Sunday, March 5, 2017

Walpole Shuts Out BC High in Super 8 Slugfest

By Mike Abelson (@ABELS0N)

LOWELL, Mass. - There are no more doubts or questions when it comes to the Walpole High hockey team. The entire Commonwealth now knows, without question, that the Rebels are nothing to mess win.

A goal from Conor Foley 89 seconds into the game was all the Rebels would need, as they held off BC High the rest of the way, defeating the Eagles 1-0 in the first game of their Super 8 quarterfinal series.

“They were pretty focused all week,” Walpole coach Ron Dowd said. “No one still believes we should be here. We still have that chip. No one believed that we should be here. Right away I reminded them of that on Wednesday when we met. It was easy to keep them focused.”

Foley picked off a pass in the defensive end and took it all the way to the cage, on a breakaway, before lifting it with his backhand over sprawling BC High goalie Luke Garrity.

“Connor’s come a long way this whole second half of the season,” Dowd said. “He got the big assist against CM, and he proved it again tonight. Just a sophomore, he’s come on throughout the year.”

From there the Rebel defense took over the spotlight led by its leader, senior goaltender James Corcoran, and stymied the Eagles throughout. A smart, well-coached unit, the Rebels never let BC High force them out of position or to hassle them into mistakes. Even when the Eagles were pressing in the game’s final minutes for a tying goal the Rebels played a calm, precise game in the back to secure the victory.

Corcoran was exemplary. The captain stopped all 35 shots that came his way and, thanks to the defense in front of him, wasn’t forced into making many body-twisting, highlight-worthy saves. It was Corcoran’s 14th shutout of the season.

“The team defense was working great,” Corcoran said. “Everyone blocking shots, chipping the puck out, hard forecheck, just making my job a little easier. [BC] had a couple of decent chances, but mostly it was shots from the perimeter.”

The Eagles find themselves in the unusual, and unenviable, position of being down a game in a best-of-three series with a do-or-die game two coming up on Tuesday. BC High did get its motor going late though. The Eagles outshot Walpole 16-3 in the third period but still couldn’t solve Corcoran.

“If we play the way we played in the third period I like our chances,” BC High coach John Flaherty said. “We’ve got to figure that out. We knew what we were up against ahead of time. Everyone who gets here is a good team so we had to figure out how to shoot around them and not into them. You don’t have a chance. You’re back at it Tuesday and it’s win or go home.”

Game two of the series will take place Tuesday night, at 7 pm, at the Chelmsford Forum.

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