Despite playing its best game of the season, the Duxbury girls’ hockey team saw its season come to an end on Saturday night at Gallo Arena in Bourne when time ran out in a 4-3 loss to Fontbonne.

It’s the second year in a row that the Lady Dragons have been knocked out of the tournament by the defending Division II State champs, although they had every opportunity to send the Ducks packing.

While Coach Friend Weiler will be seeing missed chances in his sleep he’ll also be dreaming about his team’s future prospects, which appear bright with a roster that is losing only six seniors.

It was a huge game for Duxbury, coming off a 7-2 thrashing of Wellesley on Wednesday night with the intention of knocking off the second seed.

While the desire to prove they were up to the task was certainly there, it took a few minutes to get rid of the butterflies after the opening face-off.

Taking care of Fontbonne star Taylor Shepherd was definitely a priority, yet the junior winger almost burned the Lady Dragons in the first minute of play when she fired from point blank range on Duxbury goaltender Julia Hannon, who turned the shot away.

It only took Shepherd a couple more minutes to inflict some pain, as the Ducks went on the power play just four minutes into the game.

“Obviously you have to shut down a girl like that. She is phenomenal,” said Weiler. “We tried to contain here and I thought we did a pretty good job of that, but she did squeeze free a couple of times.”

Seemingly having control of the puck in their own end, the Lady Dragons could not clear the zone when senior defenseman Liz Macauley stepped in front of the clearing attempt and fired on Hannon, only to see Shepherd pick up the loose rebound and put it past the Duxbury netminder for a 1-0 lead.

Midway through the first period, Duxbury seemed to come alive, as the line of Briana Connolly, Lily Connolly, and Hannah Murphy buzzed the Fontbonne net, picking up the pace and putting the pressure on the champ’s defense.

It was a little more than the Ducks could handle, as Paige Frabotti-Merlino went to the penalty box with 4:14 remaining in the first period, followed a minute later by a penalty to Bridget O’Brien that had Duxbury in a 5-on-3 situation for 27 seconds.

The Lady Dragons could do little with their advantage, and almost watched it backfire when Hannon was forced to make a breakaway save when the second penalty expired. She was called for tripping, but her teammates killed off the penalty and went to the locker room trailing 1-0.

The penalty-killing unit was on the ice again just two minutes into the second period, as Lily Connolly went off for hooking; a timely penalty as Hannon was playing without a stick.

Hannon made another tough save as the penalty ended, and a minute later faced Shepherd, who was bearing in from the right wing and fired a shot over the Duxbury net.

The tide began to turn in Duxbury’s favor, as Molly O’Sullivan and Mary Margaret Donovan put some heavy pressure on the Fontbonne defense for close to a minute.

Less than two minutes later, Murphy had Duxbury’s best scoring chance of the game when she one-timed a pass from Briana Connolly that flew past the left post, as netminder Lan Cotton breathed a sigh of relief.

“We just needed to covert,” said Weiler. “When you miss a couple chances down low in a game like this there is a real fine line between winning and losing.”

Momentum continued in Duxbury’s favor when Catherine Flannery went to the penalty box after flattening Briana Connolly in front of the Fontbonne net. The pressure was intense, but the Lady Dragons came up empty-handed once again, as the power play was interrupted when O’Sullivan’s stick was wedged between the boards and speared her in the stomach.

While the first two periods were a defensive struggle, the final 15 minutes was a roller coaster ride.

Hannon bailed out her teammates once again in the first two minutes, but left a rebound on a shot at the 12:58 mark that Elizabeth Coleman scooped up and slid it into the empty net with Hannon down and out.

Trailing 2-0 seemed to put the Lady Dragons in an insurmountable position until they went on the power play with 11:07 left in the game. The opportunities were certainly there, but once again Cotton held her ground, especially when Murphy was robbed, as she stood alone in front of the Fontbonne goaltender.

With the clock ticking away and desperation settling in, Duxbury got back in the game when Lily Connolly took a pass from Briana Connolly to finally break through Cotton.

The Lady Dragons were now sky high with confidence, and fireplug Briana Connolly was going at full-tilt, breaking down the right wing and firing a shot on Cotton that beat the netminder high and over her shoulder to tie the game at 2-2 with 3:45 to go.

Duxbury’s jubilation was short-lived, as Fontbonne’s Erin McLoughlin broke the tie a minute later when she picked up a loose puck in a scramble in front of Hannon and slid it into the far corner for a 3-2 lead.

There was still time to get back in the game, but an unsportsmanlike conduct call saddled Duxbury with a short-handed situation and the Ducks capitalized on it right away, with Shepherd flying down the right side and beating Hannon with 1:58 left in the game.

Trailing 4-2, Weiler pulled his goalie for another skater and the move paid off, as Lily Connolly beat Cotton with 22.4 seconds remaining to close the gap to 4-3 and end Duxbury’s season at 15-4-3.

“We certainly had our opportunities, but I’m absolutely thrilled with the way our girls played,” said Weiler. “They worked hard and never gave up until the final whistle and it is a tribute to them. I’m very proud of each and every one of them. We almost had them, but we just ran out of time. I can’t complain about our effort. They were just a little better than us tonight.”

The loss ends the high school hockey careers of seniors Hannon, Taryn McCall, Meghan Johnson, Christine Fallon, Mary-Murphy Kusins, and Kaitlin Sullivan.