The unbeaten and No. 1 ranked Duxbury girls’ hockey team continued its masterful play on Wednesday night with a convincing 3-0 win over defending Division 1 State champion, Hingham HS.
Before a packed house in Hingham, the Lady Dragons and the Harborwomen gave the fans all they could ask for, as the two best women’s teams on the South Shore battled it out for supremacy south of Boston.
Coach Friend Weiler’s squad took advantage of every opportunity, scoring goals in each period to slowly put the game away.
The first goal always seems to be a momentum builder in big games, and Duxbury grabbed the lead five minutes in when sophomore defenseman Ally Hammel took advantage of a misguided Hingham clear and put the Lady Dragons ahead 1-0.
The lead would expand to 2-0 in the second period when freshman Meredith Wright was foiled on a break-away attempt, but an alert Jane Dudley was right behind her to bury her classmate’s rebound for an insurance tally.
Another of Weiler’s freshmen phenoms made it 3-0 when Marissa Fichter scored into an empty net late in the third period.
The victory was a good warm-up for Saturday’s match with perennial super power St. Mary’s of Lynn, who had fallen on “hard times” this year after years of Division 1 State titles and a winning streak that had stretched into the 90s.
Weiler had purposely scheduled his two toughest games at the end of the season in order to get his squad ready for post-season play.
If first-period play was to be any indication of who the new power was in girls’ hockey, it sure looked like it was the Lady Dragons, as they peppered goalie Lauren Skinnion of Boxford, who stopped numerous chances by Lily Connolly, Marissa Fichter and Hannah Murphy to keep the game scoreless after 15 minutes of play.
The second period started much like the first one ended with Duxbury goalie Rachelle Myette stopping a St. Mary’s rush and moving the puck into center ice.
With Duxbury back in possession of the puck, its first line continued to hammer away at Skinnion after senior captain Martha Findley broke up a St. Mary’s breakout and kept the puck in the offensive zone, feeding Murphy as she broke in from the right side and fired a shot through a screen to beat Skinnion for a 1-0 lead at the 10:08 mark of the middle period.
The action began to heat up, as both teams had scoring bids with Myette bobbling a long distance shot and Skinnion denying Findley on a partial break-in.
While the visitors played with just 10 skaters, it looked like a turnover or mistake could prove to be the difference. With 3:45 left on the clock St. Mary’s was whistled for too many skaters on the ice.
It took just 30 seconds for Duxbury to take advantage, as freshman Jane Dudley scored on the rebound of a Findley shot to give Duxbury a 2-0 lead.
Hoping to go into the final period with a two-goal cushion, the Lady Dragons coughed up the puck with 52 seconds remaining and gave the visitors a new lease on life, as they trailed by just one goal with 15 minutes to play.
Duxbury was playing with danger in the third period, as Myette robbed Kaleigh Finigan in the first minute and St. Mary’s went on the power-play with 10:58 left in the game.
No sooner had Duxbury killed off the man-advantage when junior Gabrielle Crugnale took advantage of a costly turnover, picking up a dropped puck in front of Myette and beating her with a backhander to tie the game at 2-2 with 7:50 to go.
Despite its limited roster, the visitors kept the pressure up and caught a huge break with 2:03 remaining when Findley went to the box for a questionable checking call. Weiler called a timeout to settle his troops down before the big penalty kill and it worked for close to a minute until Gina Beth Manganiello came barreling in from the left side only to be stopped by Myette with 1:17 to go.
As the clock ticked down, Alison Butler broke from the St. Mary’s zone only to have the horn sound as she reached the Duxbury blue line and the game ended at 2-2.
“I was happy how we played for two periods,” said a disappointed Weiler, who saw his team end its regular season with a 16-0-1 record. “They are a well-coached and well-disciplined team and when you make a couple of mistakes and hit a couple of posts that is what you end up with. You can’t get too excited about wins or too down about losses. But this wasn’t a loss. It was more of a measuring stick with a great play-off atmosphere. I think the girls worked hard but we made a couple of mistakes at the end and an explosive team like that can take advantage.”