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|The last quack: Duxbury girls take state hockey title|
|Monday, 21 March 2011 16:43|
They knew they had the talent. All they needed to do was rid themselves of the specter of being eliminated by Fontbonne two years in a row. The way they came out in the first period eliminated that worry, and starting the second period it looked like they were ready to get down to serious business.
Despite dominating for most of the morning, the Lady Dragons still had to rely on a great individual effort by sophomore Hannah Murphy with 45 seconds left in regulation to beat the Ducks of Fontbonne 2-1, earning the teamsâ€™ first state title in the 10-year old program.
â€œThe girls worked hard all year long and they were pumped for this game,â€ said Coach Friend Weiler. â€œThere was a little extra energy out there and a little extra spring in our step because they had beaten us the last two years. They say the third time is the charm, and this was for all the marbles.â€
Fontbonne has been a DII power for several years, led by senior Taylor Shepherd, who tried to show her game-breaking potential right away, but was taken down by senior captain Keri Gould early in the first period, preventing a break-away.
â€œShepherd is phenomenal and we knew if we could just hold her to one goal or less we had a good chance of always being in the game,â€ said Weiler. â€œShe snuck one in there as good players always do, but we were able to bounce back and that is why I am so proud of the girls. Momentum certainly swung their way, but we took it right back.â€
The power play led to a series of shots on Duxbury freshman goaltender Rachel Myette, who was equal to the task in the biggest game of her hockey career and kept the game scoreless. But the pressure on the rookie continued, as her teammates could not stay out of the penalty box, giving the Ducks a two-man advantage on the second power play of the game with 7:53 left in the first period.
â€œTo not get scored on when we were shorthanded like that is a credit to the girls,â€ said Weiler. â€œThey worked hard and when we weathered those I knew we would be alright.â€
Exceptional penalty-killing by Murphy prevented Fontbonne from taking advantage, and it seemed to ignite her teammates, as Olivia McCarthy stole a pass inside the offensive zone and tested netminder Lan Crofton with a shot off the left wing.
With time running out in the period, Briana Connolly tried to stuff a shot past Crofton, and as the buzzer sounded a Duxbury shot beat the Duckâ€™s netminder and was disallowed.
Disappointed by their first period drought, the Lady Dragons wasted little time in the middle period when Connolly came out of the corner to Croftonâ€™s left and fired a shot that broke through her pads for a 1-0 lead just 39 seconds after the face off whistle.
Less than a minute later, the Ducks had a chance to tie it when freshman Madison Devine beat the Duxbury defense to a loose puck, but couldnâ€™t get it by Myette.
Seeing how difficult it would be to penetrate the Duxbury defense, Fontbonne kept sending the puck up ice hoping to free Shepherd. But their efforts almost backfired, as the Lady Dragons had a one-minute blitz in the Fontbonne end but still couldnâ€™t get one by Crofton.
Fontbonne sophomore McKenna Russell raced up the other end of the ice after regaining the puck, only to be stopped by Myette, who sent the puck the other way to Murphy, who turned the Fontbonne defense and fired her shot past the far post.
The Lady Dragons finally had a shot on the power play with nine minutes left in the second period and were relentless in the Fontbonne end, as Murphy had a great set-up from Connolly and the first-line trio of Murphy, Connolly and Lily Connolly kept the pressure on Crofton every second they were out there.
The one-goal margin didnâ€™t seem like enough with the ever-dangerous Shepherd lurking on the opposing blue line. She got her chance at the 6:02 mark, as she went in alone on Myette, only to be stopped after her most threatening attempt of the morning.
Lily Connolly was hoping to add to Duxburyâ€™s lead with 3:35 left when she broke in off the left wing and fired a shot past Crofton that rattled off the post.
Duxbury would get one more chance to add to their lead when they went on the power play with 2:30 showing on the clock, but came up empty once again. The Ducks would then take advantage of a Duxbury turnover, only to be stopped by Myette again with 10 seconds left in the second period.
The Lady Dragons became their own worst enemies, as they continued to parade to the penalty box, giving Fontbonne a two-man advantage for 35 seconds with 13:14 left in the game.
The defense of Martha Findley, Keri Gould, Caroline Shaunessy and Ally Hammell continued to shine, as Duxbury wasnâ€™t getting any breaks on its end, especially after Shaunessy was hauled down from behind with 11:19 showing and no whistle stopped play.
Sophomore defenseman Carly Campbell was also instrumental on the defensive end, as she made two huge stops that prevented the Ducks from getting into scoring position.
Fontbonne was now in a fight for its life and was in attack mode every second until a big defensive play by Gould kept them in check. Great forechecking by the second line and an outstanding play by Shaunessy with 6:30 left inched Duxbury closer to the title.
Despite wanting to protect the lead, Duxbury kept attacking, as Murphy and Lily Connolly had consecutive attempts at coming out of the corner, only to be robbed by Crofton on both occasions with 3:40 showing on the clock.
The Lady Dragons had to be on the alert for Shepherd as time wound down, and they lost sight of the senior forward with less than three minutes to go in the game. A Fontbonne pass went up ice and Shepherd gathered it in at the red line, turning to head in alone on Myette and slipping it through her pads with 2:40 to go and tying the game at 1-1.
A stunned Dragon team almost let it happen again just a minute later when Shepherd went in alone but fired her shot wide.
In the transition, Briana Connolly sent the puck up ice to Martha Findley, who spotted Murphy breaking through center ice. With a perfect pass, Murphy sped around the Fontbonne defense and beat Crofton with a wrist shot high to the right side for the game-winner.
â€œWe wanted it more. I could just tell from the start,â€ said an exhausted Murphy. â€œThey know what it feels like to win, but we wanted it. We were anxious after not scoring in the first period and were wondering what we were going to do. We knew they were a third-period team and how they always come back, but we knew we just had to push through it and work harder than them and we did. After they scored I was at the face-off and I just said weâ€™ve got this. I can feel it. I saw the defense was straight on as I got into the zone and I went to the left and saw an opening to the right and fired.â€
â€œSheâ€™s a stud,â€ said Weiler. â€œBig players play big in the biggest games and she saved the best for last. Sheâ€™s a great kid and a hard worker who never gives up.â€
The Lady Dragons and Myette killed off another Duck power play in the final 28 seconds for the state title.
â€œThis was a dream come true,â€ said Myette, who took on the role as a rookie. â€œYou couldnâ€™t ask for anything better. I was nervous, but I got through it. I thought I let in more than I did, but focus, confidence, and believing in myself got me through it.â€