Boston High School: Nicole Maher
December, 30, 2011
By Bruce Lerch | ESPNBoston.com
BURLINGTON, Mass. -- The postgame waffles and chocolate milk that Arlington Catholic's Natalie Flynn planned to enjoy following a rare Friday morning faceoff likely went down pretty good after her performance and that of her team.
The senior forward potted a pair of goals and added an assist to propel the seventh-ranked Cougars to a 3-1 victory over No. 6 Lexington yesterday at the Burlington Ice Palace.
"We were hustling for every 50-50 puck and I think that really helped us a lot," Flynn said. "We were really working in our D zone, covering in front of the net."
She added, "This is what we were hoping for. Our coach gave us a curfew last night and we had an eight o'clock practice last night so I think we were focused. We came ready to play this morning."
That AC (6-0-0) was ready to play was evident from the opening faceoff, and Flynn put action behind those words in the opening minutes, taking a loose puck off the boards and walking in on Lexington goalie Amanda Charlton for the game's first goal.
Flynn picked up a helper on the Cougars second score, taking a pass behind the net from Katie Waitt (two assists) and quickly finding Jessica Piracini out front for a one-timer with 1:36 left in the opening frame. She added her second tally at 7:26 of the second period, taking a pass from Waitt on the right wing and firing a wrist shot inside the far post.
"From last year to this year she has gotten tremendously better," said AC coach Maggie Taverna in praise of Flynn. "Last summer she did a camp over in Bedford and I think that really helped her game. She was on the ice three times a week and it really improved her speed and her shot and stickhandling. She's just a good player and extremely talented. She's an athlete. She's the best at soccer, the best at lacrosse and the best hockey at the school. She's just an all around athlete."
SEVERAL KEYS TO COUGARS SUCCESS
Since winning the Div. 1 state championship in 2007, it's been a bit of a rough go for Arlington Catholic in recent years. The Cougars suffered three straight first round exits from the postseason and then failed to qualify a year ago, running through several coaches in the process.
This season marks year two of Taverna's tenure, and the fact that AC is off to a 6-0 start and back in the thick of things among the state's elite programs is no coincidence. The stability and confidence of players knowing their coach and a coach knowing her players has played an integral role thus far.
"I think its definitely a change for us having a coach for two years in a row," Flynn said. "It's definitely helping us out this year. Thats why we're doing so well. We have our coach, we know what she's like and she knows us so its definitely helping us out."
Another big reason is the arrival of Messuri between the pipes. A sophomore who transferred into Arlington Catholic from the Southfield School, Messuri is armed with quickness in the crease and an uncanny, reflexive ability to snap herself into position to see shots clearly, and finished with 19 saves against the Minutemaids.
"This is her first year at AC, she transferred from Southfield," said Taverna of her goalie. "It's been great to have her because she's solid. A kid will shoot the puck and Im like, Oh Megan's got it, in my head beforehand. She always stops the first shot Very rarely is there a shot that goes in on her.
BUILD OFF THE FINISH
Lexington has been regarded as one of the state's premier programs for years and this season is no different. Under coach Mandy Ciarletta, also in her second year, the Minutemaids have shown a willingness to schedule games against the upper echelon opponents that wasn't always there in previous seasons.
Friday's matchup with AC was the first of those big games, and while it took a while to find a groove, Lexington finally got itself going with an inspired final 15 minutes. Senior forward Nicole Maher broke up Messuri's shutout bid with a third-period tally, and Lexington had several other good scoring opportunities that might have beaten a lesser netminder.
"This was our first team that we've played that brought the game to a higher level for us," Ciarletta admitted afterward. "I think it was a little bit of an adjustment for us and I was proud that we did adjust coming out in the third. My team that came out for the third was totally different than for the first two periods, which was good. It shows that the kids are working hard and can adjust on the fly like that."