Despite dominant play through two periods, the Wellesley girls’ hockey team was deadlocked with Bay State Conference rival Walpole, 1-1, with 15 minutes remaining in Tuesday night’s Tuesday’s Division 2 semifinal at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton.
But leaning on experience, the defending-champion Raiders struck for three late goals — one from junior Mackenzie O’Neill and a pair from classmate Emily Rourke — to soar past top-seeded Walpole, 4-1, at Warrior Arena.
Wellesley (16-4-3), advancing to the state final for the fifth time six years, will play Notre Dame-Hingham Sunday at TD Garden.
“We relied on those girls that played a lot of minutes in some big games last year,” said Wellesley coach PT Donato. “Those girls have been there, played a lot, and its pretty special to have juniors leading the way.”
O’Neill netted the winner with just over eight minutes to play. Receiving the puck along the right wing, she slipped a shot just inside the left post.
“I just heard my coach yelling from the side, like ‘wheel, wheel,’” said O’Neill. “Then I just skated as hard as I could, saw I could use the defender as a screen, toe-dragged, and shot.”
The Raiders kept the pressure on, with Rourke scoring three minutes later from the slot on a defensive zone breakdown by Walpole. Rourke added the empty-netter to finish the scoring.
Walpole (18-4-1) had tied the game on a fortunate bounce with 49 seconds left in the second when senior Audra Tosone’s pass toward the net kicked off a Raider’s skate and into the net.
The Rebels finished with just 16 shots, with the Raider defense limiting opportunities by forcing puck carriers to the outside.
“Our gameplan coming into it was if they were going to beat us they would have to go the full length of the ice,” said Donato. “We have four very good defenders and if they were going to beat us it was going to have to be on 3-on-2’s and in-zone play.”
Wellesley freshman Lulu Rourke was a force in the first two periods, firing 10 shots on net, including the opening goal.
Notre Dame-Hingham 3, Westwood 0 — Notre Dame-Hingham had been best late in games this season, but a fast start on a pair of first period goals by senior Caitlin Delano paced the Cougars in their Division 2 semifinal victory over third-seeded Westwood, 3-0, at Warrior Ice Arena.
With the victory, the seventh-seeded Cougars (16-5-2) punched their ticket to a third championship appearance in four years, setting up a rematch of the 2016 final against Wellesley.
“We’re not a really good first period team,” said NDA coach John Findley. “I told the girls ‘Anything can happen, just get some pucks to the net.’ They stayed to the game plan.”
Delano opened the scoring four minutes into the game, redirecting a pass from Caelan Stewart that trickled off the post and into the net.
Just three minutes later, Delano struck again, this time off a rebound of Dani Longuemare’s close-range wrister.
“We knew we needed to get to those rebounds because that was the only way to get past her,” said Delano. “She’s a good strong goalie. I knew if we put in the hard work we could get there.”
Kelly Morrissey got the third goal late for the Cougars as her shot slipped past the goaltender and off a Westwood stick.
The Cougars also got an impressive effort in goal from eighth grader Lily Prendergast, who had 27 saves — 14 in the final period.
“She played in such control,” said Findley. “Nothing bothered her, she was like a senior in that net. Her whole philosophy is being calm.”
Westwood (15-3-5) fought back during the second period with a few opportunities and anxious moments. But penalties were the Wolverines’ downfall with all three of their infractions ending offensive opportunities.
The loss marked the end for Westwood’s record-breaking senior class, whose 53 wins set a program record.
“I think we fought to the very end,” said Westwood coach Ed Amico. “Incredible group of seniors, they set the bar high for the younger kids.”
Dan Shulman can be reached at email@example.com.