With all the key games played amongst the Division 1 powers this season, it is a bit hard to believe that the two combatants in Sunday’s MIAA Girls Division 1 state championship game – St. Mary’s and Shrewsbury – did not meet.
Instead, they will battle in the nightcap of Sunday’s six-game championship slate at TD Garden (7:30pm start) for Division 1 supremacy.
St. Mary’s comes into the game with a 25-1-0 record. They have been Division 1’s top-ranked team since the pre-season. Ironically, the Spartans did not win the Catholic Central League, as their only loss of the season, a 3-2 overtime setback, was to Archbishop Williams.
Shrewsbury (20-2-2) has been highly ranked all season and earned a co-title in the rugged MVC/Dual County Large. The Colonials are going for their first state championship, and have lost only to HPNA and Longmeadow.
“St. Mary’s is a very strong team and is very well-coached,” said Shrewsbury coach Frank Panarelli. “We need to play a complete game in all zones and our best hockey for three periods. Getting pucks to the net is so important, as is finishing our chances. St. Mary’s is a deep and talented team and have one of the best players in the state in Jenna Chaplain. They bring a lot of challenges.”
The Spartans will look to their three senior veterans up front in Jenna Chaplain (27-32-59), Maggie Pierce (23-29-52) and Amanda Forziati (14-19-33). All were instrumental in a 6-3 semifinal win over Billerica/Chelmsford. Secondary scoring has come from junior Gabbi Oakes (14 goals), and seniors Tia Picardi (18 pts) and Kelly Lovett (15 pts).
Junior Kasey Litwin (23 pts) and seventh-grader Vanessa Hall (22 pts) are two-way threats on the St. Mary’s blue line. Senior Ang Cantino will get the call in the Spartans’ net.
The Spartans will be ready on Sunday, but know they have a formidable foe on the other side of the ice.
“Shrewsbury presents a tall task for our squad,” said St. Mary’s coach Frank Pagliuca. “Overall they are a strong skating team that is heavy on the puck. The Ryder sisters and (Katie) Vona lead a talented and deep forward group. (Risa) Montoya is an excellent goalie and their D as a group will be the best we have faced this season led by (Maddie) Mrva and (Yasmine) McKenzie. Not only are they really good D but both have the ability to jump into the play offensively. We are going to have to stay disciplined and match their speed and compete level on Sunday.”
The Colonials offense up front has come from a variety of sources, led by senior Taylor Ryder (12-17-29), sophomore Mia Ryder (8-15-23) and senior Katie Vona (10-9-19). Freshman Lauren Albertson (16 pts), who had the game-winner in Saturday’s 4-3 semifinal win over Notre Dame, juniors Paige Umile (13 pts) and Natalie MacCausland (12 pts) and sophomore Blaire Fay (11 pts) can’t be overlooked either.
Two of Shrewsbury’s top scorers come from the blue line and could be key factors in the game in senior Maddie Mrva (14-13-27) and sophomore Yasmine McKenzie (8-18-26).
Junior Risa Montoya has fashioned a 1.02 GAA between the pipes.
The game is shaping up to be a classic heavyweight fight.
“Sunday’s game is going to be an amazing game to watch,” said Pope Francis coach Chris Connors, whose team lost an early-season contest to St. Mary’s, and a pair late in the year to Shrewsbury, including a 2-0 game in the Round of 16. “Both teams are well-coached, both teams play fast and have some extremely talented players. These two teams play extremely sound in their respective defensive zone but on the same token both offenses are dangerous, and capable of scoring at any given moment.
“And you can’t forget about the goaltending. Ang Cantino and Risa Montoya are so tough to beat and are playing at a high level. It’s going to come down to which team stays disciplined and commits the least mistakes.”