[ccfic caption-text format="plaintext"]
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Walpole and Wellesley High School varsity girls hockey teams took to the ice at Rodman Arena on Wednesday evening in what was the lady-Rebels’ home opener. Swift goaltending by senior captain Francesca “Frankie” Bonanno (25 saves) guided Walpole to a 3-0 start to the season, as the Rebels battled to a hard-fought 3-2 victory over a fast and tough militia of Raiders.
The Rebels drew first blood with just over six minutes remaining in the first period when freshman forward Sophia Pacella slapped home a rebound past the reach of Wellesley goaltender Alyssa Cimino (24 saves) on a net mouth scramble. However, the Raiders were quick to respond as just over a minute-and-a-half following the Pacella strike, Wellesley sophomore forward Grace Dore fed a pass to freshman forward Emily Rourke, who flew down the left wing. After she raced to the net on a mini breakaway, Rourke flipped a nifty little backhander past the glove of an outstretched Bonanno and into the back of the net, knotting the game at one at the first intermission.
Both teams came out of the break determined to get the next goal, but it was the Rebels who would find the back of the net next and seize all of the momentum as sophomore forward Meghan Hamilton’s wrist shot from the high slot found its way through a crowd of bodies in front and into the back the net to give Walpole a 2-1 advantage midway through the second. Despite numerous incredible scoring opportunities on both sides throughout the remainder of the second period, sprawling saves by Bonanno and Cimino kept the score at 2-1 in favor of the Rebels heading into the final period.
Freshman forward Catherine Martin gave the Rebels some insurance in period three on a rebound off of a shot from the point by senior defenseman and captain, Cameron Johnson, and the Rebels were up two goals late and could taste the 3-0 start to their season.
Like all good teams do, however, the Raiders kept their composure and continued to battle in an attempt to knot the game at three despite being down a pair. Wellesley was able to find the back of the net with just less than four minutes remaining in the contest off of a chaotic scramble in front of the Walpole net to cut the deficit to 3-2. However, the lady-Raiders were unable to net the tying goal thanks to a sprawling side-to-side save by Bonanno with the blocker with just under a minute left to play and the goalie pulled. Following a late push up the ice by Wellesley in the game’s final seconds, the Rebels were able to clear the puck and hang on for the 3-2 win to enter the holiday break with a 3-0 record on the year. Last Wednesday’s loss drops Wellesley to 1-1-1, but the Raiders have certainly made a strong statement to begin the 2016-2017 season with this competitive match against Walpole along with an opening night tie with Milton (3-3) and a convincing 5-2 victory over Weymouth.