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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Despite being without one of their senior leaders and top goal-scorers in Darragh Fahey (broken thumb), the No. 3 Walpole Rebels put together one of their best efforts of the season last Wednesday night against the No. 2 and Connor Deehan-led Westwood Wolverines in the Division II Central/East semifinals, giving Westwood everything they could handle in a double-overtime instant classic.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, a masterful comeback headlined by the game-winning goal in double overtime by Deehan sent the Wolverines onto their second sectional final in program history, and for the second straight year, Walpole’s season ended in bitter overtime heartbreak.
“Unbelievable. I have no words,” said Westwood senior defensive pole Will Danforth following the victory. “As a senior with the worry that this could be your final game, you never know when it’s going to end. It was unbelievable the way we were able to pull that out.”
And unbelievable it was.
Trailing 8-7 with under a minute to play, Westwood’s defensive corps got the job done and forced a turnover behind their own cage by double-teaming Walpole’s Ryan Birch. The Wolverines called timeout after gaining possession and set up a play. Following the break, Ryan Healey delivered the biggest goal of his career with a lefty jump shot from eight yards away off of a feed from Conor Donohue to knot the game at eight with just seven seconds remaining.
“We just gave it our all and never quit,” said Deehan. “We trusted each other. Our ball movement was great and [we] had so many hustle plays. Our goalie, Peter Rael, played out of his mind with some huge saves. Ian Williams ate a shot at the end of overtime. Ryan Healey stepped up and hit a shot at the end of regulation. Just so many things went into that win. Being on this team and with the energy our guys bring, it’s amazing.”
Senior captain Cullen McGlynn got the scoring started for Walpole with a nice little swim move and finish at the crease with 8:56 to play in the first. Healey evened the game at one for Westwood by finishing a feed at the doorstep from sophomore LSM Matt Cawley off of transition with 4:48 remaining.
UMass-Lowell commit Conor Foley capped off a strong drive to the crease with a right-handed finish to give Walpole back the lead at 2-1 with 6:47 remaining. Providence-bound attack-man and Bruce Lerch Award finalist Jake Antonucci then tied the game at two with 4:26 to play off of a lefty bouncer. The game remained deadlocked at the end of one.
Senior midfielder Kyle Hirshom scored off of a fast break 1:28 into the second quarter to give the Rebels back the lead, but Deehan tied the game back up at three with 8:47 to play with a righty bouncer. A beautiful split dodge and left-handed finish down low by Birch with 1:35 remaining in the half gave the Rebels a 4-3 lead at the break.
Foley’s second of the game doubled Walpole’s lead to a pair of goals at 5-3, just 28 seconds into the third quarter. Donohue responded for Westwood with a goal on the man-up with 8:41 to play. Foley completed the hat-trick with 6:49 to play with one of his trademark aerial finishes at the crease off of a feed by Birch, and the Rebels took a 6-4 lead. Charlie Harrington cut the deficit back to one goal with a drive and finish off of a restart on the wing with 5:07 remaining, and the Rebels held their one-goal edge at the end of three.
A forced turnover at midfield by Donohue resulted in Healey feeding Deehan open at the crease. The senior captain deposited the ball home for the tying goal just 29 seconds into the fourth quarter. Foley’s fourth of the game, this time coming on the man-up, gave Walpole back the lead at 7-6 with 10:47 left.
Senior midfielder Anthony Rael tied the game at eight with a finish at the crease with 8:01 to play. Birch gave Walpole back the lead at 8-7 with 3:59 remaining after a strong drive from X and left-handed off-stick finish.
From there, the rest was history for Westwood as Healey netted the tying goal with just seconds remaining, and Deehan capped it off with the clincher in double overtime.
On Saturday, Westwood’s overtime magic ran out as the Wolverines fell to No. 5 Concord-Carlisle, 14-13, in the sectional finals at Medfield High School in another instant classic.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.