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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Walpole and Needham High School girls varsity hockey teams met for the second and final time this season on Monday afternoon at Rodman Arena for a critical matinee Bay State Conference showdown.
Thanks to a late tie-breaking power play goal by senior forward Amanda Janowicz (two goals, one assist), along with a 27-save performance by junior goaltender Kiera McInerney, the Rebels (5-4-1, 2-2-0) prevailed by a final of 4-3.
At 4:59 of the opening period, Walpole struck first thanks to a short-handed goal by junior forward Audra Tosone. The Rockets (4-4-1, 2-0-1) put 14 shots on net throughout the remainder of the first period, all which, however, were turned aside by McInerney as the Rebels entered the first intermission with their 1-0 lead still intact.
Less than four minutes into the second period with 11:21 remaining, sophomore forward Celia Blaszkowsky responded for Needham with a goal on the power play to tie the game at one. Less than a minute later with 10:49 remaining, Janowicz fired home her first of the game to give the Rebels back the lead at 2-1.
With 6:12 remaining in the second period, junior forward Elizabeth Phalen (goal, assist) tied the game at two for Needham with a sweet forehand-backhand move on a breakaway. Olivia Malone gave Walpole back the lead with 1:42 remaining when the senior knocked home the rebound of a shot from the hash marks by Janowicz, and it appeared as if the Rebels were going to head to the third period with the lead at 3-2. However, with just 17.2 seconds remaining in the period, Caroline Han intercepted a Walpole breakout pass, came in on a mini-breakaway, and out-waited McInerney before depositing the puck past the left pad to tie the game at three.
Walpole was awarded a power play with 10:30 remaining in the third period and Janowicz made it count for the Rebels by knocking home the rebound of a shot from the point by Catherine Martin to put Walpole ahead 4-3.
With six minutes remaining, McInerney robbed Blaszkowsky with a sprawling right-to-left pad save on a two-on-one for Needham. The Rockets quickly began to pick up the intensity in search of the tying goal and strung together a series of grade-A scoring chances, thanks to phenomenal cycling down low by their top line of Phalen, Blaszkowsky, and junior Gracie Bruno. With three minutes to play, Phalen fed a pass out into the slot to Bruno, who fired a shot that beat McInerney up high but clanged off the crossbar, narrowly keeping the game 4-3 in favor of the Rebels. Seconds later, Walpole’s Sarah Feeley sacrificed her body and made a critical block in front of the Walpole net to prevent the possible tying goal.
Needham opted to pull the goaltender for an extra attacker with 50 seconds to play, but the Rebels completely locked down the center of the ice and the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap and made it almost impossible for Needham to set up a legitimate scoring opportunity. The clock struck zeros and the Rebels prevailed by the 4-3 final.
Walpole will look to stick to its winning ways when the Rebels host rival Natick on January 20 while Needham will try and get back on a winning note when the Rockets travel to BU to face Brookline/Newton-South that same afternoon.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.