Two teams that fully expected to be a serious challenger for a state title back in the pre-season and were dominant during the regular seasons will go at it Sunday morning at TD Garden for D1 bragging rights.
It should be a great contest between top-seeded Needham (22-0-2 overall) and third-seeded Woburn (20-2-2 overall). Both teams possess a host of proven scorers, talented defensemen and solid goaltending.
Woburn has won two D1 state championships in its history (2004 and 2006), as well as a D2 championship (2003). Needham owns one state title – in 2003.
Both teams have had a close call in the post-season, with the Rockets needing overtime to oust Bay State League rival Weymouth 2-1 in a first round game, while the Tanners also needed extra time to get past Masconomet, also 2-1, in the semifinal round.
“Both teams are great teams, but play differently,” said St. Mary’s head coach Frank Pagliuca, whose team played both this season, falling to Woburn 3-1 in the regular season, and Needham 6-2 in a recent quarterfinal matchup.
Junior Georgie Santullo has been the offensive leader so far for coach Bob MacCurtain’s Woburn team, coming into this one with a line of 38-26-64. She is joined on Woburn’s first line by senior Lily Mallard (18-17-35), who had two goals in the Tanners quarterfinal win over Westford Academy and the OT game-winner vs. Masconomet, and junior Maddie Russo (10-26-36).
Juniors Marissa Gregory, Kaitlyn Delaney and Cassidy Connolly form a potent second forward line for Woburn.
On the blue line, senior Breanna Jewett (9-15-24) is the cornerstone and also gets involved offensively. Olivia Perenick and Angie Moore are two other key blueliners. Senior Katelind Ciarvardone is a veteran presence between the pipes.
Needham will counter with one of the premier forward lines in the state, led by senior stalwart Elizabeth Hernberg (37 goals). Sophomore Gracie Bruno, who had two goals in Needham’s 3-1 semifinal win over Reading, has scored 24 goals. while fellow sophomore Elizabeth Phalen has 17 goals for coach Allisyn Furano-Foster’s Needham club.
Freshman Celia Blaszkowsky is another forward to watch. She has a pair of goals in the post-season.
Junior Rose Evans has been solid on defense for the Rockets. Freshman defenseman Madison Michals has been impressive and has 14 goals. In the nets, sophomore Melissa Strauss has emerged as the top goaltender.
“Woburn has a very intelligent team,” Pagliuca said. “Woburn will attempt to take away and limit Needham’s strengths. Woburn’s power play is exceptionally strong with great puck movement. They create a lot of looks.”
How does Pagliuca see Needham?
“Many teams get opportunities and do not finish,” he said. “Needham will make you pay for poor puck management. They do a great job of creating odd-man rushes and offensive looks. Needham does an excellent job of attacking the offensive zone with speed.”
One coach’s opinion on how Sunday’s D1 state final will go?
“I believe it will be a great game,” Pagliuca said. “I don’t see either team pulling away. I think it will be a 1-2 goal game. It would not surprise me if it goes to overtime.”
Pagliuca also thinks that face-off play will be a huge factor in this game.