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|Itâ€™s time for a Garden party|
|Wednesday, 16 March 2011 10:05|
You couldnâ€™t ask for a better match-up, as the Duxbury High School girlsâ€™ hockey team goes after its first State championship on Sunday against their annual playoff nemesis, Fontbonne Academy.
Itâ€™s been well documented how the Lady Dragons have been eliminated from post-season play the past two years by the Ducks, but this yearâ€™s Duxbury squad is well-stocked up and down the roster and should give the Milton school all it can handle as they battle for the Division II crown.
If Duxburyâ€™s three tournament wins are any indication that Coach Friend Weilerâ€™s squad is ready to seek revenge for those early tournament exits, then Fontbonne (16-2-5) should be ready for one of its toughest games of the year.
Victories over Natick and Canton came relatively easy for the Lady Dragons in the tournament, but their 4-0 shutout of No. 11-seeded Concord-Carlisle (11-8-1) on Sunday afternoon in the South Sectional semifinals was a thing of beauty, as they limited the Patriots to no more than a half-dozen shots on net in a display of total domination.
While goaltender Rachel Myette barely broke a sweat during her 45-minute performance, her teammates were nearly flawless, as the forward lines pressured the C-C defense relentlessly and the defense back-checked all afternoon and moved the puck up ice, giving their rookie netminder a relaxing view from the backline.
The Patriots came out in the opening minutes and used up all their adrenaline, as the Lady Dragons took over the action and buzzed netminder Michaela Haller for minutes at a time. Despite Duxburyâ€™s dominance, the C-C goaltender miraculously kept them off the board as shots trickled by open nets, rebounds hit posts, and fallen defenseman made for a wall of Jersey barriers in front.
While the Duxbury crowd seemed anxious, it appeared the Lady Dragon were on the road to victory with only the time of their first goal and the final score to be determined.
It didnâ€™t take long to relieve that anxiety, as freshman Liz Collins scored what would become the winning goal at the 7:18 mark when she took a pass out of the corner from Zoe Griffin to finally beat Haller.
The lid was now off, and it took just 18 more seconds to make it 2-0 when sophomore Lily Connolly came out of the corner to Hallerâ€™s left and flipped a shot over the goaltenderâ€™s shoulder.
Opportunities continued to come Duxburyâ€™s way with a shot off the post at the four-minute mark, a power-play chance two minutes later, and a spectacular rush by junior defenseman Martha Findley, who wove her way through three Patriot defenders before being stopped by Haller with 40 seconds to go.
â€œItâ€™s a credit to their goalie. She stood on her head out there in the first period,â€ said Weiler. â€œWe kept banging and banging. We missed a couple of bounces and hit a couple of posts, but they kept their heads up and just kept plowing ahead.â€
While Duxburyâ€™s lack of scoring was frustrating, they took great solace in the defense of Findley, Caroline Shaunessy, Keri Gould and Ally Hammel, who held the Patriots to no shots on net that altered their game plan the rest of the way.
Another goal would calm any jitters the Duxbury fans still had, and Briana Connolly did her best to eliminate those worries quickly. Racing down the right side and around the net, Connolly fed a pass to Hannah Murphy out front. Murphyâ€™s shot left a rebound to Hallerâ€™s right, where Connolly stood to knock home the puck for a 3-0 lead just 22 seconds into the second period.
Even a power play 37 seconds later could do little to jump-start the C-C offense, as the Patriot coaching staff decided that the only way they could score would be to utilize a floater at the Duxbury blue line.
It did little to help the Patriots, as it opened up the ice more for the Lady Dragons, who continued to wheel in the Patriotâ€™s zone and control play.
Back-to-back penalties against Duxbury gave C-C its first real chance for some offense with 4:12 remaining in the period. A five-on-three man advantage for 1:02 would generate the Patriotâ€™s first shot on net in the game with 3:48 showing on the clock. No sooner had the penalties ended when Briana Connolly went to the box for another C-C power-play. But playing shorthanded has been a plus for the Lady Dragons, and it almost turned into one again when Collins took a feed from Jackie Nolan and went in alone on Haller, only to be stopped with 1:06 to go.
Although they led 3-0, the shot total told another story, as those that keep them had Duxbury with a 57-5 shot advantage after two periods.
The Dragons continued to occupy the penalty box early in the third period, but most of the penalties resulted from hustle plays going after pucks. But once again the Duxbury defense kept pucks from getting through to Myette, and the offense controlled the action.
With 8:47 left in the game, the Dragon defense got into the scoring column when Shaunessy beat Haller with a blast from the left point that the goaltender never saw. Griffin and Collins were given assists for the final score of the game.
â€œTo get this far in the tournament all the teams are good,â€ said Weiler. â€œThere are no slouches out there and I tip my hat to Concord-Carlisle for the way they played hard. Our girls were excited about this game and they came out flying. That was the key. Concord built a nice wall around their goalie and we were hitting a lot of legs and sticks. But we knew we wanted to cycle the puck down low and create a lot of opportunities.â€
Now in his first State title game, Weiler knows that things wonâ€™t be as easy against an established Fontbonne team that beat No. 1-seeded Norwood, 3-2 in OT, on Saturday.
â€œThey are a great team and weâ€™re going to have to play a great game,â€ said Weiler. â€œWe need to be able to skate with them and I know our girls will bring their energy with them. Iâ€™m sure it will be a great game.â€