The Winthrop Lady Bulldog girls hockey team engaged in a pair of dramatic encounters in Division 1 play of the MIAA state hockey tournament last week, winning their opening round contest with Medway/Ashland 3-1, but then dropping a tough 1-0 decision to Braintree.
Both matches were defensive affairs, befitting of a tourney hockey game. Winthrop, the number eight seed in D-1, rated a strong favorite over 24th ranked Medway, which finished at .500 on the season with an 8-8-2 record, in the tourney opener for both teams
However, Medway features a defensive style of play that frustrates opponents, while looking to create a break when the opportunity arises. Although Winthrop enjoyed a wide territorial advantage from the outset, the Lady Bulldogs were unable to dent the Medway goal, with the result being a scoreless duel after two periods.
Then midway through the final frame, Medway caught the break it had been looking for and took advantage of the opportunity to light the red lamp for a 1-0 advantage.
However, Coach Anthony Martucci’s Lady Bulldogs were not to be denied so early on their Journey to the Tourney. Flora English struck back two minutes later, assisted by Caroline McKinnon and Julianna Kennedy, to knot matters at 1-1.
With both the big hometown crowd and the Lady Bulldogs now invigorated, Hannah LoPresti brought everyone to their feet minutes later with a highlight reel goal in which she had been tripped as she closed in on the Medway goal after an end to end rush, but still managed to get her stick on the puck to slide it past the Medway goalie. Mackenzie Clark and Chelsey Bartlett earned the assists.
The 2-1 Winthrop lead forced Medway to pull its goalie in the closing minute, but Clark sealed the deal with an empty netter, the 190th career point of her illustrious career in which she far and away ranks as the leading scorer in the history of the Winthrop Lady Bulldog hockey program.
The exhilarating victory set the stage for a tourney rematch at Larsen with ninth seeded Braintree, which had edged Arlington for the right to advance to meet Winthrop. The teams had engaged in a memorable tourney encounter last year in which the Lady Bulldogs prevailed in dramatic fashion.
But this year it was Braintree’s turn to come out on top. Another defensive struggle saw the squads deadlocked at 0-0 with seven minutes left to play in the contest. Overtime and a shootout seemed likely. However, Braintree silenced a packed Larsen Rink with a lamplighter that would hold up, despite a frantic Winthrop effort in the closing minute when the Lady Bulldogs pulled goalie Brittany McPherson, the seventh grader who played superbly all night, for a 6-on-5 advantage.
“We had our opportunities, but we couldn’t finish them,” said Martucci, noting that the Lady Bulldogs had six power play opportunities (compared to two for Braintree) on the night. Winthrop’s best chances to tie came when Gabby Keniston’s slap shot deflected off the shaft of the Braintree goalie’s stick and when McKinnon had the puck alone on the side of the Braintree net and barely missed.
Despite the loss, Martucci and his Lady Bulldogs can reflect back on what was a superb season. “We lost the conference player of the year (Taylor Brown) to graduation and our all-league goalie (Katie Burt) to a private school, so there were some question marks at the start of the year,” said the coach. “But we had a fantastic season, winning our division with a perfect record (10-0) and beating (Division 1 powerhouse) St. Mary’s of Lynn. We also found two outstanding young goalies in Brittany McPherson and Gretchen Howard, so the future is bright for our program.”