MASCONOMET MAGIC: Chieftains slay defending champ AP, advance to state Final Four
By Matt Williams Staff writer
WOBURN — If the glass slipper — or in this case, the glass skate — fits, then wear it for all it’s worth.
No. 18 seeded Masconomet’s Cinderella ride through the Division 1 girls hockey state tournament hit another apex Tuesday night at O’Brien Rink, where the Chieftains put away defending state champion Austin Prep, 3-1.
“A seed is just a number,” grinned Masco senior Rachael Duval.
Masconomet (12-8-3) advances to Monday’s state semifinal against either Woburn or Westford Academy. In doing so, they become just the second team in the history to the Northeastern Hockey League to make a state final four.
Using picture perfect defense and a pinpoint counter attack, Masconomet became the first Division 1 Massachusetts team to defeat the Cougars (16-4-2) all season.
“Every team we play is supposed to get past us. These girls love playing the spoiler,” said Masco coach Ryan Sugar. “Our goal was just to won one tournament game and then see what happened. To be one game away from the Garden? It’s unbelievable.”
Freshman goalie Molly Elmore made 27 saves for the Chieftains to follow up her 44-save quarterfinal effort against Beverly last week.
“It’s crazy. I can’t even put into words how crazy this is,” said Elmore.
First-year Masconomet head coach Sugar’s game plan worked to perfection, with two odd-man rushes leading to goals in the second period.
Winger Abby Gendron was the catalyst of both plays, scooping the puck after sustained AP cycles and motoring the other way. On the game’s first goal, Gendron slowed down near the net to suck the defense towards her, then slid it across to Kate Irons for the finish and a 1-0 lead.
“Being a lefty and coming in with those passes? To sauce those passes across the ice the way she did is incredible,” Sugar said of Gendron. “She was incredible.”
Then with only 1:48 left in the second, Gendron sent it ahead to captain Izzy Sarra. She did the rest, bearing down on Cougar goalie Hannah Aveni, faking left and shooting right for a commanding 2-0 edge.
“I think there were seven 2-on-1’s in the second period,” said Sugar. “It was just a matter of working the puck off the boards and getting up the ice quick.”
Elmore had another superb outing. Defending in front of her, captain Madi Brooke, Rachael Duval, Riane Vatcher and Anna Bessinger showed outstanding discipline; they allowed AP to pass the puck around, but kept the quality of the Cougars’ shots reasonably low.
“I have 100 percent trust in my defense,” said Elmore. “They’re playing great.”
Just 34 seconds in the third, the Chieftains extended their lead when captain Madi Brooke walked down the wall and sniped over Aveni’s shoulder for a power play tally and a stunning 3-0 lead.
Austin Prep pressured Elmore, finally breaking through with 11:26 to play on Katie Richards’ goal. The Cougars threatened again when they had 45 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time midway through the third, but the Chieftains managed to kill if off.
“We’re still trying to figure out how Molly stopped a couple of those,” Sugar said.
The Cougars pulled Aveni for an extra attacker with 90 seconds left, but took a penalty with 1:03 to go that hampered their ability to press for another goal. The upstart Chieftains then salted the remaining time away to record yet another win that ranks up there with the best in their program’s 15-year varsity history.
Defensively, the Chieftains also did an excellent job killing penalties. AP ended the game 0-for-3 on the advantage, with Masconomet center Sami Kelleher doing some strong work in those situations and Elmore also coming up with some momentous saves.
Austin Prep had only allowed 20 goals all season, with Masconomet breaking through for three being a rarity.
Masconomet hadn’t won a playoff game since 2009 before last week’s triumph over Quincy; followed up by Friday’s thrilling shootout victory over Beverly and now a triumph over the defending state champs.
“We’re an 18 seed and we’re still in the tournament,” Sugar said. “They want to keep playing hockey right now, and they’re having fun doing it.”
Masconomet 3, Austin Prep 1
at O’Brien Rink, Woburn
Division 1 quarterfinal
Masconomet 0 2 1 — 3
Austin Prep 0 0 1 — 1
First period: No scoring.
Second period: M, Kate Irons (Abby Gendron), 3:26; M, Izzy Sarra (Gendron, Riane Vatcher), 13;12.
Third period: M, Madi Brooke (Rachael Duval), ppg, :34; AP, Katie Richards (Kendra Currier), 3:34.
Saves: M, Molly Elmore 27; AP, Hannah Aveni 15.
Records: M, 12-8-3; AP, 16-4-2.