Junior Ryan Birch (8) comes in on a breakaway and attempts to put the puck past the BC High goaltender. Photos by Tim Hoffman
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
One of the best local high school sports stories this winter has been the incredible run to the Super Eight by the Walpole Rebels. Following an unbeaten 21-0-1 regular season, the Rebels earned the No. 7 seed and a play-in round date with perennial power Catholic Memorial on February 27. The Rebels took down the Knights 2-1 thanks to Cam Martin’s overtime goal, and earned themselves a date with No. 2 seed Boston College High School in the quarterfinal round (best of three).
After goaltender James Corcoran stole the show with 35 saves and the Rebels took game one against the Eagles by a final of 1-0, Ron Dowd’s team found themselves one win away from the Super Eight semifinals in their first ever trip to the tournament.
In game two on Wednesday night at Chelmsford Forum, the Rebels fought to the bitter end, but ended up falling by a final of 2-0 (empty netter with six seconds to play).
On Saturday, the Rebels and Eagles met in Chelmsford for the third and final time to conclude their quarterfinal series, and despite taking a 2-1 lead into the second period, Walpole fell 3-2 in a shootout in heartbreaking fashion to end their Super Eight run and their 2016-2017 season.BC jumped out to an early 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the contest, but the Rebels responded through the incredible hand-eye coordination of sophomore forward Conor Foley, who tipped in a shot from the point midway through the period to knot the game back at one. Walpole senior captain Patrick Donovan then gave the Rebels the lead off of a wrist shot from the slot as the Rebels entered the second period up 2-1.
The Eagles came out in the second period firing on all cylinders in attempts to tie the game at two, but for the most part, the Rebels were able to turn away any type of legitimate scoring chance for their opposition thanks to the shot-blocking of defenseman Teddy McElaney and goaltending by Corcoran. However, with just 27 seconds left to play in the period, the Eagles were able to tie the game at two via a one-timer on the power play, and it was a brand new game heading into the final frame of regulation.
A scoreless third period resulted in every hockey fan’s favorite thing and every hockey parent’s worst nightmare: sudden death overtime. Despite numerous scoring chances for both sides in the six-minute four-on-four overtime, the extra period ended with the score still tied at two, meaning the Eagles and Rebels would play another six-minute three-on-three overtime. In the second overtime, Walpole senior captain Owen Hunter was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway. Unfortunately, Hunter was unable to cash on in his potential game-winning penalty shot, as the BC goaltender turned Hunter away with a right pad save on a snap shot from the hash marks. Following the missed penalty shot, the Eagles and Rebels remained scoreless at the end of two overtimes, meaning that the quarterfinal series would come down to a five-round shootout.
After Corcoran stood tall and denied BC High on their first shootout attempt, sophomore forward Ryan Boyajian scored on Walpole’s first shootout attempt to give the Rebels the 1-0 advantage. Both teams then traded unsuccessful attempts in round two, but the Eagles were able to finally put one past Corcorcan in round three to tie the shootout score at one, followed by a missed chance for Walpole by senior Cam Martin. In round four, the Eagles took a 2-1 lead before Teddy McElaney shot one wide on his opportunity. The BC goaltender shut the door in round five on Walpole senior captain Patrick Donovan, winning the shootout and the series for the Eagles and eliminating Walpole from the Super Eight.
Despite the loss, the Rebels have a ton to be proud of for what they accomplished this season, going undefeated and becoming the first Bay State Conference team to qualify for the Super Eight since Weymouth in 2012. Head coach and Walpole High AD Ron Dowd agrees.
“Tonight’s outcome changes nothing. Incredible group of kids,” said Dowd following the game. “Thank you, Walpole, for the support.”