Boston High School: Rebecca Zappala

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.

D1 Girls: Arlington Catholic 3, Braintree 2 (OT)

March, 11, 2012

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.”