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Two Powerhouses Collide at the Garden

March 17, 2019
Tewksbury's Cassidy Gruning is one of the top scorers for the Tewksbury/Methuen girls hockey team, which plays for the Division 1 state title Sunday. SUN FILE PHOTO/JULIA MALAKIE Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

TEWKSBURY -- Over three-plus months, the Austin Prep and Tewksbury/Methuen girls hockey teams have emphatically knocked over just about every obstacle in their way.

D1 girls hockey final

Now, they’re standing in each other’s way.

Unbeaten and top-seeded AP (23-0-0) will meet the third-seeded Red Rangers (21-1-1) in the Division 1 state final at TD Garden on Sunday (1 p.m.). It’s a return trip to the Garden for Tewksbury/Methuen, which lost to Woburn, 1-0, in the championship game last year. Austin Prep won the state title back in 2016. Both programs have become perennial juggernauts.

The Cougars have outscored opponents in three tourney wins by a margin of 13-4, while T/M has done so by an incredible margin of 22-4. Something will have to give when these two powerhouses meet in Boston.

“It’ll be a really good game,” said Tewksbury/Methuen head coach Sarah Oteri. “Austin Prep only allowed eight goals in the regular season. We’ll need to minimize our mistakes. They’re pretty good all over the place and they score a lot of goals.”

The two teams didn’t face-off in the regular season. The Red Rangers’ lone loss came against Andover all the way back on Dec. 22. Austin Prep beat that same Andover squad in the Division 1 semifinals, 3-1.

Oteri feels like her team is playing its best hockey right now.

“I’m feeling very confident,” she said. “The girls are definitely looking forward to playing at the Garden. It’s a big ice surface and it almost feels a little strange because everyone is looking down at you. But being there last year should help us.”

Also helping matters for T/M is a dynamic first line, all of whom are Tewksbury High School students. Senior forward Julia Masotta has enjoyed a huge season. She has 49 goals and 30 assists and leads the state with 79 points. Senior forward Cassidy Gruning has contributed 28 goals and 20 assists, and junior forward Lydia Pendleton has 9 goals and 21 assists.

Junior goaltender Kaia Hollingsworth (Methuen) sports a 1.08 goals against average, a .945 save percentage and has five shutouts.

For Austin Prep, eighth grade forward Samantha Taber leads the way in scoring with 29 goals and 19 assists. Senior forward Isabella Saracco (23-17-40) and freshman forward Aylah Cioffi (16-16-32) have also posted strong numbers.

Senior goalie Hannah Aveni has played in every game and has a state-best 0.50 goals against average to go with 15 shutouts.

Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone

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