QUINCY — The Fontbonne Academy hockey team saluted their four graduating seniors before last Thursday’s matchup against Archbishop Williams at Shea Memorial Rink.
The quartet: forwards McKenna Russell , Kelly Downey and Mary Kelly , plus defenseman Erin Ferrara — have played an integral role in four Catholic Conference championships and four trips to the state tournament, including two championship game runs.
Two of the Ducks’ most important players this season, however, were not honored. They are only freshmen.
Goaltenders Samantha Moussalli and Jessica Olivieri have been stellar in net during their first season at Fontbonne, an all-girls Catholic school in Milton, combining for a .933 save percentage while allowing just 1.42 goals per game.
“We’re really lucky to have these two,” said Russell, one of the team’s three captains. “Even though they’re freshmen, they’re the best goalies in the Catholic Conference.”
No goalies tried out for coach Bob Huxley’s squad a year ago — forcing Fontbonne to put a position player in net — so he was quite relieved when he had two candidates this season.
Huxley has alternated the pair all season, and that plan has worked out just fine for the 9-6-2 Ducks.
Moussalli, a West Roxbury resident, has registered a .944 save percentage and 1.13 goals-against average while Olivieri (.924/1.68 marks) has been terrific, too.
In back-to-back starts against Hingham (a 3-1 win) and Duxbury (a 1-1 tie), Moussalli held two of the state’s top teams to a goal apiece.
Moussalli is quick to point out Olivieri has had her fair share of big games, too. Olivieri shut out Austin Prep just days after the Cougars beat the Ducks, 2-0, then the Milton resident held Westwood to a single goal Jan. 31.
“Right from the very first practice, we pretty much saw the talent level they were at. We’re extremely pleased,” Huxley said. “They’re both good with the blocker. They both see the puck real well, and they both move real well. Really, minuscule things differentiate them.”
Olivieri was also on the ice for a 3-1 win over NDA Thursday, clinching the conference title and another state tourney spot. She made 24 saves, a number of them when the Cougars peppered her during three straight first-period power plays while an exhausted Fontbonne defense had a hard time clearing the puck.
Off the ice, the two have a math class together and are in the same homeroom, so they have become good friends. That makes their own system — offering mutual encouragement throughout a week of practice and even between periods of a game — an easy one.
“Sometimes I’m nervous going into a game, and Sam’s like, ‘You’re OK, you’re really good, you’re going to do fine,’ ” Olivieri said. “She helps me get really motivated and bring up my self-esteem.”
They help each other with technique, too. At the beginning of the season, Moussalli got in the habit of having her glove too low, but Olivieri pointed it out and Moussalli adjusted it.
“I really like how it’s going right now,” Moussalli said. “I really like playing with Jess. I like how we can have each other’s backs and we’re both in the exact same position, so it’s not like one’s over the other.”
Their play between the pipes has been pivotal because the Ducks have not been as prolific finishing their chances at the other end of the ice as Hurley expected.
Junior captain Shannon McIsaac (10 goals, 10 assists) of Avon is the team’s only double-digit goal scorer.
Madison Devine , a junior forward from Walpole, is not far behind with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists), and neither is Russell (Stoughton) with her six goals and 12 assists. Freshman forward Katherine Nolan ranks fourth with seven goals and 10 assists.
Russell said, however, having Moussalli and Olivieri in the back solidifies the blue line, allowing the forwards to forecheck more and worry less about blocking shots.
“[Having two backstops] definitely keeps things stress-free,” Russell said. “If one gets hurt we have a backup or if one has a bad game we know we can really count on the other.
“We’re looking strong. We’ve had really good competition. We’re going to come in [to the state tournament], kick some butt, and hopefully get back to the Garden.”
Busy Hingham boys
The regular season may be coming to an end, but it’s anything but winding down for the Hingham High boys. Scheduled to play three games in the Cape Cod Classic, along with a makeup against Marshfield, the Harbormen will play their final four games in one week.
Starting with a date vs. Austin Prep Saturday, the trio of contests on the Cape could determine whether or not Hingham receives a Super 8 bid.
Hingham coach Tony Messina said his team is up for the challenge, though, led by senior John Grenier (.919 save percentage, 1.43 goals-against average) in net and junior Sam D’Antuono (17 goals, 13 assists) up front.
Messina said he could also sprinkle in shorter practices or days off, if need be, this time of year.
“It can be tough, but they’re high school kids,” Messina said. “They have endless amounts of energy. You just have to channel it in the right direction.”
Girls in a hurry, too
The Hingham girls also have a busy stretch, with five games in seven days starting Friday. All of them will be at home, with the final two a part of “The 8 Showcase” tournament, which Hingham is hosting. . . . Due to the weekend snowstorm, nearly all the teams in the region were only able to play one game last week.Tim Healey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him him Twitter @timbhealey.
Correction: McKenna Russell was misidentified in the photo in an earlier version of this story.