Senior captain Lexi Schmalz (17) fights off a defender and cuts to the net with the puck late in the first period.
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Needham High School girls varsity hockey team moved to 2-0-0 on the season with a convincing 3-0 win at rival Natick on Saturday night, highlighted by a 15-save shutout effort in net by sophomore goalie Kenzie Kelly.
Grace Kelley drew first blood for Needham at 8:19 in the first period, when Britt Nawrocki forced a turnover behind the Natick net before feeding a pass out front to Kelley. The sophomore forward capitalized with a snipe up high to give the Rockets an early 1-0 lead.
Nawrocki nearly made it a 2-0 game with 1:35 to play on a rush up the near-side boards, but the freshman’s wrist shot rang off the crossbar and out of play as the game remained 1-0. A pair of big saves by Kelly, one with the blocker and one with the right pad on a two-on-one with under 20 seconds to play, kept the game 1-0 in favor of Needham at the first intermission.
Lexi Schmalz doubled Needham’s lead to 2-0 at 5:38 of the second period, when the senior captain took a pass from junior forward Celia Blaszkowsky and fired home a shot upstairs. Needham’s defensive corps played lockdown throughout the remainder of the period, highlighted by a diving poke check on a near breakaway by senior captain and defenseman Elizabeth Phalen to keep it 2-0 after two periods.
Schmalz nearly struck again just 39 seconds into the third period with a wrist shot up high, but Natick drew a bit of luck as the puck deflected off the shaft of the goaltender’s stick and hopped out of play.
With 4:43 to play and Needham still up a pair, Nawrocki delivered the dagger by firing home a shot up high for her second point of the contest to make it a 3-0 game. The Lady-Rockets preserved the shutout for Kelly and earned their second consecutive victory to begin the 2018-2019 season.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.