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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Needham and Wellesley High School boys varsity ice hockey teams each exit the holiday break with the goal of competing for a Bay State Conference championship. Both teams know that in order to complete that goal, they must go through each other. Last Wednesday, the Raiders (3-1-0, 1-1-0) and Rockets (2-2-1, 0-1-1) met for the first time this season at Babson Skating Center to write the latest chapter of their historical and bitter rivalry.
In what was an incredibly intense defensive and physical showdown, the Raiders were able to battle to a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Rockets behind a terrific effort in net by freshman goaltender Andrew Hubbard (19 saves).
Hubbard and Needham goaltender Dylan Jones (22 saves) kept the game scoreless until 1:19 remaining in the first period when junior forward Michael Siemering drove to the net off of an offensive zone face-off win and slapped home the rebound of a Ryan Keator shot to give the Raiders a 1-0 edge at the end of one.
Similarly to the way he did in period one, Hubbard continued to turn away Rocket scoring opportunities throughout the majority of the second period. However, Needham junior forward Tom Fachetti was finally able to crack the swift freshman Raider net-minder with just seconds remaining in the period when he netted a goal on the power play to even the game at one at the break.
Both Needham and Wellesley came out in the third period playing as if their seasons were on the line, as each team flew up and down the ice trading solid scoring chance after solid scoring chance.
After Needham had a flurry of glorious chances late in the third, highlighted by a side-to-side left pad save by Hubbard on Rocket forward and senior captain Seth Jacobs, Wellesley head coach Paul Donato called timeout with 4:19 remaining to allow his team to catch their breath. The timeout proved to be pivotal, as the Raiders were able to get their legs under them and flip the script by attaining strong zone-time during the game’s final three minutes. With 2:30 to play, Wellesley defenseman and senior captain Zach Doughty stepped up and delivered the go-ahead goal for the Raiders with a quick wrist shot from the high slot that found its way through a pair of bodies in front and past the glove of Jones, and the Wellesley side of Babson Skating Center went into a frenzy.
Following the go-ahead goal by Wellesley, the Rockets were able to sustain offensive zone-time in the final minute, working the puck around frantically with the goaltender pulled, trying to net the tying goal. Sophomore defenseman Tommy Chmielewski had arguably the best scoring opportunity in the final two minutes for the Rockets with a snap shot from the left face-off dot with about 43 seconds left. Hubbard stood tall, however, turning away the quick shot by Chmielewski with his blocker as well as several other Needham shots in the final minute, and the Raiders held on for the 2-1 win.
Needham will look to get back on track with games against Weymouth on January 4 and Braintree on January 7, while Wellesley will look to continue their winning ways against Norwood on January 4, followed by Oliver Ames on January 9.