BOURNE, Mass. -- The Dragons had a little extra swagger in their step.
Even before they took to the ice for their Division 2 state semifinal against Belmont at Gallo Ice Arena Saturday night, the defending state champions from Duxbury were dancing along the music being played over the P.A.
The Dragons kept up their intensity throughout their 3-1 win over the Marauders. But afterward, Duxbury’s raucous room was also matched with a sense of purpose, given that the team’s stated goal has yet to be achieved.
Senior captain and defenseman Martha Findley exclaimed postgame, “It’s Round Two.”
It was all in another day at the office for perhaps the state’s best girls’ hockey team, who fended off a strong fifth-seeded Belmont squad.
“They play a high intensity game and I wanted to fight fire with fire,” Duxbury head coach Friend Weiler said. “They were all fired up in the locker room, I could barely contain them.”
The Dragons’ ebullience poured over into the first period when Duxbury (21-0-1) taking the first lead of the game midway through the session on freshman Marissa Fichter’s tally. Meredith Wright and Caroline Shaughnessy added assists on the play, in addition to Wright’s other contributions down low.
“The goalie was screened by my other linemates [Wright and Jane Dudley], and I just got a good shot off,” Fichter said.
Duxbury continued to dictate the pace of play in the second period, outshooting the Marauders (16-5-2), 9-3.
Despite several high quality saves from Belmont netminder Megan Foley (19 saves), the Dragons broke through for their second goal midway through the second with a dazzling individual effort from Findley.
Pinching up in the play, Findley collected the puck below the left wing faceoff dot, swooped behind the Belmont cage, moved around a Marauder defender, skated out front and then cut back in the other direction to finish with a fore-handed shot Foley, nor any other goaltender in the state could stop.
The play was set in motion by Findley’s anticipation on the play, knowing Belmont’s defensive tendencies.
“They like to slide into the middle and so we knew we’d have our chances along the boards,” Findley said.
Hannah Murphy turned in an impressive drive of her own, pacing Duxbury to a 3-0 lead at 6:17 of the third.
After serving a hooking penalty, Murphy stormed out of the box to collect a loose puck in the neutral zone. The junior forward made a beeline in on Foley, cutting across the slot from right to left before finishing on the backhand.
Belmont showed its resiliency, turning up the offensive zone pressure in the latter stages of the third. The Marauders finally broke through with four minutes to play as Caroline McCarthy threw in a wrister off of the stick handle of goaltender Rachel Myette.
“We knew we needed that knockout punch and we got that,” Weiler said of Murphy’s strike. “But they still kept coming. That’s an excellent team, they worked hard and they kept coming.”
SKILLED AND IT SHOWS
Findley, an ESPN Boston All-State selection last year and preseason teamer this winter, has been nothing short of spectacular this season. And her second-period highlight reel goal was nothing short of brilliant.
It’s all what Weiler has come to expect out of his top blue-liner.
“She’s the best defenseman in the state as far as I’m concerned.”
FUTURE IS BRIGHT
Duxbury’s “Freshmen” line, comprised of Dudley, Fichter and Wright, continued its strong play against Belmont with Fichter again adding some goal-scoring punch.
“She has that quick release, the goalie can’t get set,” Weiler said of Fichter’s wrister. “She burned a lot of goalies all season doing that.”
And while the Dragons are no strangers to the postseason’s biggest stage, making two straight appearances, it's not too hard to envision the Dragons making future visits with seven freshman on the roster.
“The way they’ve stepped in [this season], I’m so proud of them.”
Duxbury advances to play Falmouth in Sunday’s state championship game at the Garden.
The two teams met twice in the regular season with the Dragons taking both decisions by 4-0 and 3-2 scores.