Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Norwood Hockey shocks Southeastern/West Bridgewater in OT

By Jake Levin (@JakeLevin09)

Fans of the Norwood Mustangs likely didn’t mind a little extra time in their first tournament game since the 2013-14 season.

Not with the way things played out tonight, however grim they may have seemed at times. Senior defenseman Matt Dolan scored twice for the Mustangs, once in the third period and once in overtime to procure an upset for the No. 16 seed over top-seeded Southeastern/West Bridgewater, 3-2.

“I feel great,” Dolan said after he was swarmed by his teammates 2:19 into the 4-on-4 extra session. “It was a great team win, we all worked hard, we deserved it. We worked hard all year for this.”

Norwood (8-8-5) was in the postseason via the Sullivan rule, thanks to a 4-1 record against Division 2 and 3 teams over the course of its predominantly Division 1 schedule. Those battles against teams such as Needham, Wellesley and Braintree – contenders in the Division 1 South field – clearly prepared the Mustangs for what was to come in the tournament.

Norwood dominated possession of the puck and shots in goal in every period, but for awhile there, the Hawks (17-6-0) looked ready to spring what would have been an unusual upset. Despite being the No. 1 seed and champions of the Mayflower League, Southeastern/West Bridgewater is new to Division 2 just a year after going unbeaten in the regular season – only to lose in the first round of the Division 3 South tournament, too.

“I give them a lot of credit, they played hard,” Norwood head coach Chuck Allen said. “I thought we outplayed them, but in those kinds of games – this happened all year [to us]. We let teams hang around and our goalie wasn’t that busy, it’s hard to keep him motivated.”

Ryan Kinney broke into the attacking zone a step ahead of any Norwood defenders and buried his opportunity, giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead at 8:49 of the first period.

Entering the final minute of play in the second, the Mustangs held a decisive 27-13 lead in shots on goal over Southeastern/West Bridgewater, but were still unable to solve the puzzle that was Hawks goaltender Joe Fregoe.

A scrum in front changed that. James Piatelli forced a puck to the front of the net from the end wall, which Joe Spadorcia hammered home amidst some confusion to tie the game at 14:18 of the period. Sean Munro also assisted on the goal, which was ultimately deemed a good goal after some discussion between the officials.
“I wasn’t really worried,” Dolan said after the game in reference to the time it took for Norwood to score a goal. “I knew we’d get our chances and capitalize on them eventually.”

All of the momentum in the world back on its side, Dolan’s first goal of the night at 6:03 of the third seemed like it would allow the floodgates to open up for the Mustangs. The shot from the point was a culmination of more territorial advantage that Norwood’s deeper roster was better equipped to handle than Southeastern/West Bridgewater.

Yet just when it seemed as though the Mustangs had figured things out, things changed awfully quickly once again. A penalty with just over two minutes to go in regulation left Norwood shorthanded, and sure enough the Hawks made them pay.

After a faceoff win by Thomas Fillion, Shane Linehan snapped a wrister by Austin Reardon with 1:58 left to tie the game at 2-apiece.

The Mustangs had given up a goal in the final two minutes of regulation twice in the regular season to deny themselves a win, the miscues instead resulting in ties.

But since this is the postseason after all, Norwood would have a chance to atone for the late game breakdown.

After Southeastern/West Bridgewater took the first shot on goal of the extra session, the Mustangs were able to camp out in the attacking end for the duration.

Dolan’s shot was perfectly screened by Munro, leaving Fregoe no chance at stopping Norwood’s advance to the Division 2 South quarterfinals.

“Winning this kind of game is going to help us in the long run,” Allen said. “It’s great for these kids.”

The Mustangs will face the winner of tomorrow night’s No. 8 Medfield Warriors vs. No. 9 North Attleboro Red Rocketeers on Saturday.

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