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By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Bay State Conference-leading Wellesley Lady-Raiders welcomed in rival Walpole to Babson Skating Center last Wednesday evening for their lone meeting of 2017-2018.
After falling behind 1-0, the Raiders (11-2-2, 6-0-1) scored three straight and held off a late push by the Rebels (6-5-2, 3-3-1) to remain unbeaten in conference play.
Just 15 seconds in, Wellesley was given an early power play opportunity when junior defenseman Madison Ryan was sent off for hooking. However, the Walpole penalty killers did a tremendous job of clogging shooting lanes and forced Wellesley to navigate the puck behind the net for the majority of the power play. Junior goaltender Kiera McInerny made a massive left pad save on Wellesley senior captain Phoebe Lawrence on the tail end of the power play to keep the game scoreless.
At 9:58 of the first period, Audra Tosone drew first blood for Walpole when the junior forward took a pass from Meghan Hamilton up the wing and broke in on a breakaway. Tosone faked to her backhand and sniped the puck home five-hole on Wellesley goaltender Liddy Schulz to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead. A glove save by McInerney and lack of turnovers in their own end throughout the remainder of the period allowed the Rebels to take their 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Just 2:59 into the second period, freshman defenseman Lauren Burke received a pass at the point and fired a shot upstairs and over the shoulder of McInerny to even the game at one for Wellesley.
With 10:43 remaining in the period, Wellesley’s Katie Hawkinson was assessed a penalty shot after the senior forward was hooked on a breakaway. However, McInerny came up huge for the Rebels by stuffing Hawkinson with the left pad to keep the game knotted at one. Less than a minute later, the Rebels caught another break when Mackenzie O’Neil dangled around a pair of Walpole defenders and broke in down the right wing. O’Neil fired a wrist shot passed the blocker of McInerny, but the puck clanged off the far-right post and caromed out of the zone. The score remained tied.
With nine minutes to play, however, O’Neil got some redemption for her hit post when the sophomore forward tapped home a rebound off of a net-mouth scramble on the power play to give the Raiders their first lead of the hockey game at 2-1.
With two minutes to play in the period, Liddy Schulz made the save of the game for Wellesley when she stuffed Walpole sophomore forward Catie Martin on a breakaway to keep the game 2-1 in favor of Wellesley at the second intermission.
Walpole came out in the third period and intensely pressured the Wellesley end in search of the tying goal. Unfortunately for the Rebels, Schulz brought her A-game and turned aside everything the Rebels threw her way. With under a minute to play, Walpole pulled McInerny for an extra attacker in a desperate attempt to net the equalizer. However, Katie Hawkinson sealed the win for the Raiders by icing the puck into the open net to put Wellesley ahead 3-1 with under 30 seconds to play.
Wellesley will look to keep the momentum rolling and lock up a high seed in the Division I state tournament when the Raiders host Weymouth on February 10. Walpole, meanwhile, will try and get back on track when the Rebels host Duxbury on February 7 before traveling to Brookline/Newton South on February 10.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.