Making its first appearance in the state tournament in five years, the Latin Academy girls’ hockey team could not have made a more dramatic entrance than the one it made Monday at Murphy Memorial Rink in South Boston.
Going into the final period trailing Martha's Vineyard, 2-1, the Dragons tied the game on freshman forward Julia Pano’s goal with 7:13 left, and sophomore forward Bridget Fehily scored the go-ahead goal with 1:26 to play.
An empty-netter by freshman forward Danielle Baldassari with two seconds left put Latin Academy's 4-2 victory on ice.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, I feel like we worked really hard,” Fehily said. “We never wanted a game more than this and I think we showed that when we came out to play. We just knew we had this game if we worked hard enough and we’d get it. And we just had to believe in ourselves to be able to do it.”
Pano tied the game on a shot from about 30 feet that bounced out of the goaltender’s glove and into the net.
“I just came down, crossed the blue line, and just took a shot to try to get a goal because we needed it to tie,” said the freshman, who has been on the team since sixth grade. “We haven’t been to states in so long. I haven’t been to states and I’ve been here three years. There are some girls on the team who are seniors and they’ve only been once and they lost in the prelims.
“So it’s a lot of hope for us.”
On the go-ahead goal, Fehily knocked in a rebound after senior forward Tayla Duarte attempted a shot from behind the net that deflected off the goalie.
“I was just going to the net trying to get any puck that I could and I hit it and it went in,” Fehily said. “To score that goal, I couldn’t believe it.”
Second-year Latin Academy coach Ronald Ford said he told his players to “anticipate what is going to happen” when he addressed them before the final period.
“If you anticipate correctly and you’re ahead of the play you’ll have a better opportunity to score,” he said.
Ford said once Latin tied the game he was confident the momentum would push his team to the victory.
“It’s amazing ,” he said. “It really is, the girls truly put their heart on the ice and left it there for the game to decide what happens. They played as hard as they could and they played really well.”
Martha’s Vineyard outshot Latin Academy, 24-14. Natalie Lombardi made 22 saves for the Dragons.
“Natalie has been amazing this year, it’s her senior year,” Ford said. “The two years I’ve worked with her she’s been amazing and we’re lucky to have her.”
No. 18 Martha’s Vineyard, which made states for the first time in program history last year, finishes its season 10-8-3.
“It was a tough loss,” Martha’s Vineyard coach John Fiorito said, “obviously having the one goal lead going into the final period. You want a better result but I told the kids the program has come a long way. … We just couldn’t get out of our own way in the third period. Clearly they came out, we were on our heels. We had a couple opportunities … It was tough. They worked hard. They are in our league so we’ve seen them a couple times.
“It’s a nice little rivalry we got going even though we are on opposite ends of the world in the big scheme of things.”
Latin Academy (11-6-4), the 15th seed, advances to play second-seeded Falmouth.
“We’re happy to be advancing beyond the first round but we’re trying to go as far as possible,” Fehily said.
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