There is a new team facing the question that has loomed over MIAA girls’ hockey in recent years — Can anybody beat Duxbury when it matters most? — and it is the squad that might be best suited to answer with a resounding “yes’’: Arlington Catholic.
Sunday’s Division 1 state championship game at TD Garden will be the third in a row for the Cougars and coach Maggie Taverna . This time, though, Arlington Catholic is tasked with beating the Dragons, the three-time Division 2 champs who moved up this season seemingly without missing a beat.
“It’ll probably be the best game of the year for both teams,” said senior captain Duggan Delano . “I expect the best.”
She has a distinctive perspective on the team’s recent runs. Delano transferred to the school as a sophomore, and since then Arlington Catholic has more postseason wins (12) than total losses (10).
And, like Taverna, she pointed to the team’s chemistry this year in particular as a reason it separated itself from the field. One teacher noted to Delano that when it comes to the Cougars’ black sweat suits — which they always wear on game days — she always sees three or four bunched together, never one standing alone.
“I consider every person on the team to be one of my little sisters,” Delano said.
Those sisters are 45 minutes from forming a bond — again — that they will never forget.
“I know it’s the championship game; I know it’s the last game of the season,” Taverna said, but her squad has a “if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-fix-it kind of mentality. Continue doing what we’ve been doing, and we’ll continue to work on the same things at practice because we’re not perfect, and the kids know that.”
Perfect or not, whatever the Cougars (19-2-2) have been doing certainly is not broken. They average 3.5 goals per game — more than three times as many as they allow — and have not lost since Jan. 8.
As she did during the team’s last two trips to the finals at the Garden, junior forward Adrieana Rossini has led the way with team-highs in goals (30) and points (45). The most recent tally was for a 2-1 semifinal victory over Austin Prep in overtime, the third year in a row she netted the winner in the team’s penultimate game of the season.
Taverna is quick to point out, however, that Arlington Catholic receives offensive contributions from three lines. Eleven Cougars have scored at least once, including Rossini’s linemates, fellow juniors Jackie Sindoris (12 goals) and Jessica Piracini (11).
Duxbury (16-1-6) does not have one overpowering scorer like Rossini — juniors Jane Dudley and Marissa Fichter and sophomore Julia Nolan are all in double-digits — but is even more stout defensively.
Senior netminder Rachel Myette , the Dragons’ goalie during all three Division 2 state title runs, posted a 0.82 goals-against average and .948 save percentage during the regular season against tougher competition. Myette has not allowed a goal in three tournament games. She shut out Lincoln-Sudbury Regional (5-0), Watertown/Belmont (1-0), and Acton-Boxborough Regional (3-0).
The Cougars counter with junior Katherine Crane , who in her first campaign as the starter had eight shutouts and a GAA that hovered around 1.
“They do have a good goaltender,” Taverna said, comparing Myette to Austin Prep’s Caty Flagg .
“Figuring out ways to move the goalie side-to-side, that’s always important in hockey regardless of what team you play. We’ll work on scoring this week, finding people in front of the net and bearing down in front of the net . . . That’s what’s going to win this game between us and Duxbury, because we’re very evenly matched.”
There are few pregame factors with any predictive value when it comes to these teams. They both score a lot and get scored on little. They both won their respective leagues. They played each other once, on Feb. 20 in the Hingham High School Girls’ Hockey Showcase. They tied, 2-2.
All of that — combined with the shared benefits of recent experience on the Garden ice — add up to one thing: a probably tight title match.
“It’s going to be a great hockey game from a spectator standpoint and from a coach’s standpoint, because as coach, I’m kind of a spectator because I’m not playing,” Taverna said. “The added experience of going to the Garden before is good, because then hopefully nerves and overwhelming feelings won’t take away from their game, as if it was the first time the team was going.”
One edge Arlington Catholic might have is the motivation factor. None of the Dragons have experienced failure on this stage, while the Cougars fell in last year’s championship game, 2-1, to St. Mary’s of Lynn, after beating the Spartans for the title in 2012.
Taverna noted that last year’s team was a young one, and earlier this season suggested it was a rebuilding year. Two-thirds of that team were freshmen or sophomores, and they are another year older and another season wiser.
“The difference is they grew up a little bit; they learned what their role is on the team and how to control that role,” Taverna said. “I am hopeful for our chances — I think it could be a good turnout for our chances. But we’ll just see what happens.”
“We come into every game assuming that team wants to beat us,’’ Delano said, adding that their coach “always tells us we have a target on our backs. Every team wants to be the team that beats Arlington Catholic.”
for Beverly in final
When the Beverly boys beat Tewksbury, 9-1, in the Division 2 North final Monday night, one of those in attendance at Tsongas Arena in Lowell was a man with an eye toward Sunday: Toby Carlow . The Medfield High head coach was scouting the game because his Warriors awaited the winner in the Division 2 state championship game at TD Garden.
“They’re a hard-working, fast team that has a scoring bunch we’re going to have to be aware of,” he said of Beverly (21-1-1), adding that his team is just as fast and probably a little bigger physically.
“But that doesn’t necessarily mean you win a game.”
Beverly senior forward Connor Irving (four goals) in particular stood out to Carlow, as did junior goalie Tim Birarelli , though the latter was not tested much Monday.
“They don’t get this far with only one loss without him playing well,” Carlow said.
Medfield (18-3-3) beat Canton, 3-2, Sunday to win the South sectional, a first for the program. The team’s potent 11-member senior class — including Pat Lawler , Matt Crowell , and Matt Dresens — want to see it out.
“Is it a special season? Sure. We’ve gotten further than any other Medfield hockey team has ever gotten,” Carlow said. “They understand the significance of a sectional win, but they ultimately want the whole thing.”