Sequences like the second period of Sunday’s Division 2 state semifinal between Hopkinton and Walpole are what set Pavit Mehra apart.
In a span of just under 11 minutes, the slick-skating senior scored four goals in three different fashions for the eighth-seeded Hillers, ensuring an early one-goal deficit would be but a footnote in a 5-1 win over the fourth-seeded Timberwolves at Loring Arena to advance to the state final at TD Garden Sunday.
“Once I got that first one, it kind of took the pressure off,” said Mehra, who scored on a power play, shorthanded, and twice at even strength in the decisive frame. “We got a ton of energy from our fans and it set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Mehra gave Hopkinton (20-4) its first lead of the night 2:22 into the second on the man advantage. He came loose in the left-wing circle at 4:05 for a 5-on-5 goal and broke loose shorthanded at 7:28 of the second, then tacked on one more for good measure at 13:19, leaving Walpole (15-7-2) flummoxed.
“We have a great team, but a player like Pavit, he can put us over the top,” Hopkinton coach Scott Hayes said. “On a night like tonight on the biggest stage, he had a great performance.”
The Hillers initially trailed, 1-0, on the first career goal from Walpole winger Grady Murphy at 6:45 of the opener, a short-lived disadvantage before Cam MacPherson cleaned up a defensive zone turnover for the Hillers at 10:22.
For Mehra, who played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Hopkinton before leaving for junior hockey, nights like Sunday made his return for one last run worth the while.
“It’s been completely worth it,” Merit said. “The goal we’d set was to reach the Garden, and to have that with this group of kids, we couldn’t be happier.”
Hopkinton will be skating at the Garden for the first time since 2019, when it lost vs. Wachusett, 3-2, in its lone appearance in the Division 3 state final.
Division 3 state
Nashoba 4, Triton 1 — Nashoba senior Ryan Mayplanted himself at the left post. Freshman Nate Carter’s shot trickled onto May’s stick and the senior made no mistake burying the chance, just 49 seconds in.
The Wolves did not trail the rest of the way.
Behind a pair of goals from senior defenseman Dillan Lowe and two points from May, 11th-seeded Nashoba Regional defeated No. 10 Triton in a Division 3 semifinal at the Tsongas Center.
Making its first appearance in a state final at TD Garden, the Wolves (14-5-5) take on top-seeded Scituate (20-4-2) for the championship next Sunday. Nashoba previously won Division 3A titles in 2015 and 2016.
After May’s early tally, Lowe scored the eventual winner 5:13 in, flying up ice from the blue line to put a shot on net that deflected off the Triton goalie.
“It was electric,” said Lowe. “We knew that we had to come out fast and hard and we did.”
A measured effort up-and-down the lineup, backed by a 27-20 shot differential, kept the Vikings out of shooting lanes. Sophomore Mason Colby scored early in the third period for Triton (14-8-2).
Nashoba has yielded just four goals in the tournament, and junior goaltender Charlie Mattocks boasts a save percentage in the mid 90s. The Wolves involve their defensemen in rushes offensively and pack the center of the ice in their own zone, neutralizing scoring chances.
“As the 11-seed, I think it was a little bit of a revenge tour for us,” said second-year Nashoba coach Matt Biggs. “I’m really proud of this group.”
Added Lowe, “As a team, I think we really came together during the playoffs and we’re rolling. I think we’re a lot better team than our record was in the regular season. We kind of got hot at the right time.”
Division 4 state
Norwell 5, Grafton 1 — Forever knocking on the door of TD Garden, the Norwell boys’ hockey team finally kicked it down.
Timmy Ward scored twice and Matt Cerruti, Quinn Simmons, and Austin Shea added singular strikes for the top-seeded Clippers, who advanced to the Division 4 final Sunday at Loring Arena in Framingham.
“To see these kids get through is unbelievable,” Norwell coach Jim Casagrande said. “These guys got it done. They played smart and efficient.”
The Clippers (24-1) draw second-seeded Sandwich (20-4-1) in the final, a rematch of last year’s state semifinal — a 3-2 overtime triumph for the Blue Knights, who went on to win it all. That loss was the third for Norwell with a berth at TD Garden on the line, following setbacks in 2009 and 2015.
Casagrande, in his 15th season at the helm, said that last year’s loss to Sandwich remains as a motivating factor.
“Losing in the way we lost last year to not go to the Garden fuels these kids,” Casagrande said.
Ward, the South Shore League’s MVP, injected that fuel by kicking off the scoring at 7:36 of the first period. Cerruti scored at 12:34 of the first and Ward struck again at 1:43 of the second, 4-on-4, for a 3-0 edge before the Gators (22-3) got one back on a rocket from Keegan Gilmore at 5:59.
But Shea fed Simmons to push the lead back to three goals late in the second, before adding a goal of his own at 7:34 of the third on the power play, the finishing touch on a victory seemingly never in doubt with Sean Donovan (30 saves) in goal for Norwell.
“There’s no other team that’s worked as hard as us,” Donovan said. “We have unfinished business from last year.”
Cam Kerry reported from Tsongas Arena in Lowell and Jake Levin from Loring Arena in Framingham.