The St. Mary’s High School girls hockey program has set the standard for excellence in Massachusetts.
It’s been a perennial powerhouse under head coach Frank Pagliuca and after a tough overtime loss in the quarterfinals last year, the Spartans were back playing for the Division 1 state championship Sunday at the TD Garden.
The Spartans were facing a familiar foe in Arlington Catholic, a team they had defeated twice during the regular season. But Arlington Catholic scored first in the state championship game, built a 3-0 lead, and held off the Spartans to win by a 3-1 score.
Pagliuca credited the Cougars for playing a superior game with the title on the line.
“We got outplayed for three periods,” said Pagliuca. “We weren’t on the same level as Arlington Catholic. They deserved to win. We didn’t really show up to play. It was disappointing from our end but you have to credit AC for how well they played. They were tremendous in all three periods and wanted the game more.”
Brittani Lanzilli, a sensational sophomore from Medford, scored St. Mary’s only goal of the game on a beautiful rush in to the zone, giving Spartan fans hopes for a comeback.
“Brittani had a great goal,” said Pagliuca. “Brittani has had a great season. The goal gave us some legs for about five or six minutes but then we reverted back to puck watching and not moving our feet and no team is going to be successful when they’re doing that.”
Arlington Catholic sophomore goalie Megan Messuri made 28 saves while St. Mary’s sophomore goalie Lauren Skinnion had 21.
AC coach Maggie Taverna said her team “did all the little things right” in the game.
“I think we came out and just played our game,” said Taverna. “We played how we played all year and it wound up working this time.”
St. Mary’s seniors Genevieve Benoit and Rachel Donahoe reflected on the game and their careers in the program.
“AC came out flying and we did sit back a little bit in the first period,” said Benoit. “I don’t know if it was nerves or the jitters of being at the Garden. We came out very timidly in the second period and didn’t pick it up until the second half of the second period and by that time sometimes it’s too late.”
Donahoe agreed with her teammate.
“They came at us hard and we really wanted it, but they wanted it more this time,” said Donahoe.
Both seniors will leave the program with two state hockey championships. They both thanked coach Frank Pagliuca for making their high school hockey playing experience fun and rewarding.
“Coach Pagliuca has been absolutely outstanding these past four years,” said Benoit. “I think he’s given Rachel and me everything we’ve ever wanted with a high school hockey team. He knows his stuff and I don’t think we can say enough about him. We’re going to miss him.”
“It’s been a great four years – I couldn’t have asked for a better coach,” said Donahoe. “I wouldn’t have wanted to played hockey for anyone else.”