By: Connor Donahue
In the biggest game Medford High has seen for years, the boys hockey team played their hearts out – but fell to third seed Wilmington in double overtime, 1-0.
The Chelmsford Forum neared its capacity of 2,500 as the puck dropped; the line to get in to the rink was still out the door and around the corner. The Wilmington fan section showed up in huge numbers clad in the red, white, and blue for their USA theme for the night. The Mustang fan section was outnumbered; the freshmen and sophomore were a visible no show (step it up guys, seriously that was disappointing). Still the sections went back and forth, echoes of “USA! USA! USA!” rang from the Wildcat fans, with a clever retaliation by Medford, “Sochi’s over!”
On to the real game. A defensive battle from the get-go, this state quarterfinal was knotted up at 0-0 after one. The second period was more of the same, aside from one great chance for Medford. Wilmington goalie Drew Foley failed to cover up the puck in the crease, and the Mustangs continued to dig. The puck may have crossed the goal line, but (conveniently I may add), the net came off its moorings. The third period was full of heavy hits and blocked shots, as both teams took a physical approach to keep the game in a stalemate.
The roaring crowd in the Forum were treated to free hockey as the third ended in a 0-0 tie. MIAA rules for playoff hockey state that the first overtime period will be 5 on 5 for 6 minutes. If there is no goal, it moves on to a second overtime period, but with 4 on 4 hockey for six minutes. If we still don’t have a winner, the game goes to a shootout.
Medford saw one good chance in the first OT period, senior forward DJ Galvin ripped a puck past the blocker of Wildcat goalie Drew Foley; this puck found the crossbar and bounced back out to the front of the net - where it was cleared by Wilmington defensemen. Once again, a goal was not scored in the period, so the teams moved to 4 on 4 hockey.
Halfway through the second overtime period, Medford went for a line change while the puck was in the neutral zone. Junior defenseman Ryan O’Keefe had one skate on the bench and one foot still on the ice, and – with a stroke of misfortune that will haunt this city for years to come – the puck hit O’Keefe’s skate. The referee immediately blew the whistle for a “Too many men on the ice” call.
In my opinion, this is NOT a call you make in a 0-0 double overtime game. You let the players decide the game. Now, I could understand a blatant trip call, or an illegal hit, but this was a puck that tapped a player’s skate as he was getting to his bench; it didn’t affect the game whatsoever. Excuse my french, but its a damn shame that was how this memorable game was decided. Its an embarrassment to the MIAA. I’m not saying that the call wasn’t correct, but it should not have been made in that situation. Once again, players decide games – not referees.
Wilmington went on the 1:30 minute powerplay. Medford netminder AJ Ansaldi, backed by fellow seniors Brian Whooley, Will Brennan, and Ross Watson did a phenomenal job to kill off this 4 on 3 for a minute. But in the end, stamina played a factor as Wilmington forward – and the best player for the Wildcats, who had 29 points in a 20 game regular season – Cody McGowan ripped a wide open shot from the blue line. The puck rang off the post and found the back of the net. Game over, season over.
Although the season ended earlier than any of the players would have liked, this team had a season this city won’t forget for a long, long time. These boys did everything they were asked to do, and more: I speak for the whole school when I say we’re extremely proud of them. The Mustangs will graduate a multitude of seniors this year, so it’s up to juniors like Ryan O’Keefe, Justin McDonald, and Domenic Ramasci to lead the charge for next year’s campaign.
No doubt they’ll make us proud, once again.