Wellesley coach PT Donato knocked on the locker room door, got the “OK” from his Raiders, then entered, letting it slam shut behind him as the music and screams of celebration enveloped him.
"It never gets old," he yelled to his team. "It never gets old."
A 6-0 shutout of Falmouth on Sunday night at Warrior Ice Arena advanced Donato and his Raiders to their third consecutive state final and sixth in seven seasons.
“That really sums it up,” said senior Emily Rourke, who netted the first goal. “We’ve been here before but it still doesn’t mean we’re not grateful for it. We’re still more excited than ever. It just gets better every time.”
After a scoreless first period, Rourke scored on the power-play, with assists from her sister, Lulu, and classmate Bliss Vernon. That tally would be the lone shot needed for the Raiders (22-1) to top 12th-seeded Falmouth (13-5-5), but Wellesley did not step off the gas, peppering Clippers freshman goalie Lucy Armour, who made 27 saves; including 18 in the second period.
"We wanted to stay the course [after the first period]," Donato said. "We felt like we were getting some chances. We were playing three lines. It might have been a scoreless period, but we thought we played pretty well. We wanted to keep carrying the tempo of play."
Vernon added a goal of her own after Dani Cimino doubled the lead to give the Raiders a 3-0 advantage after two. Mackenzie O’Neil, who had already grabbed two assists, Rourke, and Devon Morton closed the scoring in the third.
Canton 3, Norwell 1 — Lizzie Tassinari was a freshman on the 2018 Canton team that advanced to the D2 state final. After the experience made her feel “like a celebrity,” the junior wanted to get back there, and her winner in the second period made it happen.
"Allie McCabe was coming down and had a pretty nice shot," Tassinari said. "She kind of fumbled it a little, so I just kind of saw the opportunity to take the puck and I shot it kind of blindly, just to get shots on net and rebounds to see if anything would go in. It was just trickling in and it crossed the line."
Tassinari's goal was the push Canton needed after coming out of the first frame tied. Freshman defender Maya Battista put Canton on top before Norwell's Casey Messina tied it with 4:11 left to play in the first.
After the Bulldogs (19-1-4) held off Norwell (20-3) in the second period, freshman defender Olivia Maffeo added some insurance by going top shelf past Norwell goalie Nicole Prescott (11 saves). Freshman goaltender Carolyn Durand made 20 saves for the Bulldogs.
Maffeo, who skated on the Bulldogs’ top defensive pairing with her sister, senior Alexa, was crucial as Canton blocked shots like coach Dennis Aldrich had never seen his team do before.
"Every time I looked up, we were in a shooting lane," Aldrich said. "That was paramount for us tonight. I'm very, very pleased. That's kids that are putting the team and the game ahead of themselves."
Canton will face Wellesley in Sunday's final at TD Garden, setting up a rematch of the 2018 final that began Wellesley's back-to-back championship run.
"Their kids are really good, and [Wellesley coach PT Donato] is one hell of a coach," Aldrich said. "They're just the whole package, from coaching down to players. We're not calling it in. We're going to show up. We'll give it a go.
“We have a lot of respect for them, and we’re certainly not afraid of them.”