The matchup between the top ranked girls hockey teams in Division 1 and Division 2 certainly lived up to the hype on Saturday night.
A huge crowd at The Bog watched as Duxbury and Austin Prep slugged it out, eventually needing overtime to settle things. That’s when Madison Vittands scored the game-winning goal with just three seconds left in overtime to propel the Cougars to a thrilling 3-2 win.
Austin Prep remains unbeaten at 20-0 while Duxbury suffered its second straight loss, dropping the Dragons to 15-2-2. Both teams have two regular season games remaining, but this one was more than just a regular season matchup. It was the ultimate tournament tune-up.
Entering the game, AP had outscored opponents 114-7, while the Dragons had outscored its competition 76-12. Needless to say, this was one for the ages.
“I thought Duxbury came out really hard,” said Cougars head coach Stephanie Wood. “It was their home rink, coming off a loss, big game…I don’t think we played our best tonight but it was also good for us to be pushed. It was really good for us to be pushed and challenged and I thought it was a great game.”
“This game showed we can play with anybody,” Duxbury coach Dan Najarian said. “That’s the best team we’ve seen. They have kids from all over everywhere, we’re just a small little town on the South Shore. We hung with them for 49:50 and but for a bounce here or there, I think we could’ve won that game.”
Tied 1-1 after two periods, Emma Spengler put Austin Prep up 2-1 with 12:30 remaining in the game. Spengler’s goal came on a rebound after an initial rush to the net from Faith Steiner. Duxbury’s Ayla Abban put home a rebound in front with 8:17 to go to tie the game after Camryn Holloway put a puck on net.
Throughout the evening, Duxbury goalie Anna McGinty (35 saves) and Cougars goalie Lauryn Hanafin (23 saves) dueled and they did for the remainder of the period, coming up big to send the game to OT.
“Anna’s the type of kid, the bigger the game, the better she plays,” Najarian said of his netminder.
“I thought Lauryn was sensational tonight,” added Wood of her goalie.
With time winding down in OT, Maeve Carey sent a cross-ice pass from right to left over to a streaking Vittands who let a shot go. The puck somehow trickled through McGinty’s pads and in and AP celebrated behind the goal.
“I felt like we did feel a lot of pressure going in,” said Vittands. “We really felt like we had to win to prove ourselves. I think we did a good job, we just need to communicate more and not think about how hard we have to try, but just think about coming together as a team.”
Duxbury dominated the first period, seeming to catch Austin Prep off guard with a relentless pursuit of the puck. The Dragons took a 1-0 lead into the dressing room after one thanks to a goal from Lily Sparrow 3:51 in, with an assist to Megan Carney.
Duxbury had several chances in the second to make it a two-goal game, but couldn’t capitalize on numerous looks. McGinty did her best to keep the Cougars off the scoreboard, but a goal from Isabel Hulse after a fantastic effort from Vittands made it a 1-1 game. McGinty had to make several more sprawling saves in the final 30 seconds just to keep it a tie game heading to the third.
Just 2:30 into the final frame Emma Spengler put home a rebound after an initial shot by Faith Steiner, putting the Cougars up 2-1. Duxbury tied the game with 8:17 to go when Ayla Abban put home a rebound in front after a shot from Camryn Holloway. From there, the goalies stole the show, keeping it 2-2 until the overtime period.
“We want to make it a point that we’re going to win our last game of the year,” said Wood when asked how important it was for her team to be in this type of game. “We don’t want to go into that last game not having been pushed or not having seen any adversity prior to that.
“Three years ago, we were 24-0 and lost our last game. We want to see those struggles prior to that, so I think tonight was a good test for that.”