By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
With the postseason approaching, every win matters this time of year in order to receive the highest seed possible in the MIAA state tournament.
On Saturday, the Walpole Rebels (11-6-3, 8-3-1) hosted non-conference rival King Phillip Regional for their senior day. Having already picked up their 10th win of the season on Wednesday against Milton, Walpole’s ticket to the tournament had already been punched heading into Saturday. However, the Rebels were not about to let a chance to improve their seeding go to waste, especially with emotions running high with the senior day festivities.Thanks to a three-goal second period surge and some critical late shot-blocking, the Rebels were able to get the job done and garner a 4-3 victory over the Warriors (9-11-0, 5-4-0).
Ryan Boyajian drew first blood for Walpole on a four-on-three power play with 7:11 to play in the first period when the senior captain flew up the ice on a breakout and fired a shot through the right armpit of the KP goaltender for the 1-0 lead. KP drew even with a shot off of an offensive zone face-off with 4:24 to play in the period, as the game entered the first intermission tied at one.
At 3:20 of the second period, senior defenseman Joe Panciocco fired a wrist shot from the point that found its way through a series of bodies and into the back of the net to give Walpole back the lead at 2-1.Sophomore goalie Jack Curran made the play of the game with a massive glove save on a KP breakaway bid with around eight minutes to play in the period to keep it 2-1 in favor of Walpole. With 7:18 to play in the period, Conor Foley snuck in on the back door and one-timed home a cross-ice feed from junior defenseman Liam Fisher on the power play to double Walpole’s lead to a pair at 3-1. Just 11 seconds later following the ensuing center ice face-off, sophomore forward Ethan McDonough tapped home a goal on a two-on-one bid to make it a 4-1 game with 7:07 remaining in the period. Walpole took their three-goal lead into the second intermission.
KP struck early in the third on the power play to make it a 4-2 game. The Warriors put home another midway through the period to cut it to a one-goal game at 4-3. Walpole called a timeout to settle things down and followed up the break with some shutdown defensive play, clogging the slot and forced KP to navigate the puck on the perimeter. The Warriors pulled their goaltender with about a minute to play for an extra attacker in a last ditch attempt to knot the game at four, but the Rebels stood strong and blocked a series of shots to prevail by the 4-3 final.“Winning on senior day was huge for us,” said senior captain Conor Foley following the game. “It was an important win to get just before the tournament. All around, it was just a great atmosphere at Rodman today. Very thankful to everyone that helped make that possible.”
The Rebels will cap off their regular season with a non-conference road trip to Brockton on February 21 before finding out where they will be seeded in the state tournament.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.