No. 1 St. Mary's stymies Fontbonne attack

QUINCY, Mass. -- Last year, Fontbonne Academy sniper Taylor Shepherd stole a rare point from St. Mary’s of Lynn with a last-second goal.

As the fifth-ranked Ducks welcomed back the reigning Division 1 girls’ hockey state champions Thursday at Shea Memorial Rink, there would be no such comeback. The top-ranked Spartans’ cagy defense shut down Shepherd and the Fontbonne attack while sophomore goaltender Sarah Foss made 20 saves to shut out the Ducks, 2-0.

St. Mary’s undefeated streak stretched to 87 games with the win.

“We’re really pride ourselves in the D-zone,” Spartans head coach Frank Pagliuca said. “We’re really taking pride in getting the puck out and making good decisions. Like I said, we didn’t do a good job in the first period, but as the game went on, we were making better decisions as we were breaking up the ice.”

Pagliuca’s squad got off to a slow start and were out-shot (8-4) and out-chanced in the first period.

However, St. Mary’s (8-0-2) had a penchant for closing periods strong, scoring each of their goals in the final minute of the first and second periods, respectively.

Sabrina Iannetti knocked home a backhander on a cross-ice feed from Marisa Maccario on a 2-on-1 chance with 40 seconds remaining in the first. Defenseman Angela Dandreo also picked up an assist on the play.

The Spartans struck for their second goal with nine seconds remaining in the second. Sophomore winger Alison Butler took a feed from Maccario at the top of the left side face-off circle and unleashed a slapper past Fontbonne goalie Samantha Curley (18 saves) stick side.

While St. Mary’s finished periods strong, Pagliuca saw room for improvement.

“We can’t come out flat against teams like that. We were fortunate enough to be up 1-0 [after the first].”

The Spartans’ bench boss did have high praise for his defensive corps, led by Dandreo, a senior captain. St. Mary’s bottled up the Ducks (7-1-2) through the neutral zone, playing a trap system with three skaters back at all times.

“Obviously, Taylor Shepherd is one of the best players in the state, so you have to account for her every time she’s on the ice,” Pagliuca said about game-planning for Fontbonne. “We gave her one opportunity on the breakaway, but I thought overall we did a nice job limiting her shots. We kept her to perimeter for the most part.”

That aforementioned opportunity came in the third period when Shepherd steamed in on Foss on a breakaway. After a sly fake to the forehand, Shepherd went stick side and Foss stopped the shot with a deft blocker save.

“I thought back to last year and I said, ‘I’m not letting this in,’” Foss said. “I stepped out and made sure not to make any moves before she shot the puck.”

While Fontbonne didn’t lack for opportunities, head coach Bob Huxley said it simply came down to a lack of execution.

“If you don’t score any goals, I don’t care whether you’re playing mites, high school, college or pros, zero goals equals zero wins,” Huxley said. “We’re going to need to emphasize shooting and rebounds a little bit more.”