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Kevin Cullen

The win wasn’t the story

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / March 13, 2011

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The last time the girls of St. Mary’s of Lynn lost a hockey game, George W. Bush was still president, Lehman Brothers was still in business, and no one had heard of Justin Bieber, let alone Lady Gaga.

It was four years ago when St. Mary’s, the gold standard for high school girls hockey in Massachusetts, last lost a game. They then won 100 games in a row.

That streak was on the line the other night against Hingham High in the Division 1 quarterfinals at Stoneham Arena.

The Hingham girls won the Division 2 championship two years ago, but when they moved up to Division 1 last year they ran into a brick wall called St. Mary’s.

In fact, Hingham had played St. Mary’s five times in the last two years and always came up short.

Their games are usually barn-burners, and Thursday’s was no exception. The teams took a measure of each other in a scoreless first period. Sarah Schwenzfeier put Hingham up 1-0 in the second, but the game really took off in the third and final period. St. Mary’s came out buzzing and within a minute of each other Marisa Maccario had tied it and Hannah Quin put St. Mary’s ahead with a seeing-eye slapshot from the point.

With five minutes left, Hingham’s Jane Freda tied the game and it went to overtime.

In the first minute of overtime, again it was Freda, a swift-skating sophomore, who whisked down ice on a breakaway. If it were a movie, it would have been filmed in slow-motion, with a Rocky-like soundtrack, trumpets blaring. Freda deked just enough to get St. Mary’s goalie Sarah Foss to open her pads ever so slightly and the winning goal slid between and into the back of the net.

Great hockey game, great story — underdog defeats unbeaten titan — right?

Well, that’s not the real story.

The real story, the real greatness, happened after the game, after some of the Hingham girls flung themselves onto a pig pile on the ice.

It wasn’t planned. They didn’t talk about it. The Hingham girls, having upset the best team in the state, were entitled to go crazy. But there was something inside that reined them back.

“I think a lot of us, especially the seniors, knew what it felt like to have lost a game like this,’’ said Beth Findley, Hingham’s goalie and senior cocaptain. “As happy as we were, we knew how bad the St. Mary’s girls felt.’’

Findley, cocaptains Catherine Chittick and Katie Walsh, and another senior, Victoria Gong, did not jump on the pile. Instead, they glided wordlessly to center ice. They were joined there by the St. Mary’s seniors — Sabrina Iannetti, Angela Dandreo, and the Donovan twins, Bridget and Mikaela. They shook hands and hugged.

“They were obviously pretty upset,’’ Findley said. “It was hard for them. That was an incredible streak. And the last thing we wanted to do was rub it in. They’re such class acts.’’

The Hingham girls left the arena and got onto their bus to prepare for a celebratory ride down I-93 to the South Shore. But they agreed not to whoop it up in the parking lot.

Moments later, Iannetti, the St. Mary’s captain, emerged from the arena and headed straight for the Hingham bus.

She had never lost a high school game. Ever. She was two games away from high school perfection and was crushed. But when she climbed the steps of the idling Hingham bus, she forced a smile and hugged Tom Findley, the Hingham coach and Beth Findley’s father.

“Coach,’’ she asked, “can I talk to your team?’’

“Go right ahead, young lady,’’ he replied.

The Hingham girls were silent. Sabrina Iannetti cleared her throat and said, “That was a great game. If anyone was going to beat us, we’re glad it was you. We respect you all so much.’’

Iannetti promised that the St. Mary’s girls would go back to Stoneham Arena today and cheer Hingham High on in the semifinals, and if Hingham gets past Winthrop-Lynn English, St. Mary’s will go to the Garden and cheer Hingham on in the finals.

“It just seemed like the right thing to do,’’ Sabrina Iannetti told me. “I’m not happy we lost, but I’m happy we lost to a classy team.’’

Frank Pagliuca, the St. Mary’s coach, smiled when he heard the story.

“I didn’t even know she did that,’’ he said. “But I’m not surprised. That’s the kind of kid Sabrina is.’’

When Beth Findley got home from school on Friday, she found a Facebook message from Angela Dandreo, a St. Mary’s captain. It was warm and generous. Usually, the only time we write about Facebook and high school kids is when it is being used as a weapon. In this case, it was a cyber hug.

These girls will be women, and these are stories they will tell the rest of their lives. They will remember not only how they won but how they lost, with class and empathy.

We talk so much about sportsmanship, usually about the lack of it. The girls of St. Mary’s and Hingham High get it. Intuitively.

We should celebrate them.

And maybe we should start calling it sportswomanship.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.