HINGHAM, Mass. -- With eight of the state's best girls hockey programs on display at The 8 Showcase at Pilgrim Arena, you had to expect at least a nailbiter or two. That game turned out to be the third of the day as No. 2 Duxbury and No. 5 St. Mary's battled to a scoreless draw.
At the end of regulation, a three-skater shootout was held for fun and the Dragons' Hannah Murphy scored the only goal.
The goaltending was nothing short of spectacular at both ends, necessarily so in the face of two of the state's most potent offenses. Spartans (15-3-3) junior Lauren Skinnion made 25 saves while her counterpart Rachel Myette stopped 16 shots in goal for Duxbury (16-1-2).
"Duxbury is a great team, they hustle a lot and they are really talented," Skinnion said. "For me, it's just focusing on one shot at a time and not worrying about what's going to happen next. Just focusing on what I have to do on each individual shot. My defense really stepped it up and played great. They were really aggressive and kept people away from and cleared pucks well."
Added Duxbury head coach Friend Weiler, "Rachel [Myette] is always there when we need here. She came up huge in the shootout, even though it didn't mean anything it's still good practice to get. She's nursing a few injuries, trying to get back healthy again and she's definitely a gamer. She stepped up big for us."
St. Mary's already thin roster took a couple of hits as first-line forwards Kaleigh Finigan (shoulder) and Sam Callahan (hamstring) were taken to the hospital with injuries. That forced Spartans head coach Frank Pagliuca to do some juggling with his lines, but players such as Madison Molea, Jacqueline Murphy, Sarah Ryan and Kira Iaccoupucci filled in admirably.
Additionally, second line center Gabby Crugnale continued to look like the most improved player in the state. The senior has the talent to play up on the Spartans top unit, but instead serves as the lynchpin of the second line. She was one of the most notable players on the ice for either side at both ends, as well as on special teams.
"I'm proud of my kids, we battled hard today," Pagliuca said. "We had some kids step up. Obviously the depth is an issue when we lose two of our regular players but I was proud of our kids. I thought we played a really good game considering everything."
The Dragons also got key contributions from several spots aside from the usual standouts. Weiler praised freshman defenseman Payton Donato, who continues to look like a player to watch over the next few years, as well as top blue liner Ally Hammel. Sophomore Marissa Fichter also continues to gain tremendous strides, displaying incredible strength and skating ability while excelling in all facets of the game.
"She's a complete player," Weiler said of Fichter. "She works just as hard in the defensive zone as the offensive zone and in the neutral zone as well. She's always in the right place. She's just a high caliber kid and a high caliber hockey player. She's a force out there and she never quits."
ARLINGTON 2, ACTON-BOXBOROUGH 1
The Spy Ponders, the lowest ranked team in the field at No. 18, may have been the biggest surprise on the first day of the showcase. Carolyn Woodin and Katie Cummings had the goals in a 2-1 victory over No. 12 Acton-Boxborough.
"We have to do the little things and get the puck in deep and chip it in and forecheck and play smart," explained Arlington coach Jeff Mead. "We have nine seniors, we're big and we're strong. We don't have a tremendous amount of skill but we can skate and we're physical. We just have to keep doing the little things. Today was one of those games where we got the bounces and AB didn't."
The Colonials (13-5-2) scored the game's first goal as Lauren Roche collected a bouncing puck that came off the stick of teammate Megan Barrett and rifled home a bull's-eye wrist shot for a power play goal at 5:33 of the first period.
Arlington (11-8-0) got it back late in the frame as Woodin converted a feed from captain Kaitlyn Morse. Then, midway through the second, senior Eva Colarusso made a pair of heads up plays, first intercepting an attempted clearing pass and then having the presence of mind to dish the puck over to Cummings, who buried her shot into an open net.
"Eva is a workhorse," praised Mead. "She works hard all the time and she's one of those kids that, once the puck is below the dots, she's big and she's strong, she knows how to protect the puck and she keeps it below the circles. Katie Cummings is another one. They're my number one penalty killers and they're tough to knock off the puck. When they get the puck on their stick its tough to knock them off it."