Sunday, March 11, 2018

Plymouth South Hockey tops Medfield to Make First Ever State Championship Game

By Jake Levin (@JakeLevin09)

Buzzards Bay, Mass. - When a trip to any championship is on the line, play makers tend to make plays.

So it should be of little surprise that Sean Colbert, captain of the third-seededed Plymouth South Panthers, scored with just 2:02 left in regulation to give his team some breathing room over the No. 8 Medfield Warriors.

The goal for the senior, who’s racked up well north of 150 points in his career, amounted to the game-winner, as the Panthers punched their ticket to the TD Garden for the first time in program history with a 6-3 win in the Division 2 South final on Sunday.

“This team, we all believed in each other from day one and we got it done today,” said Colbert, who also had a goal in the first period to give South a 2-0 lead. “It was a great team effort. Everyone got the puck, everyone was doing their thing and we got it done today.”

That three-goal margin of victory is misleading, as Plymouth South (19-3-2) tacked on a pair of empty netters in the final 1:08 of regulation as Medfield (14-6-4) threw everything and the kitchen sink in a last-ditch effort to salvage its tournament run. Charles Spence quickly erased the momentum swing caused by Colbert’s second goal, beating Panthers’ netminder Cam McPhee just 15 seconds later.

Plymouth South has been no stranger to games coming down to the wire on its run through the Division 2 South field. Matthew Peckham scored a literal buzzer beater in a quarterfinal win over the No. 6 Medway Mustangs, Peckham’s shot falling at 15:00 of the third period.

The Panthers jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the second-seeded Canton Bulldogs in the semifinal, only to see that lead evaporate with under two minutes to go in the third before Joey Van Winkle saved the day with a response 14 seconds later.

Though South never trailed against Medfield, it still had to withstand an answer from the Warriors each time it was seemingly primed to pull away.

Leading 2-0 after 15 minutes on goals from Van Winkle and Colbert, the Panthers saw its lead sliced in half when Mike Tyer put away a shot standing in the crease 2:09 into the second. Ryan Cummings become the third South captain to score in making it a 3-1 lead at 6:42 of the second, giving the Panthers another two-goal edge heading back into the locker room.

Again, Medfield pulled within one. Py Johnson scored 5:01 into the third to turn the heat up on South once again.

The teams traded jabs until Colbert’s punch finally landed in the waning minutes of regulation, a coronation of months upon months of hard work that began long before the regular season.

“The leadership here is just unbelievable,” Panthers head coach Mike McCosh said after the game. “The three captains I have, plus all of the seniors on this team, they started it way before the season even started with working out in the summers. They took it to the next level.”

The Warriors pulled Mason Matthew – who replaced Michael Mangiafico after South scored its first two goals – with about 90 seconds remaining, biding a few extra seconds of protection thanks to Spence’s goal at 13:13.

But Alex Hayward ended any chances of a Medfield comeback with a dump in to an empty net from deep in the South zone with 1:08 left, and Daniel Lincoln put the icing on the cake with another empty netter to officially make this Panthers’ run the longest in McCosh’s 22 years behind the bench.

“I always thought it would come,” McCosh said of getting to the Garden. “Anybody that plays for me, they do give it everything they have. But this team is just extra special.”

Plymouth South had been to the Division 2 South final once before in its history, in 2011, where its run came to an end at the hands of Franklin.

Asked if there was a singular moment from the tournament run so far where Colbert was able to point out that this Panthers team was special, he said he already knew long before that.

“We knew it from before the tournament started,” Colbert said. “We knew all year long. We always believed in each other and we knew we had the potential and we got it done.”

Plymouth South will face the Stoneham Spartans at the TD Garden a week from today for a shot at its first state championship in program history. Stoneham (18-4-2) is also Garden-bound for the first time after taking down the Boston Latin Wolf Pack in today’s Division 2 North final, 2-1.

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