WOBURN, Mass. - A year ago, the Woburn girls team knew it had plenty of talent, and three selections to ESPN Boston's preseason All-State Team proved that. It was a lack of depth that hurt them in the long run.
Depth doesn't seem to be as much of an issue this winter, and the top-ranked Tanners second line came up with a big performance as Erica Lissner popped in a pair of power plays goals to lead Woburn to a 3-1 victory over Middlesex League rival and No. 7 Reading last night at O'Brien Arena.
"I think the difference between this year's team and last year's team is our second line is scoring a little bit more," Woburn head coach Bob MacCurtain said. "I don't think you can go real far at any time of the year without at least...you've got to have two lines that can score."
Lissner centers that second line, flanked by wingers Morgan Bishop and Hannah Sullivan. And after a scoreless first period produced a feeling that both team's goalies were on their games, it was Lissner who managed break through.
Just over a minute into the Tanners (8-0-1) second power play of the game, defensemen Cassandra Connolly sprung Lissner loose down the right side and the sophomore buried her shot. Then, with 17 seconds to go in the frame, Lissner's older sister Emily gave her a perfect pass to set up a good look that went through traffic to the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
"The first goal was a great play by Cassandra. She threw puck right up and I just took it right in and had my head up," described Lissner. "The second goal, it was like everything I've achieved in my life - without my sister, it never would have happened. She fed me the puck in a perfect spot. Cassandra could have stepped in but she backed off and let me take it."
Rachel Thomson got one back for the Rockets when she stuck a seeing-eye shot through traffic to the top, far corner to cut the deficit to 2-1 with 6:27 remaining. But that would be all Reading would manage as the Tanners defense locked down and Ashley Moran banged in an empty-netter with 29 seconds to go to lock up the win.
TANNER PRIDE ON D
Connolly displayed the talents that made her one of those first-team all-star selections, blocking numerous shots, including a span of three straight during a Reading (7-1-1) power play. She also keyed the effort against the Rockets dynamic freshman forward Ali O'Leary, who rarely found a clean sheet of ice on which to unleash her devastating speed and stickhandling abilities.
"We knew they had a lot of fast players so we knew we had to watch the neutral zone and we just stayed with them every play," the senior captain explained. "I think we knew we knew we were going up against a good goaltender so we had to shoot high and it worked every time."
And on the blocked shots, Connolly added with a laugh, "In practice we stand up tall and try and block them. We can't be afraid of anything at this point so we go all out. I have all the equipment so I just stand there and hope for the best of it."
As a unit, the Tanners blue-liners turned in possibly their best performance, and the forwards routinely excelled in back-checking to do their part to help. And when all else fails, you can't beat having a stopper like junior goalie Courtney Davis, who made a number of highlight reel stops among her 22 saves.
"I thought they did a terrific job. That was their best game as a unit that we've played," MacCurtain praised. "Cassandra was excellent. All four of them were excellent. We knew that we had to keep [O'Leary] off the board and see if someone else would beat us but I was really proud of how they played as a group. The team defense was really good."