LOWELL — The first two periods displayed back-and-forth hockey in Sunday’s Division 1 girls’ semifinal at the Tsongas Center.
But in the span of 62 seconds, top-seeded St. Mary’s secured its first trip to the state final since 2013, rifling in three goals for a resounding 6-3 victory over 13th-seeded Billerica/Chelmsford Sunday afternoon.
First, senior Amanda Forziati tipped in a slapper from classmate Jenna Chaplain on the power play for a 3-2 lead. Then senior Maggie Pierce (two goals, two assists) earned a tremendous unassisted tally. Just 16 seconds later, Chaplain (two goals, three assists) put away a rebound, her second goal of the game, for a 5-2 cushion.
St. Mary’s (25-1-0) will take on third-seeded Shrewsbury (20-2-2) in the state final next Sunday at TD Garden (time TBA).
The top line of Chaplain, Pierce, and Forziati accounted for five of the six goals. The big moment/big arena may have led to angst early on, but St. Mary’s coach Frank Pagliuca was pleased with the way his trio of senior leaders buckled down as the game went on.
“Our best players stepped up,” said Pagliuca. “We needed that boost offensively, and we got it.
“It’s a different environment; you have the lights, you have the big stadium seating. We just tried to focus on playing inside the glass.”
Chaplain broke up a scoreless game in the second period when she wheeled into the slot and sent a shot rocketing into the top corner. Less than a minute later, Billerica/Chelmsford (11-12-1) got on the board when Kate Harrison laid out to capitalize on a rebound. And entering the third period, it was 2-2.
“We never hung our heads or anything after they scored,” Chaplain said. “We knew we could come back so I had confidence in my teammates, and we just finished it out.
“[Our line] … we just went out there and played the game, had some fun.”
Sophomore Hailey Graybeal starred in net for a Billerica/Chelmsford, highlighted by a 15-save second period.
“[Billerica/Chelmsford] played us physical, and their goalie was outstanding today,” said Pagliuca.
B/C’s Katherine Morin added a goal with three minutes left in the game, but Pierce followed with an empty-net goal.
“Sharing this with my team, it’s just a special moment for us and going into the Garden is truly something that I’ll always remember,” Chaplain said.
Olivia Nolan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.