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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
It’s almost impossible for any high school hockey rivalry to match the intensity and animus shared between Needham and Wellesley. On Wednesday, the two arch-enemies faced off for the second and final time this regular season at Babson, as Needham sought to avenge a heartbreaking 4-3 defeat to Wellesley back on December 22 in which the Rockets (7-4-2, 4-2-1) led 3-1 entering the third period.
Drew Cohen got the Raiders (9-1-4, 6-0-2) on the board after just 2:29, when the sophomore forward fired home a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot through a screen, giving Wellesley an early 1-0 lead.
The Needham penalty killers stepped up throughout the remainder of the period, killing off a pair of Wellesley power play opportunities to keep the deficit at a single goal at the end of one. Less than a minute into the second period, Tom Fachetti struck back for Needham on the power play when the senior captain tapped home the rebound of a shot from the top of the circle by senior forward Danny McEvoy, knotting the game at one for Needham.At 8:26, Wellesley responded thanks to sophomore defenseman Jack Hughes, who fired home a wrist shot that beat Needham goaltender Dylan Jones via the five-hole to reclaim the led for the Raiders at 2-1.
With 3:47 to play, McEvoy was sent to the box for tripping, allowing Wellesley the chance to go up by a pair of goals and put Needham’s backs against the wall. However, a pair of massive pad saves by Jones - once on senior forward Joey Siemering on the doorstep, and then on Darrald Webb when the senior defenseman unleashed a cannon from the high slot - allowed the Needham penalty kill to do its job and get the game to third period still 2-1 in favor of the Raiders.
The third period saw Wellesley keep up the intensity as the Raiders went for the jugular. Jones stood tall in net for Needham, however, robbing a pair of grade-A scoring opportunities for the Raiders to keep it at a one-goal game.With a little over a minute to play, Needham pulled Jones from the net for an extra attacker. Andrew Hubbard made the save of the game for Wellesley when the sophomore sprawled to his right and robbed Needham’s leading scorer, Phil Pascucci (nine goals, eight assists), with the blocker with 33 seconds to play during the six-on-five. The Raiders were able to clear the zone and prevented Needham from creating any further scoring chances, and Wellesley hung on for the thrilling 2-1 victory.
The loss ended a three-game winning streak for Needham and came despite a 28-save performance by Jones. Needham will look to get back on track when the Rockets travel to Framingham on January 31 before doing battle with Norwood on February 7. Wellesley, meanwhile, will look to ride the momentum off of their huge win over the Rockets and remain unbeaten in Bay State Conference play when the Raiders travel to Walpole on January 31 before hosting Framingham on February 3.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.