If there was any doubt about the confidence level of the Duxbury High School girls’ hockey team, it was never in evidence prior to Saturday night’s game with DII North champions, Belmont HS, when the Lady Dragons danced to the music of The Village People’s YMCA before taking the ice at the Gallo Arena in Bourne.
Considered by many to be the best girls’ hockey team in the state, regardless of division, the Lady Dragons had their iPods blaring and the PA system blasting away with enough tunes to induce a pre-game jump to their skate. “I could barely contain them in the locker room,” said Coach Friend Weiler. “They were fired up and ready to go.”
Coming into the game with a 20-0-1 record and the No. 1 seed, Duxbury showed little stress for a team with a bull’s eye on its back, while the Belmont Marauders were hoping to be the team that would derail the defending State champs and pave the way for an unlikely match-up with Falmouth.
The Lady Dragons looked like champions from the opening face-off, as they controlled play in the Belmont defensive end for the first four minutes that included a power-play opportunity.
“I wanted to play a high intensity, high energy type game. That was the key,” said Weiler. “I knew they were going to come out and forecheck heavily. I felt if we put the pressure back on them it would be to our advantage. I wanted to put a lot of shots on their goalie. They play a high intensity type game and I wanted to fight fire with fire.”
When the man advantage ended, the freshmen trio of Marissa Fichter, Jane Dudley, and Meredith Wright continued their impressive rookie season by firing away at Belmont goaltender Megan Foley, whose final save went right back to the slot where Fichter was positioned to fire it past her for a 1-0 lead at the 9:41 mark.
“She has that quick release that the goalie can’t get set,” said Weiler. “She has punished a lot of goalies doing that all year round. She has a motor and it was running all night long. That was a big goal for us.”
Despite a shot advantage of 7-3 and an overall dominance in play, the Lady Dragons left the ice at the end of the first period with just a one-goal margin.
It didn’t take long for Duxbury to put the pressure on Foley in the second period, as Hannah Murphy went in alone 34 seconds after the face-off, only to have the puck slide off her stick as she made her move on the Belmont netminder.
Duxbury goalie Rachel Myette finally had something to do two minutes later when a deflected shot popped over her head, forcing her to pluck it out of the air to preserve the lead.
It looked like Duxbury’s offensive pressure was finally rewarded at the 10:13 mark when Foley let a shot slip between herself and the post. But the officials waved it off, claiming Foley had tied up the shot when they lost sight of it drifting behind her pad.
The loss only made the Lady Dragons work harder, who relied on senior captain Martha Findley to turn in a gem that had the scribes on
press row impressed.
“That individual effort was spectacular,” said Weiler. “It was a heck of a move and she finished. She is the best defenseman in the state as far as I am concerned and she proved it tonight.”
Forechecking deep in the Belmont zone, Findley stole the puck and faked the defenseman out of her skates, setting up a perfect shot that beat Foley for a 2-0 lead midway through the game.
Duxbury would control the rest of the period with Dudley and Liz Collins getting the best chances before the middle stanza ended.
Another Duxbury goal in the third period could signal the end for Belmont, or a score by the Marauders would make it a whole new ballgame.
A minute into the final period Duxbury went to the penalty box. Belmont’s advantage didn’t produce results, as they too were hit with a penalty a minute later to even the score. When Duxbury’s skater came out of the box they now held the trump card. It almost looked like a full house when Belmont was whistled again, giving the Lady Dragons a 5-on-3 advantage.
Duxbury’s good fortune didn’t last long when the referees continued blowing the whistle, putting the Lady Dragons on the short end once again.
Superb penalty killing saved the day, and a minute after Murphy came out of the box she saved a puck from crossing the blue line. In complete control with one defender to beat, the junior forward left her in the dust and came in on Foley to slide a backhander past her to relieve the tension of the Duxbury fans.
Belmont would score with four minutes to go, but the damage had been done by an aggressive and opportunistic Dragon offense.
“Every girl stepped up. They all worked hard and executed the game plan very well,” said Weiler.
Weiler and his team will be going after their second straight Division II title on Sunday when they take on No. 7 seeded Falmouth at the TD Bank Garden in Boston. While the Lady Dragons have beaten Falmouth twice during the regular season, Weiler knows it won’t be easy beating a team for the third time in a season.
“We’ve had a lot of battles with them over the years,” said the Duxbury coach. “We beat them at our place and then went down there and the game was much closer. They are a great team and we’re going to have to put out our best effort to beat them.”