’Connor regarding the win. “We tried to do whatever we could. Whatever games we played, we tried to win. We just left it at that. We’re happy with where we are right now.”

Throughout the season, coaches have been more outspoken than the players regarding their teams’ respective candidacy. Of the teams left out, Leominster certainly has the ability to say “See? I told you so.”

“All year, our philosophy was control what you can control,” said Barnaby. “If we’re in the Super 8, we’re in the Super 8. If we’re not, we’re going to try to beat everyone the MIAA wants us to beat. We kind of kept a positive spin. On the bus today, I said, ‘Hey, if we don’t beat this team, the Super 8 is right, we don’t belong. If we beat them, maybe next year they’ll consider a Central Mass. team.”

D4 Baseball Final: Pope John Paul II 3, Hopkins 0

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14

WORCESTER, Mass. -– For the first time in the infantile history of their program, the Pope John Paul II Lions are state champions.

One year after a heartbreaking loss to Lowell Catholic in the MIAA Division 4 State Championship game, the Lions came back to complete an incredible 26-1 season, knocking off Western Mass. champion Hopkins Academy 3-0 on Saturday at Fitton Field in Worcester.

The Lions were led on the mound by senior righthander Austin Houlihan, who gave up just a lone hit while pitching a complete game shutout. He struggled with his control early on, surrendering three walks in the in the top of the first inning, but quickly found his comfort zone after PJP jumped out to an early lead.

[+] EnlargeAustin Houlihan
Brendan Hall/ Austin Houlihan pitched a shutout for Pope John Paul II, which won a state title in just its fourth season of varsity.
“I didn’t really happen to have my best stuff today, but I just knew that if I threw strikes that the defense would make all the plays," Houlihan said. "I definitely give all the credit to the defense today, they did it all. This is the greatest feeling that an 18 year-old kid can have...It’s just the best feeling that I’ve ever had."

PJP got a quick lead in the top of the first, Matt Santos smashed a double deep to left field and Colin Russell drove him in two batters later on an RBI single.

“The double down the line was big and then Colin Russell had a big two-out hit. I think once we got that and Houlihan started pitching with a lead that that made all the difference in the world,” Pope John Paul coach Mark Santos said, “We were so close a couple times, it wasn’t our cleanest game offensively, but I don’t think were ever really in doubt -– I thought the game was in control most of the way.”

The Lions added to the lead in the third inning, when Santos came in for his second run of the game. Senior Ben Gibson started off the fifth inning with a base hit and came around to score on an RBI single by Mike Young, which proved to be all the insurance that Pope John Paul would need.

“I felt pretty comfortable, my first couple at bats they were trying to pitch to me away -– nothing I could hit," Gibson said. "Then I had two strikes on me in that third at bat, I fought one off at two strikes and luckily it found its way through on the ground."

The Lions slammed the door shut from there, as Houlihan and the defense were untouchable the rest of the way– retiring the side in each inning after the third.

“Once you get a lead it’s so much easier to pitch with a lead so I give the credit to our lineup, and of course our fielding,” Houlihan said. “Our fielding is up there with the best in the state. We knew we had the caliber to compete in any division, and personally I think we could compete in any division state championship that was going on.”

A historic season: The Lions finish their season at 26-1, bringing home a state championship trophy in just the fourth year of the program. Pope John Paul was considered a serious contender to qualify for the inaugural Division 1A "Super 8" tournament, until a 5-2 loss to Barnstable in mid-May took them down a peg. Still, the Lions managed to get one vote in the first round of nominations at selection time, which has to be a considered a victory considering the school's status.

Despite the disappointment of not getting into the tournament, Santos reiterated to his team to control what they can control.

“They were disappointed, I told them ‘listen, to even be nominated is such an honor.’ We’ve got 135 boys in our school," Santos said. "They just looked at it like you know what? Now we have a chance to go out and win a state championship so let’s go do it. They worked so hard, they took it to another level when we got to the tournament -– their focus was just incredible. It was great to see, this is a great group of guys."

“I would credit this to our hard work and our work ethic,” Gibson said, “We work the hardest that I’ve ever seen, everyone’s doing what they have to do to be a better player – everyone has that ethic all the time.”

D3 State Final: Bellingham 11, Monument Mtn. 6

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Usually, a state final pits a team’s best against another team’s best. Both teams battle through tournament brackets to play for the state title, playing its best at the most opportune time.

Then there is a game like Saturday’s Division 3 State Baseball Final, which began the way neither wanted it to.

Monument Mountain put two runs on the board in the top of the first, but Bellingham came back in the bottom of the inning with five runs of its own. The Spartans scored three more in the top of the second to tie the score.

[+] EnlargeDavid Sampson
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comSouthern New Hampshire commit David Sampson struck out eight in five innings of relief for the Blackhawks.
The bats quieted over the next three innings until Bellingham exploded for five more in the fifth. In total, the Blackhawks touched Monument Mountain pitcher Peter Oggiani for 11 runs on its way to a 11-6 state championship victory.

“This feels absolutely amazing,” said Bellingham’s Kevin Martinis after the game. “Nine of us have been together since we were eight years old and we’ve won multiple championships, so we knew each other as a team. I just love being a leader on this team behind David Sampson. I just love playing behind him”

Sampson came on in relief for Bellingham in the third inning and shut down the Monument Mountain lineup. The Spartans had jumped on starter Connor Birch early and it appeared the game could have more of a football score than a baseball score. Sampson gave up only one run over the remaining five innings.

“That’s what he’s done all year,” said Bellingham coach T.J. Chiappone. “We knew we had that in our back pocket today. I give them credit, they hit Connor hard. We knew we had everyone in the bullpen today, but a lot of times I just think you need Dave. That’s what he’s done all year.”

Monument Mountain tried everything it could against Sampson, even stepping out of the batters box multiple times to try and disrupt the pace of the fast-working righty. They could only muster five hits over the remaining five innings.

“I noticed right away (they were stepping out a lot),” said Sampson. “I just stood there like, ‘Alright, let’s go. Let’s get in the box'.”

He struck out the side in the sixth inning, immediately after the Bellingham lineup put up five runs in the bottom of the fifth. No amount of stepping out of the batters box helped Monument Mountain.

“Every single batter that inning took their time getting in the box,” said Sampson. “I was just like okay, if you’re going to take your time, I’m just going to sit you down.”

Monument Mountain senior and Vassar College commit Bobby Kinne went 4-for-4 for the Spartans with one RBI and two runs scored.

Spartans coach Tom Hankey stuck with his starter, for better or worse, in the late innings. With one runner on and his team down 9-6, the coach walked to the mound to check on his starter. Brad Rebello had just tripled to plate the third run of the inning.

Hankey left Oggiani in the game, and he promptly gave up a two-run homer to Martinis. The senior jumped on a first-pitch fastball as it had for most of the game and launched it over the left field wall.

It was a suitable exclamation point on Bellingham’s season. For the first time in the school’s history, it is the Division 3 state baseball champion.

Sampson digs in: Saturday was Sampson’s second outing in a week. The senior righthander threw 119 pitches in Bellingham’s 2-1 extra-inning victory over North Reading in the Eastern Mass finals Tuesday. He threw 84 pitches Saturday, allowing only one run on five hits while striking out eight and walking only one batter.

“With the situation of the game and everything, I felt amazing coming into this game,” said the pitcher. “Just with the adrenaline rush, I knew I was going to go in there throwing hard and being able to throw strikes, and I just felt really good about this.”

Since Saturday was the last game of the season for both teams, Chiappone planned on having all hands on deck in his bullpen. He knew he was going to use Sampson at some point Saturday, but with Birch’s early struggles, he went to the Southern New Hampshire commit earlier than intended.

“Certainly we didn’t think we’d use him by the third inning, but he’s a horse,” said the coach. “He’s a big, strong kid and he throws a lot of fastballs. The three days rest thing made us nervous. He beat North Reading and didn’t have his best stuff, we think he was tiring and tiring, so we knew he couldn’t do seven innings. But we knew he had some left.”
For more tournament game information, visit

1. Acton-Boxborough (17-3)
2. Westford Academy (15-2)
3. Lincoln-Sudbury (13-6)
4. Masconomet (14-6)
5. Andover (14-6)
6. North Andover (14-6)
7. Reading (13-5)
8. St. John's Prep (8-10)
9. Lexington (11-6)
10. Billerica (11-9)
11. Central Catholic (13-6)
12. Salem (12-8)
13. Medford (11-9)
14. Cambridge (10-8)
15. Revere (9-7)

1. Duxbury (15-3)
2. Needham (16-2)
3. Xaverian (15-3)
4. Wellesley (14-4)
5. Bridgewater-Raynham (16-2)
6. BC High (10-8)
7. Franklin (14-5)
8. Catholic Memorial (10-8)
9. King Philip (16-4)
10. Dartmouth (14-5)
11. Framingham (12-6)
12. Barnstable (12-7)
13. Marshfield (11-8)
14. Braintree (11-7)
15. Newton North (10-7)
16. Natick (8-8)
17. Silver Lake (9-9)
For more tournament game information, visit

1. Melrose (15-3)
2. Wakefield (14-4)
3. Beverly (11-8)
4. Winchester (10-7)
5. Marblehead (11-7)
6. Danvers (10-8)
7. Tewksbury (13-7)
8. Malden Catholic (5-13)
9. Shawsheen Tech (9-9)

1. Hingham (15-5)
2. Sandwich (12-7)
3. Falmouth (13-5)
4. Scituate (10-10)
5. Norwood (8-10)
6. Quincy (10-8)
7. Apponequet (10-6)
8. Nauset (10-10)
9. Southeastern Reg (11-7)
10. Whitman-Hanson (10-10)

1. Medfield (18-2)
2. Wayland (14-5)
3. Concord-Carlisle (12-6)
4. Walpole (10-8)
5. Holliston (13-5)
6. Sharon (13-5)
7. Westwood (10-8)
8. North Attleborough (12-6)
9. Foxborough (11-9)

1. Longmeadow (19-1)
2. St. John's (17-1)
3. Shrewsbury (16-4)
4. Westfield (14-3)
5. Westboro (12-4)
6. Agawam (14-4)
7. Doherty (15-1)
8. Algonquin (12-8)
9. South Hadley (13-5)
10. Leominster (16-4)
11. Minnechaug (10-8)
12. Chicopee HS (14-2)
13. Wachusett (11-9)
14. Shepherd Hill (12-8)
15. Pittsfield (12-5)
16. Northampton (7-13)
17. Tantasqua (10-10)
18. Chicopee Comp (8-8)
For more tournament game information, visit

1. Newburyport (15-1)
2. Hamilton-Wenham (11-5)
3. Swampscott (13-4)
4. Pentucket (12-5)
5. North Reading (13-7)
6. Mystic Valley (15-3)
7. Whittier (14-6)
8. Triton (10-8)
9. Austin Prep (11-7)
10. Georgetown (7-11)
11. North Shore Tech (11-6)

1. Archbishop Williams (20-1)
2. Cohasset (15-4)
3. Hanover (12-4)
4. South Shore Voc (17-3)
5. Norwell (11-7)
6. Old Rochester (13-5)
7. Bishop Stang (13-5)
8. Upper Cape Tech (13-7)
9. Blue Hills Reg. (13-5)
10. Nantucket (13-7)
11. Marthas Vineyard (10-8)
12. Pope John Paul (10-9)
13. Tri-County RVT (9-9)
14. Sacred Heart (9-9)

1. Dover Sherborn (14-3)
2. Arlington Catholic (13-5)
3. Ashland (12-8)
4. Weston (11-7)
5. Tyngsboro (13-5)
6. Groton Dunstable (9-8)
7. Littleton (11-7)
8. Watertown (8-8)
9. Marian (11-7)
10. Hudson (9-9)
11. Bellingham (3-17)

1. Mt. Greylock (17-3)
2. Grafton (13-7)
3. Springfield Cathedral (11-7)
4. Blackstone Valley (11-6)
5. Belchertown (12-6)
6. Assabet Valley Tech (16-3)
7. Lee (10-5)
8. St. Bernards (12-8)
9. Wahconah (11-7)
BOSTON -- Greg Story has the highlights from the first three games of Sunday's MIAA hockey championships at TD Garden.

In the early action, Westwood girls claimed their first Division 2 state title with a win over Wellesley. North champion Reading knocked off Braintree in the Division 1 boys' state championship, while Shrewsbury rolled over Hanover in the Div. 3 final.

ESPN Boston High Schools editor Scott Barboza joined in with analysis from each game in this segment:

(Video produced by Greg Story)

D2 state final: Beverly 2, Medfield 1

March, 17, 2014
Mar 17

BOSTON – After years of coming up short, Beverly won its first state hockey title with an intense, physical 2-1 win over Medfield in the Division 2 boys final last night at TD Garden.

The game-winner came just more than two minutes into the third period as legs and sticks hacked at the puck before Connor Irving eventually put the puck in the back of the net.

“I have no idea what happened on my goal,” Irving said. “It wasn't intended to be a shot. I think it went off a kid's skate and went in.”

No title comes easy and Medfield played as close to flawless as it could. Beverly, which had averaged 30 shots in it's previous three playoff games, was held to just 16 by a Warrior defense that showed no fear and took the body when it could.

The unit, led by Matt Crowell and Will Murphy, collapsed in between the circles on the defensive end and forced Beverly to the outside.

“They stepped up at the blue line because they're defensemen didn't back up on us,” Irving said. “A couple of times I wanted to get going and I looked up and both their defensemen were stepped up. I couldn't go wide on them, and they back-checked really well.”

Beverly's speed, which torched Tewksbury for nine goals in the North final, was neutralized by a full-on defensive lockdown by the Warriors who made the Panthers work for every inch.

“It was a matter of our forwards doing a good job of back-checking,” Medfield coach Toby Carlow said. “A good team like them if you let them skate they're going to make you pay so we stayed up high in the neutral zone and slow them down before they can get moving.”

Eventually the Panthers broke through when Matt Hamor deflected home a shot to put Beverly ahead early in the second. While the largely pro-Beverly crowd celebrated the Warriors responded on the next shift when Justin Hirschfeld shoved home the equalizer less than 30 seconds later.

Hirschfeld buzzed around the sheet for the Warriors for all 45 minutes and made life difficult for the Beverly defense. For Beverly though, its ultimate defense was Tim Birarelli.

The junior goaltender turned aside 16 shots in the win and captained a defense that was able to contain and curtail the Warriors just enough.

“I have a really good communication with my defense where they can force them wide and force them to shoot too,” Birarelli said. “When they forced them to shoot from the outside it was easy for me.”

The loss marks the end of Hirschfeld's Medfield career that saw him help pilot the team in its first season in Division 2 to the brink of a state title.

“I just want to thank every one on my team for making my best year,” Hirschfeld said. “I'll never forget this season.”

In the moment, Carlow was disappointed, but he said that he could not have asked for a better year for the Warriors.

“Our goal is always to be here but you've got to work to get here,” Carlow said. “These guys did that and that is why it is a successful season. Sure, we came up short today, but it's a successful season because we got here and they did the work and they committed themselves to getting here.”

PLAYING FOR PETE: Under their cream and cocoa colored jerseys, and underneath their pads, the Beverly players wore red undershirts with the name “Frates” on the back. The shirts were a gift from, and to honor, Peter Frates.

Frates, a Beverly native and former captain of the Boston College baseball team, was diagnosed with ALS two years ago and helped to motivate the Panthers this season.

“Last year Pete came to talk to us and he's such an inspiration,” Irving said. “Pete's such a good guy and he's going through such a tough thing. I have the utmost respect for Pete. It was so cool to see him here.

“I wear the same Under Armour [undershirt] and it's really hot in this building so I threw [Pete's shirt] on in the third. So I'm going to give Pete all the credit on the third-period goal.”

The Panthers have felt and dealt with their share of adversity off the ice in recent years. Beverly head coach Bob Gilligan recently battled non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Birarelli's father is engaged in a battle with liver cancer.

For Birarelli to wear the ribbon-clad shirt given to the team by Frates had an extra personal meaning.

“It's definitely special with everything going in the community -- my dad, Mr. Frates, Coach Gilligan himself,” Birarelli said. “It's good to win it for them. All this hard work paid off.

“I think it's so special that we can play for these guys and we got the desired result that they wanted. Obviously, wearing Pete's shirt under my stuff tonight was special. When I knew putting it on that it would be a special night.”

Gilligan, who lives a few houses down from Frates said he and the team admired him for how he has battled the disease..

“Peter is fighting it really hard,” Gilligan said. “They really admire his courage and the strength to go forward.”

D1 girls final: Duxbury 2, Arlington Catholic 1

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16

BOSTON — Midway through the third period of the Division 1 girls’ state final game at TD Garden, the Cougars of Arlington Catholic tied the game at one and appeared to seize the momentum.

However, there is a reason the Duxbury Dragons had won three consecutive state championships coming into the game.

Just 11 seconds after AC tied the game at one, junior Marissa Fichter pounced on a Julia Nolan face-off win and fired a blast past Cougars goalie Katherine Crane for the eventual game winner in Duxbury’s 2-1 victory.

“It is a lot of credit to my center Julia Nolan,” said Fichter. “We practice it all the time and scored on it once before in a game. I would like to say I was picking a spot but I just fired it towards the net and it went in.”

It is the fourth straight championship for the Dragons, their first in Division I, after being moved up from Division II this season.

“This team was not going to be denied,” said Duxbury head coach Friend Weiler. “It was a complete team effort. This team just worked so hard and never gave up. The girls just wanted it today.”

After a relatively quiet first two periods, things opened up in the third period, specifically for Duxbury who got on the board just 40 seconds into the final stanza.

On the first shift of the third period, Dragons junior forward Jane Dudley crashed hard into the end boards but later in the shift, she exacted her revenge.

Collecting a loose puck near center ice, Dudley broke down the left wing with an AC defender draped on her, but Dudley stayed strong on the puck and cut to the middle firing a low, hard shot through the legs of Crane for a 1-0 lead.

“Jane [Dudley] has been on fire for the entire playoff run,” said Weiler. “She is a fierce competitor and today when we needed her at the biggest time, she came through. She had kind of been pushed to the outside and I was trying to get her to get her to lower the shoulder and cut it to the middle and she did today.”

The Cougars would not go quietly and despite having many good chances on Duxbury goalie Rachel Myette, they finally broke through with 6:59 left in the third period.

After some hard work behind the net by senior Danielle Kelley, the puck squirted in front to Jackie Sindoris who tucked a nifty back-hand pass to Kelley who beat Myette high to tie the game at one.

The celebration was short lived as Fichter provided the game winner just seconds later, leaving the Cougars stunned, and unable to rally in the final minutes.

“We didn’t play our style of hockey the first two periods I felt,” said Cougars head coach Maggie Taverna. “Danielle [Kelley] came up with a huge goal for us and then they got a quick goal back. It was a good game. Duxbury is a great team and has a great goaltender.”

OH MY-ETTE: Midway through the third period, Duxbury senior goalie Rachel Myette proved that she was human, after allowing a goal to tie the game at one.

The goal was noteworthy because it was the first she had let up the entire postseason.

In fact, Myette went through all of last postseason not allowing a goal. You have to go back to the 2011-12 final against Falmouth to find the last time she allowed a postseason goal before today’s final which locked up her fourth individual championship.

“I don’t think it is real at all right now and I feel like I am in a dream,” said Myette. “It is real and it is an insane feeling that I can’t describe. To end my senior year like this is just insane.”

Despite allowing the tying goal, Myette’s confidence never wavered.

“My team is a third period team and we have shown that we have the heart in us to dig down deep,” added Myette. “It was really important to get on them and destroy their momentum after their goal.”

As the final seconds ticked down, the Cougars had a last ditch effort as snipers Jess Piracini and Adrieanna Rossini bore down on a two-on-one. The Duxbury defender played the pass, allowing Myette to play the shooter, and flash a pad to deny Piracini with five seconds left, putting a stamp on a remarkable career.

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: For Arlington Catholic, the sting of losing consecutive state title games will take some time to wear off.

However, they will return their three top scorers in Rossini, Piracini, and Sindoris as well as their group of four talented defensemen.

Goaltender Katherine Crane also returns but recall that she was a first-year goalie this year, so the future is sure to be bright for the Lady Cougars so don’t rule out a potential return trip to the Garden next year.

“We do have a lot of good kids coming back,” added Taverna. “We had a great year this year and the kids were very successful early on and into the rest of the season.”

Super 8 final: Malden Catholic 5, Austin Prep 3

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16

BOSTON – Wash, rinse, repeat.

A four-goal second period, including three goals in a 2:50 span, powered Malden Catholic to a 5-3 win over Austin Prep and its fourth straight Division 1A championship at TD Garden.

The Lancers opened the scoring in the final minute of the first period when Tyler Sifferlen put home the first of his two goals. MC put on the burners in the second, jumping out to a 4-0 lead before AP's Cam Russo responded to make it 4-1.

Sifferlen's second goal with just under two period left in the second made it 5-1 at the break.

The five goals scored by the Lancers was the most in a Super 8 final since Catholic Memorial scored five on Burlington in the 2009 championship game.

“I think we came out and were ready to go right off the bat,” Malden Catholic's Ara Nazarian said. “We shut down Twitter for the whole Super 8 [tournament]. We see all the stuff on social media and it gets us fired up. They got a goal on the first shift last year and we weren't going to let that happen this year. They're a good team, worked hard; it was a good, hard battle.”

Battle back the Cougars did. AP outshot the Lancers 7-5 in the third period and blitzed the Malden defense. Bobo Carpenter scored a pair of goals midway through the third to give the Cougars a renewed sense of energy.

Mike Egan had a point-blank chance to make it a one-goal with four minutes but was unable to corral a pass.

“It just makes you think you could do something more to get the team going,” Carpenter said. “I know my team gave it their all; that's all I could ask for. Great season with the team and I loved every second of it.”

AP's swoon lasted for only five minutes, but the damage was done.

“I thought we played pretty well in the first period except for that goal,” AP head coach Louis Finocchario said. “For whatever reason, all year long, we've had four or five minutes in the second where we just totally collapse. Against a good team like that you can't do that. They're talented. We needed to keep the game closer than that.”

For Nazarian, and the Lancers, the feeling of victory remains sweet no matter how times MC experiences it.

“It feels the same as the other three years; it's a feeling you never get sick of,” Nazarian said. “You strive for that feeling and once that buzzer rings, and you realize you won the game, it's a special feeling. Especially after the past three years, it's been a special three years I've been a part of. I wouldn't choose another bunch of boys to play with.”

THREE AMIGOS: The Lancers first line of Jake Witkowski, Nazarian, and Sifferlen combined for eight of Malden Catholic's 14 points. Sifferlen had the Lancers' first and fifth goals.

“I take that [it's] three great players who put aside their egos and individual abilities to put team goals first,” Malden Catholic coach John MacLean said. “That's what helps us win. Ara's a great player, Siff's a great player, Jake's a great player, but they play as a unit most of the time. When they do it works.”

Witkowski shined with three assists, including the primary on the Lancers' third and fifth goals. Nazarian scored a goal and added a pair of assists.

“[Witkowski's] an outstanding player, very skilled, very smart,” MacLean said. “They're a great combo line. I thought they had some pretty tic-tac-toe goals tonight, but what matters to me is they played defense at the end when it mattered and that's what got us the win.”

While Witkowski had only nine goals this season, his 21 assists and soft hands made him an X-factor when he was on the ice.

“He's a great player,” Sifferlen said. “He's got good hands and good eye coordination. He's a good help with this team and this line. He's a good player.”

For the line, which combined for 131 points this season, Sunday was its last hurrah. Sifferlen will graduate in June and go on to play at UMass-Lowell.

Nazarian said he'll always remember his time alongside Sifferlen and Witkowski.

“It's a great feeling with Siffy,” Nazarian said. “I've been playing with Siff since freshman year, and Jake fit right in with us. His hands are ridiculous. I think we work hard in practice and are really quick out on the ice.”

RIDING THE WAVE: AP was a piecemeal team for much of the season. As injuries piled up, Finocchario was constantly tasked with assembling new lines and putting new faces in new places.

After a 1-1-2 stretch at the start of February, the Cougars finally returned to full strength, thanks in part to the return of Eric MacAdams, and rattled off eight straight wins to get to yesterday's title game.

“Obviously there's nothing you could say right now that's going to please any of us, but we had a lot of adversity this year,” Finocchario said. “We had guys chip in all season long and fill in when guys were out. Everyone did a nice job at one point or another throughout the season. A lot of kids were proud to be here, but our goal was to go out there and win.”

AP should return all but two players from this year's squad including eight of their nine double-digit points scorers.

“We had a lot of injuries, a lot of differentiation you could say,” Carpenter said. “We just came together at the end of the season; it was a blast no matter what. Big family now. We'll be there for each other for years to come.”

D3 boys final: Shrewsbury 7, Hanover 1

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16

BOSTON – Midway through the season, Shrewsbury coach Steve Turnblom moved sophomore Matt Dillon from the blue line to first-line forward.

That move has paid off all season long for the Colonials and Sunday was no different as Dillon scored a goal and registered five assists in Shrewsbury’s 7-1 win over Hanover in the Div. 3 state title game.

“A big game like that, having seven goals up on the board it means a lot to put up points like that but at the same time you have to worry about the team accomplishment more than that,” Dillon said.

After the game, Turnblom had nothing put praise for his sophomore forward.

“He’s just an incredibly talented kid who moves the puck, great talent and great vision,” Turnblom said. “He’s been doing it all year long and leads the Central Mass in scoring.”

Dillon is just one example of many who have bought into the pass-first offense that Turnblom runs. Hanover had no answer for the Colonials crisp and fluid passing game, showcased by their huge advantage in shots on net. Shrewsbury opened up by outshooting the Indians 18-5 in the opening period and 35-14 in the game.

“We make them pass, you don’t come back from the first half of the year if you don’t pass the puck,” Turnblom said. “Setting everyone up, that’s key getting, assists and playing the game property. If you want to play past high school that’s how you have to play.”

Despite the heavy barrage of shots in the opening stanza, it was Hanover the opened up the scoring. At 5:26 of the period, Landon Hasenfuss rifled a shot on net on a 2-on-1 rush that was stopped by William Shipman. But Matt McDougall was there for the rebound, which hardly squeaked past the goal line before it was cleared out by a defender.

“Nothing worse than when you are dominating at the other end, getting a lot of shots and chances and they get a breakout and score at the other end,” Turnblom said.

For the remaining 40 minutes of regulation however, it was all Shrewsbury.

Five minutes after the opening tally, the Colonials lightning-quick offense struck twice. The first came from Dan Quinlivan who was fed a beautiful backhanded pass through the crease form Dillon for the easy goal. Fifty-four seconds later, Cole Vincequere picked the top-right corner from the right point to give Shrewsbury an all-of-a-sudden 2-1 lead.

But the back-breaker came with what looked like no time left on the clock.

Shrewsbury broke out with a 2-on-1 rush with Dillon feeding Jack Quinlivan for the goal with no time left on the clock.

After a conference with the goal judge, the goal was allowed and one second was put back on the clock as Shrewsbury skated to the locker room with a 3-1.

“What happened is they are a hell of a hockey team, they could be a Division 1 team,” said Hanover coach Jonny Abban. “We came out slow. To get this far in the tournament you need to bring your ‘A’ game every shift and we took some shifts off and we paid for it.”

The rout is on: The Colonials wasted no time in the second period, as just 31 seconds into the period, Dave Belbin picked the top-left corner from the left dot.
All the bounces went Shrewsbury’s for the rest of the game. Five minuats later it was Dillon’s turn to score a goal when his shot got from below the dot got a fortuitous bounce, deflecting off a Hanover skate and in.

Jack Quinlivan and Matt Ward added two more goals as the Colonials coasted the remainder of the game to capture the Div. 3 title.

“It’s awesome,” said Turnblom. “To see these kids that I’ve had since they were freshman and to get a shot to come here and win it was huge I’m very happy for them.”

Something has to give: Entering Sunday’s title game, the two teams were on a combined 18 game win streak. Shrewsbury was dismantling any team that stood in their way while the Indians coasted through the Div. 3 South.

But when the two teams took the ice, it was apparent that Shrewsbury was the faster team.

In the beginning of the year, coach knew a lot of hype was around this team but we hadn’t done anything yet and had the whole season to go,” senior defensemen Cole Vincequere said. “To really make a difference we had to bring home a medal.”

D3A final: North Middlesex 12, Wahconah 0

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The end of the first period told the story. Wahconah skated off the ice towards their dressing room looking like a team thoroughly dejected, dazed and beaten.

Not even the Warriors could have expected the blitzkrieg they endured during the first period when North Middlesex scored twice in the opening minute and added three more markers before the frame came to close en route to a 12-0 blowout in the Division 3A state final played at MassMutual Center Thursday night.

It was the team's 11th straight victory on the season.

The state crown marks the third for the Patriots. They won championships as a Division 3 program in 1995 and 1998.

Not in a million years did I think we would come out 12-0," said senior defenseman P.J. Dupre. "I thought it would be a 2-1 game right to the end. We just came out on fire and they couldn't keep up with us. Scoring two goals in the first minute of a game is certainly a crushing feeling for the other team. We weren't going to stop from there because we knew that team came back from a three-goal deficit in the Western Mass. final against Chicopee."

Any drama in this one disappeared early. Dan McNamara, a senior forward, led North Middlesex (19-3-2) with four goals and an assist. It was the first four goal game of his career.

"This feels good," McNamara said. "Especially for all of the seniors who have worked very hard the last four years to attain this. It's been a long journey. We got dropped down a division which kind of helped us a little bit and I feel we have improved a lot since then. Tonight we wanted to establish our fore-check early and set the tone for the rest of the game. That's been the best part of our game all year."

The offensive explosion began just 19 seconds into this contest after Ryan McCarthy lit the lamp with a shot from the right circle that caromed off the shaft of Wahconah senior starting goalie Stedman Roger, over his right shoulder and across the goal line. Just 20 seconds later, McNamara bagged his first, pushing a rebound underneath a sprawled out Stedman.

The Patriots increased the lead to 3-0 at 2:21. P.J. Dupre unleashed a shot from the right circle that bounced off of Steadman's chest and then ricochet off of a streaking Brian Walter from the left slot. Things only worsened for the Warriors (16-7-1) soon after. Devin Blanchard ripped a shot into the back of net at 4:10 to end Steadman's evening, replaced by sophomore Nico Romano. But even with the chance in net, the results remained the same.

Dylan Connor gained control of a rebound out front and backhanded a shot over Romano's right shoulder at make it a five-goal affair. As the final minutes ticked off the clock to finally close out the frame, that would prove to be the only saving grace for Wahconah by this point. The Warriors had won their last 13 contest coming in.
Yet it is hard to fathom a championship game being so one-sided but the Patriots proved otherwise. Any chance for the Warriors (playing in its first state hockey championship) to shake off the disastrous first period and try and regroup would prove futile. The Patriots came out continued their offensive mockery in the second period. McNamara found the back of the net twice within a span of 30 seconds to make it a 7-0 advantage. He would add his fourth score at 5:38 of the third.

Less than two minutes later, Mike Carson scored North Middlesex's eight goal with a blast from the right perimeter. Through 30 minutes, the Patriots held a distinctive 26-6 shots on goal advantage.

Down by so many, Wahconah never mustered any kind of serviceable threat inside the Patriots zone. They were to busy chasing down the North Middlesex forwards who were sprinting with the puck down the other end of the ice.

Besides McNamara tallying in the fourth in the third, McCarthy scored another as did Connor. Donnie Frederick finished things off with a late score. The Patriots finished with 38 shots to the Warriors' 14.

"I didn't expect this,'' North Middlesex head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I saw Wahconah last week in a game that was incredible in which they were down 6-3 going into the third period and came back to win it. They really have a good team but our strength in the corners was really the difference because we were able to win battles out of the corners.

“Hats off to Wahconah for a fantastic season. When you lose I know you don't want to hear anything but they had a great season. Tonight they just ran into a team that was hot and have been that way for a while now."

D3 state semifinal: Shrewsbury 6, Westfield 0

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- If you had told the Shrewsbury hockey team prior to Thursday night's Division 3 state semifinal against Westfield that they would hardly break a sweat and display pure dominance, no one would have believed it.

The Colonials dominated play from start to finish, rolling to a 6-0 victory over the defending state champions at MassMutual Center.

"To be honest we didn't think it was going to be a shootout like that," said senior Dave Belbin, who scored a goal and added an assist. "It was only 2-0 us going into the third period and that's the kind of game we expected. Their goalie stood on his head to keep them in it but ours did too. It's been a long journey for us but all of us have worked hard and it's starting to pay off."

Shrewsbury (20-2-1) advances to Sunday's state final against Hanover (18-7-0) at TD Garden beginning at 11. The Colonials won state crowns in 2009 and 1999.

Leading by a pair after 30 minutes, Shrewsbury left no doubt in this one scoring four times in the final frame. Sean Hallice scored at 5:11 to make it 3-0 by rushing hard toward the net, taking a clean pass from Jack Quinivan, and sending a quick wrist shot by Matt Blascak (29 saves). Less than a minute later, Trevor Shea notched his second of the evening with a rebound goal off an initial shot from Belbin.

"That team was just to much for us," said Bombers head coach C.B. Matthews, Jr., his team finishing the year at 16-6-3. "They had four lines that could come at us. We just couldn't contain them. They are one of the best team's we've played for sure. Our goalie kept us in it early but they eventually just wore us down."

Dan Quinlivan and brother Jack closed out the scoring with two more tallies coming at 10:23 and 13:29, respectively. Shrewsbury netminder William Shipman earned the shutout, stopping all 10 shots he faced.

"We wanted to start this game off really tough," said Hallace. "We wanted to keep attacking and not let go. We played well but I thought we could play better. We just shooting the puck on net. Once we got the third goal went in things started to go our way more. Now we get ready for Sunday. "

The Colonials offense set the precedent early, skating circles around the Bombers throughout the opening 15 minutes. Westfield did a lot of standing around, watching Shrewsbury controlling the action mostly inside its own zone.

Blascak was doing a superb job bailing his team out early and often as Shrewsbury peppered the senior consistently but had nothing to show for it.
With all the attempts on net in the frame (12 total), you had to figure it was just a matter of time before one found the back of the net for the Colonials. At 10:58, it did. Jack Quinlivan, standing along the left half board, wired a pass to Dave Belbin in front of the crease. The senior controlled the pass and sent a quick wrister past Blascak giving Shrewsbury a 1-0 lead.

The scenario remained the same for the Colonials in the middle period. Westfield seemed sluggish and wasn't going after the puck with the same tenacity as Shrewsbury was. In fact, on several occasions, the Bombers appeared content in waiting for the puck to come to them. The Colonials, on the other hand, weren't waiting around, often picking off Bomber passes in the lanes.

Shrewsbury extended its lead to two goals at 6:03 of the period when Trevor O'Keefe, skating into the left slot untouched, took a diagonal feed from Shea and poked it past Blascak stick side. Westfield's non-existent offense managed its first shot in the period with 2:39 remaining.

"For the last three-and-a-half months this team has been working very hard and it's all starting to pay off now," Colonials head coach Steve Turnblom said. "Once we got our legs we started moving the puck fast. That's our game. We were able to get a couple of the net and it took off from there. We've been a tough team to play against once we get a lead because of our puck possession. We don't give away the puck much."