With the Division 1 title on the line Sunday afternoon, Methuen/Tewksbury junior Kaia Hollingsworth was at her best.
Hollingsworth made 35 saves, including a trio of spectacular stops in the first 12-minute overtime to secure the program’s first Division 1 state title, 3-2, in double OT, over Austin Prep at TD Garden.
“It’s a great time to have your best game,” said Methuen/Tewksbury coach Sarah Oteri. “They have some sharpshooters over there so those odd-player situations, for her to make those saves, she just came up so big.”
It was her stop with less than two minutes left in the frame against Austin Prep’s top scorer, eighth-grader Sam Taber, that really saved the game.
Floating at center ice, Taber received a pass and darted toward the net at full speed. Taber dangled twice, then quickly went forehand to backhand. But Hollingsworth played it aggressively, turning aside the effort with her right pad to keep the game going.
“I know she’s really good,” said Hollingsworth. “I just think to challenge her as every other player. You’re in that moment, you want to track down that one shot.”
Hollingsworth made two more saves in the first overtime.
With seven minutes to play in the period, Austin Prep senior Maeve Crehan took a partial breakaway down the left wing, flicking a shot that Hollingsworth snared with her outstretched glove.
Moments later, she robbed freshman Aylah Cioffi of a similar goal on the back hand.
“I don’t even know how I made those saves,” said Hollingsworth. “Honestly in my head I was thinking, ‘The season’s on the line’ and we just wanted that championship.”
With Hollingsworth strong on one end, the Red Rangers offense powered past a strong Cougars’ defense, feeding off the momentum from their goalie.
“Kaia did an unbelievable job,” said Methuen/Tewksbury senior Julia Masotta, who had a goal and an assist in the victory. “When your goalie makes a big save, I think we did a great job of trying to build off that.”
Dan Shulman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.