BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – Tuesday’s Division 2 girls’ hockey state semifinal between Sandwich and Westwood was a matchup of one of the state’s top lines against one of the state’s most balanced forward line combinations.
Although the Blue Knights’ top trio left their mark, it was the Wolverines’ depth which eventually won out in a 4-3 victory.
Sophomore forward Kailey Jacobs’ goal at 14:30 of the third period advanced Westwood past the semifinal for the first time in program history, despite having played in the semis in each of the last three years.
Westwood (15-2-5) will play Wellesley in Sunday’s final at TD Garden (time to be announced).
While the Blue Knights (15-10-1) rode their top troika of Claire Gauthier, Maggie Layo and Katie Lowry to within a step of the Garden ice, Westwood remained a step quicker and a bit fresher in a tie game late in the third period, with head coach Justin DeSorgher consistently rolling three lines.
“I think running our three lines most of the third period really helped us rest up when we went on the ice and we gave it our all every shift,” Jacobs said.
The Wolverines opened scoring at 4:38 when Kelly Healey beat Allison Hir with a one-timer off off an Ela Hazar centering pass.
The Blue Knights tied the game, 1-1, about two minutes later as Gauthier put back a rebound of a Layo shot on the power play.
The Wolverines distanced themselves in the early part of the second period, however. Senior forward Catherine Barrett score the go-ahead at 3:49, with an assist from Olivia Fay, before Hazar’s lazer-like slap shot slipped over Hir’s shoulder from an impossible angle.
But Sandwich utilized its power play to get back in the game once more, with Gauthier and Layo teaming up for another goal (Gauthier’s team-leading 32nd on the season) on the man-advantage at 10:02.
“Every time I look up and see No. 6 [Gauthier], I got nervous,” DeSorgher said. “Claire’s a great player.”
Sandwich tied the score, 3-3, at 8:45 of the third, with Layo notching her third point of the game. Layo had missed her previous shift after being hobbled on an attack-zone check, but showed no worse for the wear, putting back a rebound of Lowry’s shot.
Gauthier also picked up her third point of the game on the secondary assist.
While the Blue Knights had several chances in the waning moments of the game to claim a late lead, Jacobs became the hero with 29.3 seconds to play, driving the net.
“That play doesn’t happen with out the effort of Allie Damren as well,” DeSorgher said. “She went hard up the side, chipping that puck ahead. Allie’s a fabulous player and she’s really rounded into her game this year.”
Back it up: Westwood’s team speed and tenacity on the backcheck paid dividends in the third period – both in keeping the game tied and then in the lead-up to Jacobs’ eventual game-winner.
“We talked about that before the game,” DeSorgher said, “after the first period, after the second period, during the third period -- picking up that third player, fourth player, fifth player of theirs. At least two of their three goals were somebody playing smart hockey and staying high.”
While Sandwich’s top line of Gauthier, Layo and Lowry was dominant once again, the Wolverines countered with three lines’ worth of stick checks, subtle nudges and back-side pressure.
In fact, Westwood’s back-checking prowess
“We were just trying to back-check hard, and get on the puck, and take the body, and that just developed into the goal,” Jacobs said.