[ccfic caption-text format="plaintext"]
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports
Westwood and Medfield was already one of the top hockey rivalries in the TVL heading into the 2018-2019 season. After the teams played to a 1-1 tie on January 12, Westwood defeated Medfield 3-1 on February 13, which later allowed the Wolverines (15-3-6, 9-1-5) to claim the outright TVL title based on the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Warriors (13-5-5, 9-1-5).
When the Division II South bracket was released, the potential of a Medfield/Westwood part three was the first thing that caught the common eye, with the Warriors seeded sixth and the Wolverines seeded third.
After Medfield earned a pair of shutout victories over No. 10 Nauset (3-0) and No. 2 Southeastern Regional (4-0), and Westwood took down No. 14 Whitman-Hansen (5-1) and No. 11 Bishop Feehan (2-1), the rematch was set for Gallo Arena in Bourne on Tuesday, with a trip to the South finals on the line.
In the early going, it was all Medfield. Junior defenseman John Schofield snapped a shot from the point to give the Warriors an early 1-0 lead just 3:18 in. With 8:32 to play, sophomore Aiden Perachi wristed home a rebound off of a net-mouth scramble on the power play to double Medfield’s lead to 2-0.
Down a pair with their season on the line, Westwood needed a response. With 3:14 left in the opening period, senior forward Ryan Healey stole the puck off of a neutral zone turnover following a Medfield face-off win and flew in on a breakaway. Healey fired home a shot via the five-hole of Medfield goalie Cam Giunta to cut the deficit to 2-1 at the first intermission. The goal completely swung the momentum of the game.
Westwood picked up their tempo following the tally by Healey and dominated play in the early minutes of the second period. With 9:03 remaining, senior captain Cal Guarino picked the perfect time to fire home his first career goal with a wicked wrister up high from the point, knotting the game at two. Less than three minutes later, Westwood went on the power play and senior forward Matt Hetnik made it count, rifling home a shot through a screen from the right face-off dot to give the Wolverines their first lead of the contest at 3-2. Westwood took their one-goal lead into the second intermission.
The third period saw Westwood shift from a more staggered defensive zone to one that emphasized a tight point. The change in defensive scheme forced Medfield to work the puck down low and cycle, rather than feed it back to their defensemen, heavily limiting the number of shots put on Westwood’s net. With the game still 3-2 in favor of the Wolverines with 1:25 to play, Medfield yanked Giunta out of the cage for an extra attacker. Medfield was able to work the puck down low consistently throughout the final minute, but were unable to generate a grade-A scoring chance, thanks to resilient shot-blocking and great stick work by the Wolverines in the slot, who poke-checked away several cross-ice passes. The Wolverines fought off the late push by Medfield and held on for the 3-2 victory to advance to the South finals.
“We just relied on the captains and senior leadership,” said Westwood first-year head coach Matt Sebet of his team’s resiliency. “We have 13 seniors. They’ve been together and they stuck together - that was the message and there was no panic. We were down 2-0 and we had almost a full hockey game left. Huge goal from Ryan Healey to get us back before the end of the first and we just picked it up from there. Really proud of the way the guys responded and got it done.”
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.