BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – To anyone outside of the Sandwich locker room, it may come as a surprise that the No. 17 Blue Knights are in the semifinals.
But for Sandwich, it doesn’t come as much of a shocker.
“I think we are surprising all the folks outside of our league,” Sandwich head coach Steve Noll said. “Our league knows how we play.”
The Blue Knights have been tested all year long, so when Medway/Ashland scored the game-tying goal with 3:07 on the clock, no one panicked.
Less than two minutes into the overtime period, Katie Lowry and Maggie Layo turned a 2-on-2 counter-rush into a Layo breakaway, who went on to score the game-winning goal for a 3-2 Sandwich win.
“We saw the Falmouth game go into overtime and we didn’t want any of that at all, it was so much stress,” Layo said. “So going into it we knew we had to get it quick. We put on the boosters and got the goal.”
The Medway/Ashland team did a great job of neutralizing the Blue Knights attack all game aided by solid play from Kathryn Hamer and her 21 saves in net.
But with the season on the line, the last player that the Mustangs wanted to get loose on a breakaway was Layo and her 200-plus career points.
Upon entering the offensive zone, Lowry took the puck to the far right side, drawing both defenders to her. Lowry looked up, saw Layo all alone on the opposite end and fed her the puck. Hamer got a stick on Layo’s shot, but the puck had enough to crawl over the goal line.
“Honestly all I said was don’t freak out,” Noll told his team before the overtime period. “We got this. You guys came way too far to give it up in the last five minutes. This is our game, our rink and they aren’t going to take it away.”
After turning in one of their best defensive efforts of the season, Sandwich surrendered the game-tying goal to defensemen Rae Lambert with just over three minutes to play. From the left point, Lambert threw a puck on net that made its way through traffic and past goalie Allison Hir.
That goal gave momentum to the Mustangs heading into the extra period as they erased a two-goal third period deficit.
Defensive statement: It has been a week since the Blue Knights played their last game, knocking off top-seeded Tewksbury/Methuen in the first round of the Div. 2 tournament.
During that week, the Blue Knights focused soley on their defensive game and it showed on Saturday night, holding the Mustangs to just 15 shots and scoreless through the first 33 minutes.
“We spent seven days working on playing layers in our zone,” Noll said. “We tried to eliminate all the chasing and they scored the second goal because we were chasing but overall they executed 95% of the time.”
Equally impressive was Hir, who came out with big saves in the second period. Hir was plucked off the field hockey roster by Noll this past season and is playing her first year between the pipes.
“Look where she is today versus 10, 12 weeks ago,” said Noll. “She played outstanding and made the saves she needed to.”
Bouncing back: The first shot of the game is one that the Mustangs and Hamer would like to forget. Sandwich’s Nicole Martin took a soft shot from the left point 3:15 into the game that somehow managed to get under Hamer’s stick.
But from there she rebounded well, stopping the next 14 shots until Layo scored early in the third period on a breakaway.
“I think it caught her off guard,” Mustang coach Kurt Carter said of the early goal. “I think they took it to us in the first period and Catherine settled in. I don’t know how I would have reacted after letting up a fluke goal, I think I would have melted.”
The Sandwich top-line of Layo, Lowry and Claire Gauthier showed off some phenomenal passing in the early going, but Hamer quickly put the fluke goal behind her and turned in an excellent game.