By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Following a 5-1 victory over Bay State Conference rival Natick on Sunday evening in the quarterfinal round in Canton, the Wellesley High School varsity boys hockey team traveled to Gallo Arena in Bourne for the South Sectional semifinals against another conference foe, Braintree.
Despite an incredible defensive effort, the No. 2 seed Raiders (15-6-1) fell to the No. 3 seed Wamps (14-6-2) by a final score of 1-0, as a 26-save performance by freshman goaltender Andrew Hubbard was not enough to propel Wellesley into the South finals.
The Raiders and Wamps both played extremely tight defensively in the first period, as shots were at a premium with both teams clogging shooting lanes and locking down the slot and crease areas by collapsing in front of the net. The game remained scoreless heading into the second period, and both sides continued to battle physically for loose pucks in the corners and wear each other down with cycles behind the net. However, with 6:28 left in the second period, Braintree broke the scoreless tie after a shot from a tough angle made its way through a pair of bodies in front of the net. Hubbard was able to get a piece of the initial shot with his left pad, but the rebound kicked right onto the stick blade of an awaiting Braintree forward, who slapped the puck home to give the Wamps a 1-0 lead at the second intermission.
Entering the third period with their season on the line, the Raiders knew that they had to find a way to generate more zone time and more quality scoring chances. Senior captain and defenseman Zach Doughy had arguably the best chance of the final period following a three-on-one rush up the ice with forwards Bo Picking and Darrald Webb. After Picking dished the puck across the ice to Webb, Webb fed a pass to Doughty in front for a mini-breakaway. Doughty faked to the backhand and cut back to fire a shot that was gloved by the Wamp net-minder and frozen for a whistle, preserving the 1-0 lead for Braintree.
With under a minute to play in the period, the Raiders opted to pull Hubbard for an extra attacker to set up a six-on-five advantage. Despite working the puck around in the Braintree end, the Raiders were unable to generate a significant scoring chance due to a wall of Wamp defenders guarding the front of the cage. With 12 seconds to play, the Raiders broke the puck into the zone one final time, but were unable to net the tying goal after a pass was picked off and fired out of the zone by a Braintree defender. The clock turned to zeros and Braintree escaped with the 1-0 victory to advance to Saturday’s South Finals.
While the result obviously was not what the Raiders had in mind, the defensive efforts and stud goaltending that had allowed them to succeed throughout the entire 2016-2017 season were put on full display in Thursday night’s contest. It’s not often that a team loses a game when they only surrender one goal, but unfortunately, sometimes the puck does not bounce your way and you find yourself on the wrong end of things in the sport of hockey.
A lot of good came out of the 2016-2017 hockey season for Wellesley, as Paul Donato and the Raiders found their goaltender for the future in Andrew Hubbard, while achieving immensely in the regular season with clean 2-0 sweeps of both Needham and Milton.
Congrats to the Raiders on a hard-fought and successful year.