STONEHAM, Mass. -- The Division 1 girls' hockey semifinals saw a little bit of everything: clutch goaltending, timely goal scoring, terrific defensive play, and even a shootout. But now that all is said and done, two teams survived a pair of thrilling contests at Stoneham Arena and No. 3 Acton-Boxboro will take on No. 8 Hingham in Sunday's championship game at TD Garden.
HINGHAM 4, WINTHROP/LYNN 3 (Shootout)
Staring across the ice at Winthrop/Lynn's eight-grade star goalie Katie Burt and having just watched her stop 46 shots through periods and an overtime, Hingham coach Tom Findley thought to himself that there was no way he wanted to go to a shootout. Then he remembered that he has a pretty elite netminder of his own in his daughter Beth, a fact which not only left him feeling good about his own chances, but also gave him comfort in knowing that his team was used to shooting at a top goalie.
"I didn't want to go," Tom Findley said on the prospect of a shootout. "But to be quite frank, these girls take shootout shots every day on Beth and she doesn't let them in. They had that one goal and that was it."
Findley allowed just one goal in the shootout to Courtney McTague while Catherine Chittick, Jane Freda and Victoria Gong each scored for Hingham, with Gong's serving as the game-winner.
"I basically did what my coaches told me not to do in practice and I scored," said Gong afterward with a laugh. "They tell us in practice not to shoot five-hole because Beth never lets it in. But Katie is just really big and it seemed like she was waiting for everyone to go up high after she fell so I decided to do something different."
Just getting the shootout proved to be exhilarating experience, at least for the overflow crowd that packed Stoneham Arena, if not for the coaches.
Hingham (19-4-2) dominated the play, but Burt proved herself capable of pulling off a major heist. Not to mention, Winthrop/Lynn (17-4-1) stunned the crowd by turning of its own rare opportunities into a goal as MacKenzie Clark walked in on Findley off a faceoff and beat her with a hard shot to Findley's stick side with 5:06 to go in the opening period.
The Harborwomen sent 31 shots at Burt through the first two periods and managed just one goal, when Katie Walsh redirected a loose puck into an open net with 43 seconds left in the frame.
"We knew that if we were going to win, Katie Burt was going to steal it for us," admitted Bulldogs coach Anthony Martucci. "We're built from the goaltender out and we try to do the best we can from there."
Hingham came through with the crucial next goal, as Sarah Schwenzfeier scored a power-play goal just 10 seconds into the third.
The Bulldogs showed that they are more than a one or two horse team, however, as Chelsea Bartlett fired home the rebound of a Clark shot to tie the game at 2-2. Schwenzfeier scored her second to put the Harborwomen back on top, but the Bulldogs answered again, this time on a high shot from Lindsay Roy, leaving us with a 3-3 game and 4:13 left in regulation.
Two disallowed goals, one for each team, could have changed the outcome in this one. With seven seconds left in the second period, a Hingham shot banked off the crossbar and landed directly on the goal line behind Burt. There was some question whether the puck was across the line, but the referees ruled it no-goal.
Then, with 54 seconds left in overtime, Winthrop/Lynn thought they had the game won when Clark fired a shot that appeared to some observers, this one included, went in and then shot back out off the pipe in the back of the net. The goal light, however, never came on, and after some deliberation, it was ruled no-goal.
"I definitely had it," Beth Findley said afterward. "It went off the post for sure. I guess it was just kind of karma for our disputed goal that happened in the second period. It tipped off my glove and hit the post and then it kicked out and I covered it up. There was also a stick with black tape on it in the net that may have caused the confusion. The Hockey Gods were with me."
ACTON-BOXBORO 2, WOBURN 1
The early game of the afternoon may not have reached overtime or a shootout, but it lacked no less for drama or excitement.
Ultimately, it was one play in which Sarah McNicholas sprung linemate Kati Goguen for a breakaway, and Goguen dodged a defender and let loose a perfect wrist shot high and to the far post with 4:19 remaining in the third to lock up the win for Acton-Boxboro and avenge an 8-2 drubbing in the two teams regular season finale.
"It would not have happened without Sarah McNicholas with that beautiful pass from the wing," Goguen said. "Sarah made a beautiful pass as I was coming up, and I always get nervous when I go up but I knew I had a lane so I just went, saw and opening and stuck it."
Senior defenseman Caliegh LaBossiere turned in a stellar performance at both ends of the ice for the Colonials (19-3-1). At one end, her job was to shadow the state's leading scorer, Colleen Martell. As one of the Colonials top scorers all year, LaBossiere also gets heaviily involved in the offensive end and tallied the game's first goal with a blast from the point that found its way through traffic at 3:02 of the first.
"My defensive partner Sarah Berkley shot it but she kind of mis-hit it so I was like, I'll give it a little bit more of a push," described LaBossiere. "Luckily Sarah McNicholas had a great screen out front and my shot got through."
With just over a minute to go in the opening stanza, Woburn (20-2-1) took advantage of a power play as Kayla Smith snapped the rebound of a Martell shot through traffic to tie the game at 1-1.
AB had a golden opportunity in the second when a penalty shot was awarded after a forward was hauled down on her way to the net. LaBossiere took the shot, and tried to fire a wrister past Tanners freshman Courtney Davis, but Davis got her shoulder up in time to knock it away.
Following a lackluster first two periods, Woburn kicked it into gear for the third and several scoring chances, but the Colonials have an eight-grade goalie standout of their own in Cali Loblundo. Loblundo stoned Martell on a point-blank shot, and followed that up with similarly tough stops on Kelly Duran and Smith.
Then, with just over four minutes to go, McNicholas sent Goguen streaking down the right wing with a step on her defender. Goguen pulled herself just a little wide and sent her shot screaming past Davis inside the far post for what held up as the winner.
"I thought if we could keep them to one or two goals we had a chance to win the game," A-B head coach Brian Fontas said. "That was our goal: defense first and hopefully offense would come from our defensive zone. Then, as soon as I saw (Kati) in the neutral zone and she made that one move, she's just so good at that quick wrist shot. As soon as it went, I just thought it was going in."