BRIGHTON, Mass. – Up in the rafters at the Warrior Ice Arena hang the numbers of some of the top players in Boston Bruins history, including Bobby Orr’s famous No. 4. Down on the ice, Canton’s wunderkind was showing that it never gets old to see a defenseman who can skate circles around an opponent and be as effective in the attacking zone as any forward.
Ursuline Academy had no answer for freshman Olivia Maffeo in Wednesday night’s Div. 2 quarterfinal in Brighton. She scored four times to eclipse the 30-goal mark for her rookie campaign and to power Canton to a 5-0 victory that puts the Bulldogs in the state semifinal for the third time in the last four years.
“It’s awesome,” said senior defenseman Alexa Maffeo about her sister’s goal-scoring heroics. “It’s hard to go to the net sometimes because you just want to watch whatever move she does. It definitely helps having a star like that.”
Maffeo’s classmate Carolyn Durand was also impressive in the win, recording 17 saves for her 14th shutout the season. The freshman class, including defenseman Maya Battista and forwards Audrey Koen and Ellie Bohane, has been instrumental in Canton’s success this season even as the team makes another run at a TD Garden trip.
“They don’t play like freshmen,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich when asked if he was surprised about the continued success of the younger players. “Maya is one of Liv’s teammates on the Junior Eagles and they’re as composed as you get. I’ve seen Carolyn have 14 shutouts this season. They’re playing well.”
While youth has been at the forefront for Canton this season, there is experience in the lineup, particularly seniors Meg Aldrich and Maffeo in the defensive corps. They have both been in the mix for the Bulldogs in each of their recent playoff runs and are key to shoring up things in the Canton zone.
“We’re definitely a defense-based team, so having two captains back there we can motivate the girls from the back,” Maffeo explained. “We know that offense comes from defense. We can be there to support them, even if they make mistakes we’ll be back there.”
There wasn’t a lot of offense in the opening period, as both teams looked to get the puck in deep and send the forecheck to try and force turnovers. The first chance came after two minutes when Durand gloved aside a shot by Tess Marchi that went off Alexa Maffeo’s glove on its way to goal. Olivia Maffeo had Canton’s first look with a trademark rush from her own zone and a slap shot from the high slot that Ursuline goalie Lucy Reardon saved.
Tess Khoury showed off her stick skills to dance through a pair of Ursuline defenders, gain the zone, and then force a pad save with a wrister from near the blue line. Maffeo almost got her first with a rip from the right circle that just caught Reardon’s shoulder and stayed out.
The game remained scoreless heading into the final minute of the period. Maffeo collected the puck on the left boards, dragged it between a pair of Ursuline players, beat a third into the middle, and then roofed a shot from the slot while falling down to give Canton a spectacular lead.
Canton wasn’t creating a lot of offense with its forecheck, but was causing Ursuline problems with getting the puck out of the zone. Early in the second that led to a pair of chances, the first from Lizzie Tassinari and the second from Alexa Maffeo. A couple of minutes later, Maffeo hit Maria Femia with an outlet pass down the right wing and her centering pass to Tassinari was tipped just wide.
Ursuline nearly evened the score when Marchi led a 3-on-2 breakout, but her shot was right into the chest of Durand. Tassinari connected with Femia, who managed to wriggle free of a pair of Ursuline players for a breakaway but Reardon came up with a big stop.
Olivia Maffeo got back into the act, as she dragged the puck past a pair of players and forced a blocker stop from Reardon.
In the final minute of the second, Canton not only doubled, but tripled its lead. On a power play, Khoury went circle-to-circle to find Maffeo in space and she buried the chance through the save attempt of the goalie. Just 27 seconds later, Maffeo followed up a loose puck and picked a corner to make it 3-0.
Aldrich said, “They played with a lot of energy the first five [minutes] but I think because we were able to roll three lines and five ‘D’ and the first two periods we had three goals and I think it was from wearing them down a little bit.”
It only took 1:05 into the third for the win to be wrapped up. Maffeo again raced up the ice and got space in the right circle before firing a shot through the goaltender. Durand made seven stops in the third to preserve the shutout, including a nice pad stop on a shot through a screen.
Payton McDonough’s pressure forced a turnover that gave Faith Nelson a chance that hit Reardon and the post on its way by. With 2:03 to play, Canton got a fifth. Koen’s snap shot smacked off the end boards and came right to Khoury, who showed great patience before lifting a shot over the sprawling goalie.
“We’d certainly like to see some other people get some pucks behind some goalies but as long as they’re going in I think these guys are okay,” said Aldrich.
Maffeo credits her years of experience for making things easier when it gets to this stage. She said, “My first year, freshman year, definitely I was nervous and I think playing with those nerves helped me, but moving forward having been here two times already I feel comfortable on this ice. I feel set in my position, I know what to do, I know how to win games of this caliber.”
Canton (18-1-4) will play the winner of Norwell and Notre Dame Academy in the state semifinal on Sunday back at the Warrior Ice Arena at a time to be determined.