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WOONSOCKET -- For a team that owns a magnificent 17-1 record and has outshot its opponents by an imposing 91-12 count, itâ€™s safe to say that Mount St. Charles hasnâ€™t experienced too many long nights at the office this season.
But there has been one team that has made life somewhat challenging for the Mounties throughout the season, and itâ€™s not the one that topped them back in mid-December, but the one that came awfully close to doing so in each of its three meetings with the defending champs.
That team is La Salle, and the Rams are going to get another chance to topple the Mounties, but on the stage that matters the most -- the best-of-three State Championship series at Providence Collegeâ€™s Schneider Arena.
The Mounties begin their quest for their third straight state title and seventh in their very successful 10-year history on Saturday at 1 p.m., and Game 2 of the series will be the following day at the same time. If a third and deciding game is needed, it will take place on Tuesday at either 6 or 8 p.m.
La Salle advanced to the finals by sweeping its best-of-three semifinal-round series with Bay View, which handed Mount its lone defeat back on Dec. 16, a 2-1 setback on Dec. 16 at Adelard Arena, before suffering 3-2 and 4-1 losses in their next two games.
The Mounties swept their regular-season series with the Rams by scores of 3-1, 3-1, and 3-2, but in the first two wins, they needed goals in the gameâ€™s final 50 seconds by Caitlin Shea to gain some breathing room, and the third victory was decided in overtime by a goal from Lauren Levesque.
â€śWe were fortunate to beat them three times, but they were all close games,â€ť MSC coach Steve Shea said of La Salle. â€śAnd you canâ€™t get any more clichĂ© than saying itâ€™s a new season, but it absolutely is. Weâ€™re playing a very good team, so our 3-0 [during the regular season] is meaningless at this point.â€ť
If thereâ€™s one player on the Rams who has been a thorn in the Mountiesâ€™ sides for the past three years, itâ€™s their senior goaltender, Holly Scott, who has long been regarded as one of the stateâ€™s best at her position.
Scott, a tall, athletic goalie who finished second in the league to MSCâ€™s Sarah Erban in goals-against-average (1.01) and save percentage (.944), totaled 104 saves in the three contests against Mount and promises to be at her best again when the two foes face off this weekend.
â€śHolly gives everyone problems,â€ť said Shea, whose club swept the Warwick co-op team in the semis by identical 8-1 scores. â€śSheâ€™s a great goalie, and so far, weâ€™ve found a way to score enough goals on her to win our games. Weâ€™ll just keep shooting and keep pounding the strike zone and take it from there.â€ť
Two other players the defending champs will have on their radar are also two of the Ramsâ€™ youngest players -- freshman forwards Meaghan Rickard, who was fifth in the state in scoring (17 goals, 12 assists), and Sarah Miglioro (11 goals, eight assists).
â€śThey skate with the puck theyâ€™re good stick-handlers, and they can score,â€ť said Shea. â€śThey generally play together, so clearly we have to lock that line up well and be very aware of when theyâ€™re on the ice.â€ť
As the Rams possess their share of weapons, so do the Mounties, and most of their standouts hail from a talented senior class determined to become the first girlsâ€™ team in the state to win three straight championships.
Among the 12th graders who have enjoyed truly exceptional four-year careers at Mount are the trio that make up the first line, Sheaâ€™s twin daughters, Caitlin Shea and Allison Shea, and Levesque.
Caitlin Shea, who has 15 goals and 12 assists, is among the teamâ€™s all-time leading scorers with 51 career goals. Levesque added 10 goals this year, and Allison Shea had nine.
Defensemen Lauren Deguire (11 assists) and MaryKate Stimpson have also played very well.
â€śAll high school teams rely on seniors,â€ť offered Shea. â€śOur seniors were the ones that were there when they lost [in the 2009 finals] as freshmen with 1:11 left to Bay View, and they were there when we won the next two years. Our seniors will lead the way, and hopefully, the rest will follow.â€ť