Boston High School: Bob MacCurtain

Recap: No. 7 Woburn 0, No. 16 Hingham 0

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
HINGHAM, Mass. -- Tuesday's tilt between Woburn and host Hingham at the Hingham Hockey Showcase was a strange, sloppy affair.

Passes went awry, opportunities were missed, and the energy was up and down. The final product was a 0-0 tie and a 1-1 shootout tie afterward.

After the game, both coaches had very different views of the preceding affair.

“I'm just unhappy,” Woburn coach Bob MacCurtain said. “We left our legs in Woburn. We couldn't complete passes, feet weren't moving. Overall, just not good.

“I think that our kids need to take a look at this, take a step back, and decide they want to be better than that.”

“It was a fun game to part of,”Hingham head coach Tom Findley said. “I thought the team played fantastic. That's us in a nutshell. It's hard for us to score goals sometimes, but our kids compete every minute of the game. Today I think was a good learning curve for us and they can get prepared for the tournament. That was a great team we played.”

Woburn outshot the Harborwomen 17-14 ,but were unable to finish despite having the preponderance of chances. Hingham's Taylor Walsh and Courtney Davis were the stars of the game.

For Walsh it was more than just the saves as her positioning forced Woburn several times to adjust before taking a shot off the rebound which allowed the Hingham defense to clear the puck out of danger. Hingham was able to turn those clearances into sustained possessions and keep the Tanners off balance.

“We didn't lose a lot of pucks between the tops of the faceoff circle in our defensive zone and the red line,” Findley said. “When you turnover pucks in that area they're either in your net or odd man rushes back the other way. We were able to get pucks out, make some decent passes, and get pucks deep.”

The lone offensive highlight came in the shootout when Hingham's Catherine Linehan pulled the puck back on a dangle, faked Davis out of position, and calmly slid the puck into the net.

Hannah Sullivan had the shootout goal for Woburn.

D1 girls: St. Mary's 3, Woburn 2 (SO)

March, 11, 2013

BILLERICA, Mass. -- After three regulations frames and an overtime, Ashley Wojewodzic sat on the bench watching shooter after shooter take to the ice as her St. Mary's teammates engaged in an epic shootout with Woburn for the right to play for a Div. 1 state championship next Sunday at TD Garden.

The eighth-grade defenseman hadn't taken a shift all night but wasn't worried, figuring with all the talent on the two teams, someone in the first five shooters would score a goal. Spartans goalie Lauren Skinnion and Tanners netminder Courtney Davis felt otherwise, however, as they took turns snapping off every shot, every deke and snagging every puck that came their way.

Finally, after nine players had taken a turn, St. Mary's coach Frank Pagliuca looked down the bench and called for 'Wojo' to get out there. With the huge crowd hanging on every move, the youngster was rightfully nervous. She was the last Spartans shooter before the lineup went back to the top and the game would be decided by the multitude of all-stars on each roster.

After a word of encouragement from fellow defenseman Amanda Donahoe, Wojewodzic went to center ice, skated in drifting to her right, pulling Davis over in the process, then slipped the puck right between the pads for the first goal of the shootout. Woburn's Shannon Walsh had one last chance to extend it but her shot hit the post and the Spartans poured onto the ice to celebrate.

"I didn't expect it at all," Wojewodzic said of hearing her name called. "I thought one of the first five shooters were going to get it in and it just kept going and going and going. Then I heard [Pagliuca] call my name and my eyes went open and he just looked at me and told me to go and I was really nervous.

She added, "I was just a little nervous. It was nervewracking getting out in front of everybody that was here because there were so any people out here. Everyone was watching me, it was scary."

Nerves or not, the eighth-grade defensemen came off the bench cold and sent her team back to TD Garden to play for the Div. 1 girls hockey state championship for the fifth time in the last six years with a 3-2 victory over No. 1 seed Woburn.

"Every team practices the shootout," Pagliuca said. "We kind of knew our list, 1-10, what we were going to do, we were just trying to figure out the order that we wanted to go in. Congrats to Ashley, she came up and pulled a great move. We told the kids to look five-hole, Ashley got her to open up and finished the job."

That overtime or a shootout was even needed to decide a winner is a story unto itself. St. Mary's (18-3-4) had built a 2-0 lead on goals by freshman blueliner Vanessa Van Buskirk and senior forward Gabby Crugnale, the latter coming off an end to end rush that saw her stick a shot so perfect that Davis' water bottle went flying off the net behind her at 9:13 of the second period.

The Tanners got the first one back when Emily Lissner pounced on a bad giveaway in the Spartans zone and passed over to Ashley Moran, who fed Kayla Smith for an easy one-timer just 1:44 later.

Both Davis (19 saves) and Skinnion (27 saves) kept their respective cages clean until the final 91 seconds when Smith was the beneficiary of a fortuitous deflection off a Spartan defender. The puck landed right on her stick and Smith buried it to tie the game at 2-2.

St. Mary's needed just 20 seconds to pull back in front as Kaleigh Finigan, playing her first game in four weeks after missing time with a shoulder injury, got the puck to Crugnale, who poked it to Alison Butler for the finish.

Rather than fold up the tent, the Tanners showed their heart and tied it up once again as Erica Lissner sniped a perfect shot from the left-wing circle with just 33 seconds remaining to force the overtime.

"I was really proud of the fact that we stuck with it, didn't get too panicked," praised Woburn coach Bob MacCurtain. "I'm really proud of the kids. It was crazy. Coaches nightmare, probably the fans like it. In a tournament game this tight, there's a lot of momentum shifts and fortunately we were able to get the last one to send it into overtime."

During the first game of the season-ending 8 Showcase in Hingham, Kaleigh Finigan suffered a shoulder injury that ended up being diagnosed as an elevated clavicle. A stalwart on the Spartans top line since transferring in from Austin Prep two years ago, Finigan has provided St. Mary's with the combination of tremendous skill and a physical presence that no other player in the state quite possesses.

The senior sat out the final regular season game and all of the postseason. She dressed for the Spartans last game against Austin Prep but did not play. Finigan got an assist on the Spartans last goal in regulation and her return helped bring an edge back to the team on the ice.

"Kaleigh gave us kind of an adrenaline shot today, getting her back in the lineup," Pagliuca said. "That physical presence we've been missing the last couple of games. She wasn't 100 percent but she sucked it up and came back for us and have us a huge lift."

A potential Div. 1 scholarship softball player, Finigan had plenty of reason to take it easy but that simply isn't in her makeup. Missing out on another chance to make a run at state title? Not going to happen.

"I told my team, get me back to the semis and I'm going to play for you guys," Finigan said. "They played for me the whole time and I wanted to get back and help them win. I want those young girls to feel how we felt last year. I want them to know what the playoffs is. This is the best time of the year."

It has become almost a rite of passage every March that the shootout rears its ugly head during the girls Div. 1 postseason. Since 2007, there have been at least two games decided by shootouts in each year except 2010, when there was only one.

St. Mary's has been involved in three, winning two, and Pagliuca has been outspoken each year against the format. The coach was a bit more understated this time, but his point was made clear.

"You know, we've been on the other side of those," he said. "I hate shootouts. It shouldn't be allowed but it is what it is. Unfortunately in that situation somebody has to lose the game."

MacCurtain's teams have been involved in four shootouts since 2007, splitting those games. He refused to make any excuses, but his thoughts on the subject were made pretty clear as well.

"It just makes a team sport an individual sport," the Woburn coach stated. "I'm not complaining because we knew what it was going in but it's a tough way to end the season."

MacCurtain added, "As you're watching, I think from a coach's perspective I was glad I had Courtney in my net, I felt confident. With some of the kids we had shooting I thought we would get one but I just think the team aspect gets taken away from it."

Skinnion, who made 10 stops in the shootout on top of her 27 saves in the game, said, "I would rather have it play out just because I don't want to win a game because someone got a lucky shot. I want to win by playing the game. But its what we have to do."

Spartans standout Alison Butler may have summed up the way the players and coaches on the bench feel about shootouts, simply stating, "I hate them. I think I was going to have a heart attack."

D1 girls: Woburn 3, Billerica 2

March, 5, 2013

STONEHAM, Mass. -- Emily Lissner has proven to be more than just a complementary piece on Woburn's top line. She's shown that she is a perfect fit as someone who can be the focal point of the game-plan as well.

Lissner struck for three goals and linemates Kayla Smith and Ashley Moran each recorded assists on two of them as the to-ranked Tanners advanced to the Div. 1 semifinals with a 3-2 victory over No. 9 Billerica last night at Stoneham Arena.

Woburn (19-0-3) takes on nonleague rival and No. 4 seed St. Mary's in Saturday's semifinal round.

"Emily [Lissner] has turned into a big-time player," Woburn head coach Bob MacCurtain said. "To watch her develop since grade nine has been pretty fun. From a coaching perspective, she's been terrific. She had a great night tonight. Sometimes I think the other two [Smith and Moran] get a lot of the attention on that first line, but she's every bit as smart as either one of them."

One thing is for certain, the three talented Tanner forwards have clicked together as a unit. Despite Billerica (16-6-1) grabbing the early courtesy of standout Christie Caliendo, Woburn was able to quickly assume command and maintain it through the remainder of the game.

Lissner got her first goal thanks to a terrific feed from Smith behind the Indians net, and Lissner was able to stick the one-timer home despite having a pair of defenders draped across her back. In the second period, the junior got the go-ahead goal after Smith and Moran cycled the puck in her direction, and then added a power play goal off another feed from Moran at 6:40.

"We've been playing together all fall and summer and we've finally hit a point where we don't have those kids of miustakes," Lissner said of her emergence on the Tanners' top line. "In the fall, we were still trying to figure each other out so I think we got those games out of the way before we got here. Now, after 22 games, we don't have those mistakes any more that we used to make. I think it's working well."

Billerica's freshman goalie Amanda Burns may have been the co-star of the game, keeping her team close and making a number of spectacular stops among her 30 saves. The Indians did manage to get one late as Rachel Peacock pushed one through a scramble with 26 seconds left, but the Tanners were able to hold on.

The 8: No. 1 Woburn wraps up unbeaten season

February, 21, 2013
HINGHAM, Mass. -- The Woburn girls’ hockey team is a team on a mission.

A five-point night from junior center Emily Lissner helped the No. 1 Tanners complete their first undefeated regular season since 2003-04, as Woburn defeated No. 12 Acton-Boxborough, 5-3, Thursday in the second night of The 8 Showcase at Pilgrim Arena.

Colonial freshman Megan Barrett scored a pair of third-period goals – the second coming with 2:54 left in the game – to turn a comfortable 4-1 Woburn lead into a 4-3 nail-biter. The Tanners held on in the closing minutes though and put the game away on an empty-net goal from junior Ashley Moran with just a second left on the clock. Lissner set up the play by breaking up a rush from A-B junior Eleana Cardarelli at the Tanner blue line and finding Moran, who backhanded the puck from neutral ice into the empty net.

It was Moran’s second goal of the game, as she had scored at 5:49 of the third off a face-off in the A-B zone that Lissner worked toward the net. Moran scored two goals in both of the Tanners’ games in this competition.

The No. 1 star Thursday night, however, was Lissner, who scored all three of her goals in the first 18 minutes of the game to give head coach Bob MacCurtain’s Tanners (17-0-3) an insurmountable lead.

“Finishing, I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s her greatest strength, but she did a great job of it today,” MacCurtain said. “She’s gotten better and better at it this year.”

Lissner and her linemates set the tone early with a terrific opening shift that resulted in a goal just 43 seconds into the game, as senior Kayla Smith set up Lissner in the slot from behind the net for a 1-0 lead.

“We always try and get a quick start,” Lissner said. “We’ve learned to get the quick goal but also stay in the game and not get too far ahead of ourselves.”

Lissner scored her second with 12 seconds left in the period, establishing position in front and tipping home a shot from the point from sister Erica.

Woburn would have led by even more at the first intermission but for the efforts of A-B freshman goalie Cali Loblundo, who denied Smith on two golden opportunities in front.

Despite it being even on the scoreboard, Woburn dominated the second period to the tune of a 15-5 shot advantage. Lissner completed her hat trick at 2:56 of the period with the Tanners on the power play, taking a pass across the slot from Smith and finishing past Loblundo.

The Colonial goalie again made some fine saves to keep her team in it, as A-B didn’t get its first shot of the period until there was 5:01 left in the frame. But sophomore Alex Loblundo put the team on the board with 59 seconds remaining, stuffing home a rebound off a shot by freshman Kaitlin Hoang.

Woburn’s group of defensemen – led by senior Cassandra Connolly and featuring senior Haley Rafferty, junior Gabby Mourousas, and freshmen Morgan Bishop and Madison Cole – helped limit A-B (13-6-2) to just nine shots through the first two periods.

“It’s been a little bit of a work in progress over the course of the season, but they’re all playing really well right now,” MacCurtain said.

After beating Arlington Catholic, 4-1, in the Showcase’s first day of action Tuesday, Woburn has likely established itself as the team to beat in the MIAA Division 1 state tournament that kicks off next week.

A goal by Arlington senior Katie Cummings with 4:08 to play capped a wild third period that featured four goals and several good saves, as No. 18 Arlington and No. 6 Hingham played to a 3-3 draw in Thursday night’s final game.

The Harborwomen (13-6-3) had come back from a 2-0 second intermission deficit to take a 3-2 lead, with senior Jane Freda’s second goal of the night at 5:49 of the third period putting Hingham ahead. That goal came in the midst of a four-minute major penalty against Arlington, during which Hingham senior Alexandria Gong scored at 4:08 to tie the game.

But the Spy Ponders (11-8-1) wouldn’t give up, and Cummings was in position to put in a centering pass from senior defenseman Hannah Wright to earn Arlington a point. Junior goalie Katie Gilligan came up big for Arlington with four stops in the final 90 seconds, including a great double-save on Freda with 21 seconds to go.

“She’s been flawless these two games,” Arlington head coach Jeff Mead said. “That’s a good confidence booster for her going into the tournament.”

Arlington came into the week on the heels of a 4-0 loss to Reading, but a win over Acton-Boxborough followed by this tie will certainly give the club some momentum going into the state tournament.

“I think they want to prove a point and they want to prove that you might not want to face us in the first game of the playoffs,” Mead said. “The kids battled hard. Win or lose, we were competitive all week.”

Senior Carolyn Woodin gave Arlington a 1-0 lead at 6:56 of the first. Senior Shannon Hickey made it 2-0 with 4:58 left in the second after a terrific individual effort, beating two Hingham players in the offensive zone before putting the puck past Hingham junior goalie Taylor Walsh.

Freda got Hingham back in the game just 2:12 into the third, and Gong tied it off a pair of good passes from Freda and sophomore Hannah Falvey with the Harborwomen enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage.

Head coach Tom Findley’s team finished with a 30-15 advantage in shots, but had to settle for the draw.

“That’s our season in a nutshell,” Findley said. “We get a lot of shots on net -- sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t ... I think the team played really well in the first two periods. They just didn’t score.”

Each team had two all-stars named for the tournament. Representing their programs from the second half of Thursday’s festivities were: Smith and Connolly (Woburn); Barrett and Cali Loblundo (Acton-Boxborough); Woodin and Wright (Arlington); Gong and Freda (Hingham).

The 8: Hingham, Woburn hold on

February, 19, 2013

HINGHAM, Mass. -- Despite allowing two third-period goals, Hingham was able to stay the course and knock off Lexington, 3-2, during Tuesday’s opening day action at The 8 Showcase.

The No. 6 Harborwomen (13-6-2) took control of the game early by putting a lot of pressure on Lexington goalie Amanda Charlton (34 saves).

“We try and play by the model, even if you are up by a couple of goals, to play like we are down two goals,” Hingham head coach Tom Findley said. “We have been playing very well of late, but we need to be able to tighten it up a little bit on some of the smaller plays.”

Charlton was able to limit the Harborwomen attack and gave Lexington (12-5-2) a fighting chance throughout the game.

“They had a lot of shots on her, and she was able to keep us in the game,” Lexington head coach Amanda Ciarletta said about her goalie’s play.

At the other end of the ice, Hingham goalie Taylor Walsh was no slouch, turning away 19 of 21 Lexington shots. One big save was stopping Sara Lehman on a breakaway in the first period by holding the angle. As a result, the Harborwomen were able to come back less than two minutes later and take the early 1-0 lead.

Sam Ryder got Hingham on the board with only 34 seconds left in the first period by splitting the Minutemaids defense. Ryder got in alone with Charlton and made a nifty move to the backhand to finally get Hingham a goal. Charlton had turned away the first 16 shots she faced.

Hingham’s Jane Freda didn’t waste any time in the second period getting her team on the board, scoring 12 seconds in. Freda was able to fly around the defense on the left wing and walk around Charlton for the goal.

“I saw an opening in the defense, so I was able to get around them,” Freda said. “I made a move, and I was able to slide the puck around the goalies pad on my forehand.”

Charlton bounced right back though making several key saves to keep the Minutemaids in the game. Hingham’s Katherine Saleski dangled around the defense and tried to wrist a shot past Charlton, but the goaltender kept her angle to make the save.

In the third period, Charlton made three big stops down low, which allowed Lexington to pull within one goal as Carolyn Avery beat Walsh.

Unfortunately for Lexington, Catherine Linehan got it back as she walked in uncontested and rifled a shot to the back of the twine, which put Hingham up, 3-1.

After robbing Lehman on the first period, Walsh didn’t fare so well as Lehman got a second opportunity late in the third. Lehman got by the Hingham defense was able to beat Walsh with a deke to the backhand.

Lexington didn’t pull the goalie until only 2 seconds were remaining with the face-off in the Hingham zone. Hingham won the face-off however, preventing a last-second shot from the Minutemen.

In the 2 p.m. matchup between No. 1 Woburn and No. 4 Arlington Catholic, the Tanners mustered up a sound attack to defeat the defending Division 1 champs, 4-1.

“That was one of the best [games] all year, as we did our jobs all over the ice, especially defensively,” Woburn head coach Bob MacCurtain said. “Defensively, last year we were not very good, so to see a performance like this now is a positive.”

Woburn’s Ashley Moran (2 G, 1 A) and Kayla Smith (1 G, 2 A) turned in 3-point games, assisting on each other’s goals.

“I have been really leaning on them the past few weeks,” MacCurtain said. “They were really good moving the puck around out there and making smart decisions.”

Woburn goaltender Courtney Davis was sharp in the Tanner goal turning away 15 of 16 shots from the Cougars (14-3-2).

The Tanners lit the lamp early in the first period on a nifty backhand move by Moran as she slid the puck through the 5-hole of Arlington Catholic goalie Megan Messuri.

“Coach [MacCurtain] told me that I needed to start getting to the net more, so I was able to do that there,” Moran said.

The Cougars came right back with several chances, but Davis stayed square making three consecutive stops to keep the Tanners ahead.

Erica Lissner wasted little time in the second period as she beat Messuri (15 saves) with a backhander within the first two minutes.

Back at the other end, Davis robbed Danielle Kelley with about 8:20 remaining in the second down low on the power play. Before the second period ended, the Cougars finally had a brush with luck. A shot from Jackie Sindoris deflected high, and although Davis gloved the puck, she could not hold on as it fell into the goal.

The Tanners (16-0-3) bounced right back in the third as Smith scored on a breakaway. Moran picked up the assist, feeding Smith on the breakaway.

Moran followed suit minutes later on a two-on-one with Smith by rifling a wrist shot top shelf.

“I had Kayla [Smith] with me and both the goalie and defensemen started pulling over to her, so I just shot the puck,” Moran said.

The Cougars tried to mount a comeback as they had several chances, but Davis was up to the challenge making multiple key saves. Adrieanna Rossini had the best chance on a one-timer in the slot, but Davis sprawled across her crease to make the highlight reel save.

Recap: No. 1 Woburn 3, No. 7 Reading 1

January, 13, 2013

WOBURN, Mass. - A year ago, the Woburn girls team knew it had plenty of talent, and three selections to ESPN Boston's preseason All-State Team proved that. It was a lack of depth that hurt them in the long run.

Depth doesn't seem to be as much of an issue this winter, and the top-ranked Tanners second line came up with a big performance as Erica Lissner popped in a pair of power plays goals to lead Woburn to a 3-1 victory over Middlesex League rival and No. 7 Reading last night at O'Brien Arena.

"I think the difference between this year's team and last year's team is our second line is scoring a little bit more," Woburn head coach Bob MacCurtain said. "I don't think you can go real far at any time of the year without at've got to have two lines that can score."

Lissner centers that second line, flanked by wingers Morgan Bishop and Hannah Sullivan. And after a scoreless first period produced a feeling that both team's goalies were on their games, it was Lissner who managed break through.

Just over a minute into the Tanners (8-0-1) second power play of the game, defensemen Cassandra Connolly sprung Lissner loose down the right side and the sophomore buried her shot. Then, with 17 seconds to go in the frame, Lissner's older sister Emily gave her a perfect pass to set up a good look that went through traffic to the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.

"The first goal was a great play by Cassandra. She threw puck right up and I just took it right in and had my head up," described Lissner. "The second goal, it was like everything I've achieved in my life - without my sister, it never would have happened. She fed me the puck in a perfect spot. Cassandra could have stepped in but she backed off and let me take it."

Rachel Thomson got one back for the Rockets when she stuck a seeing-eye shot through traffic to the top, far corner to cut the deficit to 2-1 with 6:27 remaining. But that would be all Reading would manage as the Tanners defense locked down and Ashley Moran banged in an empty-netter with 29 seconds to go to lock up the win.

Connolly displayed the talents that made her one of those first-team all-star selections, blocking numerous shots, including a span of three straight during a Reading (7-1-1) power play. She also keyed the effort against the Rockets dynamic freshman forward Ali O'Leary, who rarely found a clean sheet of ice on which to unleash her devastating speed and stickhandling abilities.

"We knew they had a lot of fast players so we knew we had to watch the neutral zone and we just stayed with them every play," the senior captain explained. "I think we knew we knew we were going up against a good goaltender so we had to shoot high and it worked every time."

And on the blocked shots, Connolly added with a laugh, "In practice we stand up tall and try and block them. We can't be afraid of anything at this point so we go all out. I have all the equipment so I just stand there and hope for the best of it."

As a unit, the Tanners blue-liners turned in possibly their best performance, and the forwards routinely excelled in back-checking to do their part to help. And when all else fails, you can't beat having a stopper like junior goalie Courtney Davis, who made a number of highlight reel stops among her 22 saves.

"I thought they did a terrific job. That was their best game as a unit that we've played," MacCurtain praised. "Cassandra was excellent. All four of them were excellent. We knew that we had to keep [O'Leary] off the board and see if someone else would beat us but I was really proud of how they played as a group. The team defense was really good."

D1 girls: Woburn 1, Lexington 0

March, 4, 2012

WOBURN, Mass. -- Playoff hockey often comes down to which team has the hottest goaltender. Right now, there might be no one more in the zone than Woburn's Courtney Davis.

The sophomore showed why she was named to first-team on ESPN Boston's preseason All-State team, stopping 31 shots (18 in the second period alone) and guiding the fifth-seeded Tanners to a 1-0 shutout of Middlesex League rival and No. 12 seed Lexington Saturday night at O'Brien Arena.

"It was a season-saving performance," said Woburn coach Bob MacCurtain, mincing no words when asked about the importance of his sophomore's performance. "In the second period, we really bent and she allowed us not to break. Lexington played terrific. They had so many chances, one on the back door that she just slid across and made a great save."

After a fairly even and scoreless first period, the Minutemaids (14-7-1) came out like gangbusters, taking control of the game and forcing to make four difficult stops in the first few minutes alone. That was a harbinger of what was to come, as Lexington kept the heat on and continued to get tremendous scoring opportunities, only to see them glance off Davis' blocker and leg pads or disappear into glove.

When asked about hr mindset during the onslaught, Davis simply replied, "I don’t know really. I was just kind was do or die so I was trying to not let let the puck go in. It was all over the place. I don’t think, I just do it I guess. I think they just came out really strong and played their hearts out that period. They tried to get as many shots on net as possible."

At the other end of the ice, Lexington goalie Katie Legnard more than held her own against the dangerous Tanners attack, making 19 tough saves of her own, and the two netminders kept things scoreless until the third period.

That's when Woburn's other preseason first-team All-State selection, forward Kayla Smith, broke through. Ashley Moran got off a shot from the Lexington blue line that was blocked by a defender. Smith chased down the puck in the high slot and fired past Legnard at 4:07.

"It was one of the few times that we actually had a really good possession in the offensive zone," Smith explained. "Coach said to get a lot of pucks to the net and it was a good opportunity so I just shot it."

Following the Tanners' 3-2 loss to Belmont back in January, MacCurtain decided to change things around. He dropped Moran, who had been playing on the first line with Smith and Bryana Harron, back to play defense with veteran standout Cassandra Connolly while bumping sophomore Emily Lissner (the team's fourth-leading scorer) up in her place.

The move is reminiscent of the change the Hingham girls made toward the end of last season, moving Jane Freda up from defense to the top line, a change that helped propel the Harborwomen to the Div. 1 state championship.

With Lissner up top, Woburn loses nothing offensively. Moran has taken to the defensive role naturally, and along with Connolly, provides an aggressive, offensive minded approach from the back as well. That tactic came in handy Friday with Moran getting the assist on Smith's tally.

"I thought she did a great job," MacCurtain said of Moran. "I thought her and Cassandra were real solid up top and that was a great play on the goal. She’s a goal scorer who is playing back at the blue line so its been a good change for us."

A widely used cliche in sports is that it's difficult to beat the same team three times in the same season. Woburn and Lexington had already battled to a pair of one-goal, Tanner victories in the regular season so both teams were more than prepared for each other.

Lexington outshot Woburn in all three periods (31-20 for the game), and notably dominated the pace during the second. Even on the play that resulted in Woburn's lone goal, the Minutemaids made a good play to block the initial shot. It was, as another well-worn cliche goes, just one of those days.

"Our kids had worked hard all game and I think it was just an unlucky bounce," Lexington coach Mandy Ciarletta said. "The girl shot it through traffic and it just snuck in at the end there. My kids did everything in the 'D' zone and like I said, a one-goal game. 1-0 in the third, it's going to be anybody’s game. I knew going in it was going to be one goal one way or the other, whether we came out on top or they did. Woburn’s a great club and it was a great exciting game to be a part of today."

Recap: No. 2 A-B 4, No. 6 Woburn 3

February, 25, 2012
WOBURN, Mass. -- Acton-Boxborough clinched the first seed in the upcoming MIAA girls' hockey tournament with a 4-3 win over home-ice Woburn in a Friday night thriller at O’Brien Rink.

The Colonials controlled the first period shots-on-goal game by a 3-1 ratio, but were frustrated by the excellent play of Tanner goalie Courtney Davis.

Colonial forward Lauren Roche got one by Davis in a bang-bang, sprawling play just outside the crease with two seconds left in an A-B power play. The five-on-four was a result of a tripping penalty committed by Hannah Sullivan.

The Tanners answered back five minutes into period two. Woburn’s Emily Lissner scored after the puck ricocheted off a swatting Cali Loblundo save, became the center of corner scrum and was spit back out in front of net. The goal came on assists by Cassandra Connolly and Kayla Smith.

The tie was short-lived after a Lauren Roche unassisted breakaway score with 6:32 left in the second period.

In what became Woburn’s theme of the night, Bryana Harron evened up the score at two off her own rebound and an assist from Lissner to close out the second period.

Colonials defenseman and captain Emily Loebs sniped a 25-foot slapshot through an inches-wide space between Davis and the pipe to give A-B a 3-2 lead early in the third.

“Just at the spur of the moment I saw the puck was there,” said a modest Loebs. “I didn’t even expect it to go in, it just did.”

Probably re-scuffing the ice where she previously threaded the needle, Loebs netted a wobbly wristshot to put the Colonials up by two with 5:59 left in the third.

“That was a horrible shot, my second goal was a flutterbug,” said Loebs with a big smile. “I wasn’t even going toward the net.”

The ever-clutch Tanners responded 30 seconds later with a Harron goal assisted by Lissner.

Then the clock just ran out on Woburn.

“I thought it was a great game,” Tanner head coach Bob MacCurtain said. “We tightened things up defensively after that first period, but we came up a little short.”

This was a bounce-back game for the Colonials after suffering their first loss of season to St. Mary's on Wednesday.

“When we switch up our pre-game stuff, we play worse,” Loebs said. “We made a big deal about St. Mary’s and we got scared about it. So we just did our normal routine, got everyone pumped up, and came out every period ready to play.”

“It was just a great team hustle,” said Colonials head coach Brian Fontas, tipping his cap to Woburn. “There was great goal-tending in this game. There were seven goals in this game, there could have been 12 goals in the game.”

“Whoever ends up in our bracket ends up in our bracket,” Fontas said on the upcoming playoffs. “I’m very proud of them, they earned it (first seed), and let’s let the team come through us.”

Recap: No. 5 Belmont 3, No. 6 Woburn 3

February, 16, 2012

WOBURN, Mass. -- It’s an adage as old as hockey itself: Get pucks to the net and good things will happen.

No. 5 Belmont became proof positive for the saying once again, as they squeezed another point out of No. 6 Woburn, Wednesday night at O’Brien Rink. Marauders junior forward Alexandra Cellucci took a shot from the slot with 11 seconds remaining. The puck slithered through the pads of Tanners netminder Courtney Davis and into the net, tying the score, 3-3.

The tie gave Belmont (14-3-1) a 1-0-1 record on the season series with the Tanners, after knocking off Woburn by a 3-2 score on Jan. 14.

At the time, it was considered the upset of the season.

Now, it’s time to consider the Marauders as the real deal.

“[In the dressing room] they said, ‘We must be better than them, we beat them once and tied them once,” Belmont head coach Mark Haley’s team told him postgame.

Haley answered them with a rhetorical, “Yes.”

It’s not as though Haley would tempt fate again.

“Fortunately, we don’t see them again,” he said with a smile crossing his face.

Although the Middlesex small division Marauders will not see Woburn (14-2-1) in the upcoming Division 2 state tournament, they can extrapolate their game plan.

“Defensively, they do a good job,” Tanners head coach Bob MacCurtain said. “They kept us to the outside for the most part. They don’t quit. Obviously, they battled us hard.”

Playing a sticky forecheck, Belmont was able to bottle up the Tanners’ top line of Emily Lissner, Bryana Harron and Kayla Smith through the first period with no small contribution from their top blue line duo of senior captain Britta Marden and sophomore Kendal Brown. The teams went to the first intermission with no score.

Woburn chiseled away at the Marauders’ front in the second, however, with the first line setting up shop in front of netminder Megan Foley (15 saves). The Tanners used pressure down low to take a 2-0 lead on similar looking goals.

First, Harron collected a rebound in the crease at 1:20 of the second. The tally was set in motion by Lissner’s work behind the net, feeding Smith out front for a one-timer, with Foley making the initial save.

A little more than a minute later, Harron collected the puck along the back side boards and slid a pass over to Lissner for a scoring chance. Again, the Marauder defense was unable to clear away the rebound in time. Smith put back the rebound for a 2-0 lead at 2:51.

“They had their moments tonight,” MacCurtain said of his top line. “I just didn’t think they were consistent enough.”

Belmont whittled down the lead to a goal midway through the second with Shannon Reynolds banking a shot off a Tanner defenseman from below the goal line.

Woburn returned to the room with a two-goal cushion after junior defenseman Cassandra Connolly’s power-play tally with 41.4 seconds.

In the third, Belmont again applied the vice to the Tanners’ transition game while they continued throwing rubber on Davis at any given chance. The Marauders got a bounce in their favor with 6:43 remaining as Caroline McCarthy’s screen shot bounced into the net on the power play.

With Foley pulled in the final minute of play, the Marauders’ had a second brush with puck luck. Cellucci’s shot from the slot caromed off a Woburn blue-liners skate and then under the right leg of Davis.

It all goes back to that old saying, which Haley offered to his top line of Cellucci, McCarthy and Erin O’Donovan throughout the game.

“Take the shot and see what happens.”

Belmont likely will enter the Div. 2 tournament as a top four seed, along with a measure of confidence.

It wasn’t always that way.

“When these kids were freshmen, they didn’t win a game,” Haley said of the Marauders’ 2008-09 season.

Haley, who’s been behind the bench for all of Belmont’s 18 girls’ hockey seasons, has seen his team rise and fall, only to see them ascend again.

“They’ve worked hard for four years, and look what you have.”

Recap: No. 4 Woburn 5, No. 3 St. Mary's 0

December, 18, 2011
WOBURN, Mass. -- Keeping in mind that it is just the third game of the regular season, perhaps it's still fair to say that the Woburn girls hockey team made a rather loud statement Saturday night.

The Tanners top line of Kayla Smith, Bryana Harron and Ashley Moran put on a show, combining for 11 points while Courtney Davis stopped 17 shots as the fourth-ranked Tanners blanked No. 3 St. Mary's, 5-0, at O'Brien Arena.

"Last year we got so close that it was on us for 12 months," said Woburn defenseman Cassandra Connolly, referring to a regular season game a year ago where the Spartans scored in the final minute to force a 1-1 tie. "We're finally back here and we beat them and it feels good."

It looked pretty good, too. After a pretty even first period, Woburn (3-0) broke the game open in the second. Twice Smith -- an ESPN Boston preseason first-team All-State selection -- found herself uncovered just outside the crease, and twice she buried her feeds. Harron followed by popping in a rebound of a Connolly shot for a power play goal that put Woburn ahead, 3-0, with just under six minutes left in the second.

"In the first period we weren't really going to the net as hard as we should have and in the second, we started going to the net," explained Smith. "A lot of the shots we were taking were going in. We had a lot of rebounds that we were finishing so it worked out good."

Woburn quickly erased any fears of a Spartan (2-1) comeback, as Smith got her hat trick just eight seconds into the final frame on a perfect pass from Moran (four assists), who was stationed behind the St. Mary's net. The Tanners closed out the scoring as Smith fed Harron with a crossing pass on a 2-on-1 break that the senior captain buried.

"I think we're practicing good together and we work well together," said Harron, who had two goals and an assist. "Its not one person doing it all. We're working together as a team. We were moving the puck well and just getting open and talking to each other.

Added Moran, "We just work as a team. We know where each other is and we can see each other through the plays."

Tanners 'D' strong: While Woburn was clearly the better team on this night, the final score doesn't give an accurate picture of how the game played out.

St. Mary's started out very aggressively and challenged Davis early and often, forcing the first-team All-State netminder to make eight of 17 stops in the opening stanza. The biggest came right off the opening faceoff when Austin Prep transfer Kaleigh Finigan intercepted the first pass after Woburn won the faceoff and broke in alone on Davis, who covered the net well and made a huge stop.

She had help from her blue line corps, however, as fellow first-team All State defenseman Connolly, Kylee Maher and Jessica Thielsch limited the number of truly great chances the Spartans were able to muster. They also successfully killed off both power play chances St. Mary's had.

"We were really good on the penalty kills. They had good possession but they didn't really get a ton of good looks," said Woburn coach Bob MacCurtain. "I thought it could be 1-0 St. Mary's eight seconds into the game if not for Courtney making a great save.

How you play, not who you play: While it was obvious from the way the Tanners rushed off the bench to celebrate the win around Davis and from the comments of the players afterward that a win over St. Mary's had great meaning, to MacCurtain it was more important how they did than who it was they did it against.

"I think its more about how we played and not about who we played," he said. "I'm happy with how we played. Our kids played hard, made a lot of good decisions. First period I thought they kind of came at us a little but but we've been talking about being a mentally tougher team this year. After last year, we needed to be tougher this year. I think these kids are very determined and I thought we did a lot of good things tonight."

Count Spartans out at own risk: For a team that won three consecutive state championships during a 100-game win streak that ended during a quarterfinal round postseason loss to Hingham a year ago, this was assuredly a disappointing start to a new season. But, being just the third game, it's a loss to used as a learning experience.

"We're going to be alright," Spartans coach Frank Pagliuca said. "It's game three of the season. We're focusing on moving ahead. Obviously we know where we stand right now and what work we have to do."

St. Mary's opened the game with a first line consisting of first-team All State forward Alison Butler and Austin Prep transfer Finigan playing between Medford import Brittani Lanzilli. All three were very active and had quality scoring chances. Lanzilli brings a unique skating ability to the ice while Finigan showed early signs of being willing to get in and mix it up.

In all, the Spartans used at least five different line combinations as opposed to Woburn's two. The difference in the game from the Spartans point of view was a failure to cash in on chances when they arose.

"Obviously we had a lot of opportunities but the difference is they finished their chances and we didn't," surmised Pagliuca. "They have a very good team, excellent goaltending, they're well coached. You have to finish chances against good teams and if you don't you're going to put yourself behind the eight ball."

No. 2 Woburn ends regular season with a bang

February, 24, 2011
WOBURN, Mass. -- No. 2 Woburn dealt a surprising blow to No. 5 Acton-Boxboro in a season-ending nonleague contest yesterday afternoon at O’Brien Rink, as the Tanners’ top line of Colleen Martell, Siobhan Duran and Kayla Smith accounted for six goals in an 8-2 victory.

Woburn (18-1-1) wasted little time in setting the tone for the game, as Smith (three goals, three assists) skated down the right wing and snuck a back-handed shot under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead 42 seconds into the first.

Duran (goal, assist) made it 2-0 at 8:04 when she took a feed from Martell (two goals, two assists) and skated out of the left corner, planting another backhander under the crossbar as she crossed the low slot.

“We had a really good game today,” Martell said. “We worked well together and everyone tried their hardest, and that’s the result. We tried to keep our stick on the puck and work on our forecheck and hopefully get them flustered so we could go and make plays.”

The first line wasn’t the only unit in top form for the Tanners, however, as the blue liners had a dominate game in the neutral zone. Their pressure bottled the A-B attack and forced myriad turnovers at center ice, several of which turned into transition goals.

“I thought we did a nice job of creating turnovers off the forecheck, particularly in the neutral zone, and then transitioning into offense off of that,” Woburn head coach Bob MacCurtain said.

The Tanners pulled away in the second period, as A-B added to its problems by committing four infractions, leading to two Woburn power-play goals.

Woburn cashed in on the first advantage at 1:41, when Kelly Duran pounced on a rebound in the low slot. Smith made it 4-0 at 3:59 with an even-strength tally, stealing a clear on the forecheck and breaking in alone before sniping the top right corner.

“You can’t fall behind them; they have too much firepower up front,” A-B coach Brian Fontas said. “They bottled us up big-time in the neutral zone and they’re a great transition team. You can’t turn the puck over there.”

Megan Barrett got the Colonials (16-4-1) on the board at 5:47 when she fired off a wrist shot from the low slot. Any momentum was snuffed out by three straight penalties on A-B, the last leading to a 5-1 lead on a goal for Martell at 11:40.

Martell added a short-handed goal at 13:08, tapping the rebound of a Smith wrist shot over the goal line, and Ashley Moran made it 7-1 just before the intermission with a low wrist shot from the left circle.

Despite the lopsided nature of the contest, both teams were keeping themselves tempered with the state tournament approaching.

“I think we’re a better team than that,” Fontas said. “It’s just one of those games. I think we’ll be able to shake it off. We have a good group of kids.”

Added MacCurtain, “We have a lot of veterans here who I think keep it in perspective. We know that, if we see them again, the game will be closer.”

No. 1 St. Mary's stays unbeaten

January, 29, 2011

LYNN, Mass. -- Carrying an 80-plus game unbeaten streak, No. 1 St. Mary’s of Lynn girls’ hockey knows they have a target on them at all times. And the Spartans didn’t expect anything less with No. 2 Woburn coming to town for Saturday night’s non-league contest at Connery Rink.

St. Mary’s trailed for most of the game after the Tanners’ Ashley Moran scored with 19 seconds remaining in the first period. While it looked as though Saturday might be the night that the Spartans’ prolific streak finally came to end, Sabrina Iannetti tied it with 3:08 left in the third on a power play goal.

The teams ended in a 1-1 tie and St. Mary’s streak hit 90 games.

One thing’s for certain, No. 90 didn’t come easy.

“We were dealt with some adversity tonight, but we didn’t panic,” St. Mary’s head coach Frank Pagliuca said. “We kept going. That was great test for us in the middle of the year, but all of them are.”

Although the Spartans (10-0-3) were down 1-0 after the first, they out-shot Woburn 9-4. However, Tanners freshman goaltender Courtney Davis once again proved she’s up for the test of a big game. After dispatching No. 3 Lexington in a 4-0 shutout last week, Davis was on task again, turning aside 17 Spartan shots.

“She played great and she’s only a freshman,” Woburn head coach Bob MacCurtain said. “She battled hard and I think she likes playing in these big games.”

The Tanners (10-1-1) got another boost from another freshman in Moran, who paced them to a 1-0 lead. Her tally was the result of some strong net front presence and was assisted by yet another freshman, Emily Lissner.

Perhaps more impressively, Moran’s goal ended a 21-plus period shutout streak pitched by the Spartans and netminder Sarah Foss. The last goal St. Mary’s allowed came in their 2-2 tie against Notre Dame of Hingham on Jan. 6.

“We knew we were going to have our hands full, they’re one of the best teams around,” Pagliuca said. “They have a great coach, they’re disciplined, they’re organized and they have some players.”

Neither team could get on the board in the second, though Lissner had a tremendous chance to put Woburn up 2-0 with a slick move in front of Foss (15 saves). After shedding a defender with a deke to the right, Lissner was in alone on Foss. She pulled another deke to the backhand but simply ran out room and was unable to sneak the puck inside the nearside post.

St. Mary’s attack intensified in the third. The Spartans were able to draw the penalty which led to the game-tying goal with a sustained presence in the Woburn end. Iannetti finally found the back of the net with 3:08 to play on a blast from the point set up by Gina Beth Manganiello and Marisa Maccario.

“Our power play’s been much better the last couple of games,” Pagliuca said. “We made some adjustments and we’re trying to make more opportunities. That was a big goal there.”