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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Needham High School girls varsity hockey team moved to 2-0-0 on the season with a convincing 3-0 win at rival Natick on Saturday night, highlighted by a 15-save shutout effort in net by sophomore goalie Kenzie Kelly.
Grace Kelley drew first blood for Needham at 8:19 in the first period, when Britt Nawrocki forced a turnover behind the Natick net before feeding a pass out front to Kelley. The sophomore forward capitalized with a snipe up high to give the Rockets an early 1-0 lead.
Nawrocki nearly made it a 2-0 game with 1:35 to play on a rush up the near-side boards, but the freshman’s wrist shot rang off the crossbar and out of play as the game remained 1-0. A pair of big saves by Kelly, one with the blocker and one with the right pad on a two-on-one with under 20 seconds to play, kept the game 1-0 in favor of Needham at the first intermission.
Lexi Schmalz doubled Needham’s lead to 2-0 at 5:38 of the second period, when the senior captain took a pass from junior forward Celia Blaszkowsky and fired home a shot upstairs. Needham’s defensive corps played lockdown throughout the remainder of the period, highlighted by a diving poke check on a near breakaway by senior captain and defenseman Elizabeth Phalen to keep it 2-0 after two periods.
Schmalz nearly struck again just 39 seconds into the third period with a wrist shot up high, but Natick drew a bit of luck as the puck deflected off the shaft of the goaltender’s stick and hopped out of play.
With 4:43 to play and Needham still up a pair, Nawrocki delivered the dagger by firing home a shot up high for her second point of the contest to make it a 3-0 game. The Lady-Rockets preserved the shutout for Kelly and earned their second consecutive victory to begin the 2018-2019 season.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.