By Matt Williams
---- — STONEHAM — There’s a phrase in hockey about breaking the dam. The idea is that if a team scores one goal it’ll lead to more, like the first drop of water getting through a dam leads to gushes.
Last night, the dam in front of the Austin Prep goal might as well have been sealed with military grade epoxy.
Beverly tried everything it could think of to get a goal in the Division 1 state quarterfinals, but the Cougars and goaltender Caty Flagg had the answer at every turn of a 3-0 Austin Prep victory at Stoneham Arena.
In the third period alone, the Panthers (18-3-2) attempted 28 shots. AP blocked four of them, another nine went wide and Flagg (30 saves) handled the rest.
“It was one of those nights where you’re trying and trying and it doesn’t go. We pressed and pressed and we never got that one goal,” said Beverly coach Brian Seabury.
The Cougars (15-5-3), who advance to Sunday’s state semifinals against Arlington Catholic, led 2-0 going into the third thanks to a pair of second period goals.
Beverly came out for the final 15:00 applying all kinds of pressure. It’s tough to say which chance had the best odd of going in: Julia Nearis had two in the final period, the first falling off her stick on the backhand and the second saved at the post by Flagg. Captain Nicole Woods had a blast from the slot saved by Flagg, and linemate Anna O’Neill had the rebound hop over her stick. Even third liner Karen Hovey had a blast from the slot sail wide.
With about 10:30 to go, Kristen McCarthy had a clean breakaway. She deked to her right, and the shot went wide.
“I thought maybe the breakaway would be the one that got us over the top,” said Seabury. “We told the girls keep going for that goal, and the second one will be right behind it. We just never got that first goal.”
Beverly scored 114 goals this season and ran up against an Austin Prep team that allowed only 24. The Cougars filled the passing lanes, forcing pucks high and wide and deflecting them with good positioning. They were especially mindful of Woods (70 points) and Nearis (61 points).
“We knew Beverly had one really good line and it was a big challenge. We kept them in front of us,” said Austin Prep coach Stephanie Wood.
The Cougars went ahead with 3:53 left in the second when Emily Burke and Maddy Ricci worked to free a puck that Beverly goalie Madison Jalbert was trying to cover in the crease. It found its way to Gabby Floramo, who had an open net at the other side.
“We wanted to crash the net and get the bodies in front, and that paid off,” said Wood.
Caroline Benson made it 2-0 minutes later when she capitalized on a turnover in the defensive zone by the Panthers. Trailing by two against a team as strong defensively as Austin Prep felt like trailing by 10.
“We knew that first goal would be a big one,” said Seabury.
Beverly graduates five seniors from a team that set a program record for wins with 18: Woods, Nicole Kamens, Rachel Trocchi, Rachel Ingraham and Karissa Zakas.
“I only had them for two of their fours years and I feel like I got the short end. They’re irreplacable,” Seabury said of the senior class.
Jalbert made 18 saves for Beverly, with her best work coming on AP’s counter attack in the second. She made a sliding stop on Olivia Finocchiaro in that period and also made three strong saves during a first period Cougar power play.
A few times in the third, Beverly was able to carry the puck to the front of the net but couldn’t get off clean shots due to the play of the Austin Prep defense.
“They bottled us up on those scoring areas,” said Seabury. “We got to the net and we never got that puck luck to get us going.”
AP’s Michaela Boyle scored an empty net goal with 56 seconds left to make absolutely certain her team was moving on.
“The way we played was fabulous, tremendous,” said Seabury. “Going 18-3-2 is nothing to shake a stick at. We wanted more. But at the end of the day we couldn’t get the goal we needed.”
Austin Prep 3, Beverly 0
Division 1 Quarterfinal
at Stoneham Arena
Austin Prep: 0 2 1 — 3
Beverly: 0 0 0 — 0
First period: No scoring.
Second Period: AP, Gabby Floramo (Emily Burke, Maddy Ricci), 11:08; AP, Caroilne Benson (Olivia Finocchiaro), 13:13.
Third Period: AP, Michaela Boyle (un), eng, 14:04.
Saves: AP, Caty Flagg 30; B, Madison Jalbert 18.
Records: AP, 15-5-3; B, 18-3-2.