Sophomore forward Jason Finkelstein (16) moves the puck up through center on a breakout midway through the first period. Photos by Mike Flanagan.
By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Despite all of their recent on-ice success, it certainly has not been an ideal past two seasons for Walpole High School varsity boys hockey.
After winning the 2019-2020 Division I South championship, the Walpole boys were robbed of a chance to compete for the state title at TD Garden last March when their championship game against Belmont was cancelled due to COVID-19. In 2020-2021, Walpole's season was condensed to just 10 regular season games with no playoffs, also due to COVID.
With no postseason and no trophy to play for, Walpole hosted rival Braintree in its season finale at Rodman Arena on Wednesday night. Entering the game at 5-2-2, Walpole looked to avenge a 3-1 defeat two days prior at Braintree and hand the Wamps (7-0-2) their first loss of the season.
With 8:59 to play in the first period, Ronan Ridge drew first blood for Braintree, firing home a wrist shot from the point to put the Wamps ahead, 1-0. With 5:45 remaining in the period and Walpole shorthanded following a roughing call assessed to Andrew Falzone, Braintree doubled its lead on the power play, thanks to a snipe from the right face-off circle by Drew Coady.
Still down by a pair with 1:10 remaining in the period, junior defenseman Joe Verderber gave Walpole some life. After gloving down a Braintree clearing attempt in the neutral zone, Verderber carried the puck into the attacking zone and fired a wrist shot from an odd angle down in the left corner. Verderber's shot found its way through Braintree goalie Dylan Anderson and into the back of the net, trimming the deficit to 2-1. With 18.8 seconds to play and Walpole pressuring the Braintree end, sophomore defenseman Matt Bianculli received a feed at the point from senior captain and forward Kevin McElaney down in the corner. Bianculli clapped a shot on net that was tipped by senior forward Frankie Govoni and initially saved by Anderson. The rebound bounced right back out to Govoni, who deposited home a backhanded shot down low to tie the game at two. Just like that, it was a brand new hockey game.
With the game still tied with 7:59 to play, Scott Lagos intercepted a breakout pass by Verderder and dashed into the Walpole zone on a mini-two-on-one. Lagos dished a give-and-go feed to Jack Woods, received the puck back and fired home an absolute snipe upstairs passed the shoulder of Walpole goalie Jack Curran to give Braintree back the lead at 3-2.
Down a goal with under five minutes to play, Walpole began to up the pressure in the Braintree end, and quickly, they got results. With 4:30 remaining, senior captain and forward Ben Quinn picked up a loose puck in the slot and shot a backhander on net. The puck was tipped in front by Govoni and found its way through the five-hole of Anderson to tie the game three.
Unfortunately for Walpole, the momentum gained from Govoni's tying goal was short-lived. With 1:55 remaining, Lagos picked up a loose puck in the slot and fired home the go-ahead goal upstairs. Trailing 4-3 with under a minute to play, Walpole pulled Curran for an extra attacker. Braintree was able to clear the puck twice and run out the remainder of the clock for the 4-3 win.
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.