BOURNE, Mass.-- The third time certainly was the charm for the Wellesley High School girls' ice hockey team.
Before Saturday's MIAA Division 2 quarterfinal showdown, the Raiders twice had opportunities against Milton High School, and had failed to secure a win in either contest. The seventh-seeded Wildcats delivered the second-seeded Raiders one of their two losses on the season, in a 4-3 game, and also earned a 3-3 tie against them.
When it mattered the most, though, the Red Raiders came through, big time. Behind a tremendous effort by forward Kiely Noonan, Wellesley (18-2-3) secured their second straight trip to the semifinals with a 7-1 victory over their Bay State Herget League rivals.
“We hadn't beaten them [before this year]...they're the type of team that just gives you nothing,” Wellesley head coach George Campbell said. “I think what helped us, especially early on in the game, was that we had our full contingent of players back healthy. We'd had two girls out with knee injuries, and one out with a concussion. They all finally made it back to full health and made big contributions.”
Noonan was one of those returning players. She'd been sitting out with a knee injury earlier in the tourney, but returned to the lineup to score four of the first five Wellesley goals, including two in the first three minutes of the contest. She added two more in the second period as the Raiders ran away from the Wildcats.
“I had to miss the first tournament game, and I had to sit out for [the Cape Cod Classic], so I'd spent my time training to get back out here and I put all of my energy into practice to make sure I had a good game, and it was unbelievable way to come back,” she said.
Noonan got it started just 67 seconds into the game as the Raiders turned a giveaway by the Wildcats into a 1-0 lead. Caroline Bradley had the takeaway and fed it down to Noonan, who deked Sarah Park viciously for the game's opening score. Then, on her next shift, Noonan struck again as she popped in the rebound of a Sophie Vernon shot.
Milton (18-4-3) had plenty of chances in the first period to eat away at the Wellesley lead, but goalie Meghan King (22 saves) came up with a huge effort in the frame. She stopped 13 shots on goal in the first, stoning a handful of quality bids by Julia Scannell, and a laser late in the period by Siobahn Murtaugh.
Wellesley nullified any momentum that Milton may have garnered by coming out in the second period and dominating it like they had the early parts of the first period. Noonan completed her hat trick at 2:39 of the second when she picked a rebound off Park's pads and tucked it in. Later in the period Kaleigh Donnelly made it 4-0, with a shot from the high slot, and then Noonan scored her fourth less than a minute later to push the lead to five goals.
Jodie Lungery and Sarah Goss scored third period goals for Wellesley. Milton ended the Raiders' shutout bid by getting their only goal at 11:52, on a backhander by Laura Hill that got past backup goalie Alyssa Cimino.
Wellesley moves on to Monday night's semifinals, back at Gallo. Their ultimate goal, though, is a return trip to the TD Garden as they're aiming to redeem themselves after falling short in last year's state title game.
“We were saying on the bench, we're two steps away from being there, and hopefully seeing Falmouth there, at the Garden, is another huge dream. We want to be able to put it away this year. I think this is our year to do it,” Noonan said.