FITCHBURG, Mass. -- There were little reminders left everywhere. Shrewsbury head coach Steve Turnblom made it a habit to remind his team about the past.
So too, did his assistant coaches. Previous articles on unforgiving postseason losses to Wachusett were taped to locker room walls for all eyes to see and ponder.
To know the history of the Colonials' underachieving battles against the Mountaineers in the Central Mass. Division 3 tournament in recent years is to understand that Wachusett has owned Shrewsbury. In the last three seasons, the Colonials have been bounced out of the playoffs by Wachusett.
So in Monday night's Central Mass. Division 3 final between the two powers, questions lingered as to whether or not history would reap its ugly head yet again on Shrewsbury or would the script be different this time around?
As a result, the Colonials chose the latter, scoring a pair of goals in each of the first two periods and, in the process, posted a 4-1 triumph at the Wallace Civic Center. The win was the Colonials third over Wachusett this year, after beating them twice during the regular season.
No. 1 Shrewsbury (19-2-1) moves on to the state semifinals where it will meet defending state champion Westfield (14-5-3) on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield.
"Everyone was telling me all week that you can't beat a team three times in a season so I was a little worried," admitted Turnblom. "But I knew if we came to play we would have a good shot. It is very impressive for these kids to beat them three times in a season."
To get over the hurdle of believing they could defeat the No. 3 Mountaineers (16-5-2) when it mattered most, the Colonials went out and did just that. Goals by Tyler O'Keefe and Cole Amback (on the power play) at 14:01 and 14:57, respectively, of the opening period had Shrewsbury on top 2-0 heading into the first intermission.
After going toe-to-toe against its Quinn Conference rivals for the first 13 minutes of this contest, giving up those two late markers sent Wachusett into the dressing room a deflated and dejected bunch.
That demeanor seemed to carry itself over into the middle frame. At 2:31, junior Joseph Buduo, taking a diagonal pass from Dave Belbin, sent a shot into the top right corner of the net to extend the Colonials advantage to 3-0. Five minutes later, Buduo would answer the call again. This time the forward gathered a bouncing puck in front of Wachusett starting goaltender Jake Strasser (16 saves on 20 shots) and hoisted a quick wrist shot past the senior's catching glove.
"We just went out there and played as hard as we could," Buduo said. "We wanted to crash the net on Strasser because he likes to play out a lot. That team has knocked us out of the playoffs the past three years so getting a little revenge tonight really feels good."
Following Buduo's second tally, Strasser was pulled in favor Andrew Carter. The junior managed to hold down the fort for the remainder of the game, stopping all 8 shots he faced. By then, though, the damage had already been done. The Mountaineers offense struggled mightily throughout, unable to gain much consistency with the puck as Shrewsbury's defense and forwards swarmed all over them once they got across the red line.
Wachusett was also playing shorthanded. Defenseman Matt Cappucci did not dress due to a concussion. Sam Pridotkas, another defenseman, received a season-ending disqualification for a hitting from behind penalty in an first round game against Westboro. In addition, center Brian Boulette was home with flu-like symptoms. Never one to make excuses, Wachusett head coach Matt Lane said that was not the difference in the outcome of this one.
"The kids who came to the rink tonight gave it all they had," he said. "I told them for the last 22 minutes of this game it was 1-0 us and we held them without a score. But Shrewsbury caught fire at the end of the first and later in the second period with a couple of nice goals. But we cannot and will not make excuses. Our guys played their hearts out. We never seemed to recover from the goal they got with 3 seconds left in the first period. They move the puck well all night and are always cycling to the slot and it's tough to stay with them. We just couldn't break the ice against them."
With less than two minutes remaining in the second, Wachusett senior forward Marc Happy scored a power-play goal but it did little to rattle Shrewsbury. The Colonials blanketed the Mountaineers over the last 15 minutes, limiting them to just five shots.
"We had two articles posted in our locker room showing last year's loss to them," said Turnblom, referring to his club's 2-1 overtime defeat in the CMass semifinals. "I told the kids to remember the tears and all the sadness they felt after that loss and take it to the ice tonight because they had a good shot to win. That was certainly momentum for us. We got those two goals in the first period to give us the lead, and once we got those, we tried to play solid defense after that and I felt we pretty-much achieved that."