BOSTON, Mass. – Even when you’ve played at the TD Garden before, the experience of skating on the biggest stage with the chance to win a state championship can be daunting. In the first period of Sunday morning’s Div. 2 final, Canton (19-3-4) struggled to find its footing against No. 2 seed Duxbury.
The Dragons were flying from the start, held Canton to just one shot on goal in the first, and jumped out to a two-goal lead. Despite twice battling back within one, the Bulldogs were never able to overcome that tough start to the game. Duxbury skated to a 5-2 victory and its first state title since 2014.
It was the fifth state final appearance for the Bulldogs in the past seven seasons, but Canton is still looking for that first win at the TD Garden.
“The nerves and the stage and they did to us what we wanted to do to them, just get a consistent flow, heavy forecheck, over the red line, and get it deep and we were just struggling to do that,” said Canton coach Nikki Petrich about her team’s difficulties in the opening period.
She added, “They’re nervous too, but they’re applying more pressure. So, once we started to relax a little bit, as you saw in the second period, and really get into our game plan we had several scoring opportunities.”
Duxbury wasted no time creating chances. Samantha Norton circled the net and teed up Addyson Harrington for a quick shot that hit the outside of the post. Izzy Cusack worked hard on the forecheck to earn Canton a scoring opportunity, but Devan Spinale’s shot from the point went wide on the blocker side.
Zoey Madigan then fired a pass to Megan Carney for a chance from close range and Maya Battista had to be in the right spot to block. Seconds later, the Dragons went on the first power play. It took only eight seconds for them to convert. Madeleine Greenwood’s slap shot from the edge of the right wing circle snuck through a crowd and past Carolyn Durand’s pad.
Play continued to be almost exclusively in the Canton zone. Carney forced a blocker save from Durand, who then had to react quickly to smother the rebound attempt from Harrington.
With 1:43 left in the first, Duxbury doubled the lead on a stellar solo goal. McKenna Colella picked up the puck behind her own net, skated the length of the ice weaving through Canton players, and then slipped a backhand shot under the pads of Durand to make it 2-0.
Canton came out with more energy to start the second, although Colella nearly added a third after forcing a turnover, but she flicked her shot wide. Ellie Bohane worked hard to force a turnover on the other end and had a good look blocked by Lucia Rose.
Midway through the period, Canton got back into the game. Tori Carr collected the puck at the right point and fired a shot through bodies in front and past Duxbury goalie Anna McGinty.
“That’s kind of been the beauty of our postseason run,” Petrich said about Carr providing the score. “We’ve had several different scorers every single game and that’s what we really needed. It was great that she scored that goal to really get us going.”
The goal was a momentum builder for the Bulldogs, who were inches away from tying the game. On the power play, Kayleigh Koen shot one from the high slot that just missed the stick of her sister Audrey, who was stationed on the post. Battista got room in the right wing circle for a wrister, but put it just wide.
Cusack would get the best chances of the period when she connected with a pass across the crease from Audrey Koen, but could only tip it wide. Seconds later, they tried it again and this time it was on target only for McGinty to flash a pad and keep it out.
The save turned out to be huge because Duxbury would add a third against the run of play. Colella fired a shot from the point and Greenwood was able to get a telling touch to lift it over Durand with a minute left in the period.
Petrich explained, “When another team is doing what we want to do and you can’t get your shots through, they’re incredible with blocking shots, and it was just another kind of punch in the face. Every time we were able to punch, they were able to punch us back twice as hard.”
Although the swallowed up any of the momentum that the Bulldogs had built in the second period, Canton continued to push in the third to try and get back into the contest. Durand (11 saves) was called into action again early in the period, stopping a backhand try from Harrington.
Kayleigh Koen had a shot from the point stopped by McGinty (10 saves) and the rebound popped out to fellow freshman defenseman Georgia Campbell. She fired the puck back on net but classmate Abby Stock’s tip was wide.
The chance to make it a game was presented with six minutes to go when the Bulldogs went on the power play. Canton took the chance. Cusack got it started with a good forecheck on the side of the net, winning possession and dropping a pass back to Battista, who was pinching in from the right point. The senior threaded the needle with an angled pass to the back post and Audrey Koen was in right spot to tap in.
It was game on again with 5:19 to play, but it was Duxbury that responded better. Durand had to stay strong to deny a point-blank tip from Greenwood, but the Dragons just kept coming. Carney set up Harrington in the slot for a one-timer that made it 4-2 with 2:30 to go. Just a minute later, Greenwood nearly completed her hat trick with a power move that Durand stopped only for Parker Metzler to follow up and put the game away.
“Just a phenomenal feeling,” Petrich said, reflecting on taking Canton to the Garden in her first season in charge. “We got here extremely early and to see the ice, to see no one in the stands and to see their faces, to be able to take those pictures on the bench, and to kind of visualize and understand the moment that they’re in was really, really special.
“I just really enjoyed seeing them. It’s why hockey is so awesome because we get to play here.”