The Acton-Boxboro Colonials may have been the top seed in the Division I bracket, but the Duxbury girls’ hockey team gave them a lesson in how to play like champions at Stoneham Arena Sunday. As a result, the Dragons will have a chance at history, and the Colonials are heading home.
The Dragons dominated all three periods to shut out the top-ranked Colonials 3-0 and punch their ticket to the Division I championship game at TD Garden Sunday.
Duxbury’s defensemen frustrated Acton-Boxboro all game by controlling the middle of the ice and forcing the Colonials to settle for perimeter shots. While Duxbury captain Rachel Myette had to make 18 saves to record her third shutout of the playoffs, only a handful were quality scoring chances.
“They were just real solid,” head coach Friend Weiler said of his six defensemen. “We really wanted to keep them to the outside, because they are a very disciplined, tough team… our key was to not give them any room and let them get creative. I think we able to do that for most of the game.”
Duxbury’s defenders also played an important role on the other end of the ice. Ally Hammel’s diving effort to keep the puck inside the Colonials’ blue line set up Julia Nolan for a shot that Colonial keeper Cali Loblundo couldn’t handle cleanly. Junior forward Jane Dudley corralled the rebound and forced it through the scrum in front of the net to put the Dragons ahead with 5:07 left in the first period.
Two minutes later Dudley sped through the neutral zone, glided around a defenseman and wristed a shot that Loblundo was able to stop, but defenseman Payton Donato crashed the net and banged in the rebound to double the lead with three minutes to play.
“We wanted to make sure girls were going hard to the net all game long,” Weiler said. “We wanted to make sure we were in their face all day.”
After her strong start to the season was hampered by a leg injury, Dudley had been snakebit offensively for a weeks heading into the playoffs. However, her game-winning goal against Watertown seems to have opened the floodgates for Duxbury’s junior winger as the Colonials had no answer for her speed and power on Sunday.
“She’s got a terrific motor and she just works hard,” Weiler said of Dudley. “The girl loves the game of hockey and she’s having fun out there.”
The Colonials tried to get back into the game but upping their physicality, but the Dragons took their best shots and maintained their poise through a scoreless second period. After Myette denied Amanda Lodi twice from point-blank range early in the third period on the Colonial’s best scoring chance of the game, the Dragons kept Acton-Boxboro away from the net and forced them to fight through the neutral zone.
The Colonials pulled Loblundo with 2:30 to play, but were not able to get another shot on net. Sophomore forward Meredith Wright put the icing on the cake with an empty-net goal with 49.6 second to go, and after the final buzzer the Dragons piled on Myette to celebrate their return to the championship game.
Standing between the Dragons and their fourth consecutive MIAA state championship is Arlington Catholic, who beat Austin Prep in overtime Sunday to head to the Garden. Duxbury beat Arlington Catholic in a shootout in the last week of the regular season, but only after failing to hold a late lead in the third period.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Weiler said. “Hopefully we’ll heal a little bit. We’ll start heavy this week then taper and go into our game plan … hopefully be ready for a high-energy game on Sunday.”