LOWELL, Mass. – There may have been some in attendance at the Tsongas Center who hadn't heard of Brendan McDonough when Monday night's high school hockey game between Wilmington and Danvers began, but everyone was familiar with McDonough by the time the contest was over.
McDonough, a junior center, scored three goals and assisted an another to propel third-seeded Wilmington to a 7-2 victory over eighth-seeded Danvers in the Division 2 North championship game.
Cam Owens, Wilmington's all-time leading scorer, collected four assists in the victory, which raised Wilmington's record to 20-3-2. Luke Foley, Steven DeFuria, Dylan DiNatale and Jake Rogers scored Wilmington's other goals.
“McDonough's a sniper,” Wilmington head coach Steve Scanlon said. “We've been getting after him to shoot a little bit more. McDonough and Owens – they really stress a defense out. Cam's a big-game player, but tonight was Brendan's turn.”
The Wildcats, who are 11-0-0 against Division II competition this season, will play the Division 2 South champion for the Division 2 state title on March 17 at TD Garden. No. 4 Oliver Ames (17-4-2) and No. 7 Franklin (16-6-2) will meet for the Division 2 South title Tuesday night.
Wilmington beat Franklin in last year's Division 2 championship game.
“We're not concerned with who the opponent is,” Scanlon said. “We worry about ourselves and getting ready for the game. We're looking forward to defending our title.”
A.J. Couto scored twice for Danvers, which completed its season with a 13-7-4 record. Couto scored 10 goals in the four tournament games and finished his senior season with 38 points (28 goals).
“He stepped up and certainly did his job,” Danvers coach Kevin Brown said. ““Speed is tough to scout sometimes, and they took advantage of the big ice surface. They have a good feeling for where their linemates are and they were making some area passes that were a little too much for us.”
Wilmington goaltender Drew Foley, a junior, made 14 saves. Danvers sophomore Alex Taylor stopped 24 shots.
The Falcons led 2-0 after one period on goals by Luke Foley and Brendan McDonough. Foley opened the scoring when he swept a rebound past Taylor at 1:23, and McDonough doubled the lead on a high shot from the left faceoff circle at 11:27. Foley's goal marked the first time Danvers had trailed in the tournament.
Danvers cut into its deficit when Couto collected his 27th goal of the season at 3:09 of the second, but Wilmington regained a two-goal lead on McDonough's second goal of the game 50 seconds later.
McDonough's third goal came while the Wildcats were short-handed, and made it 4-1 at 7:02 of the second.
“I knew that if we played our game we were going to be fine,” McDonough said. “I was just focused. First shift I felt good out there ... playing the body, skating well. Coming in tonight I thought I was going to have a big one.”
After DeFuria and DiNatale added third-period goals to make it a 6-1 game, Couto scored his 28th goal while the Falcons were short-handed. Rogers capped the scoring with a power-play goal at 11:27.
“Getting a couple early helped out,” Scanlon said. “The guys got some confidence and then started pouring it on. When we push pace we're in good shape.
“I thought overall depth and speed we had too much for them. Thrilled to be going back to the Garden.”