BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. - Going into Thursday night’s Division 2 South semifinal, Medfield coach Toby Carlow knew that goals would be at a premium against Oliver Ames junior goaltender Jimmy Tierney. Luckily, for the Warriors, they would only need one.
Brett Thomas scored with just fewer than six minutes remaining in the first period and Medfield (17-3-3) tacked on a pair of empty net goals in the final minute, as the Warriors beat Oliver Ames 3-0 at Gallo Arena and advanced to the sectional for the first time.
“They’ve got an outstanding goaltender over there and he can win you a game,” said Carlow. “We knew that…we knew that we had to keep to our game, keep to our style and we’ll get our chances and, you know, we did. We got one chance really and we put it in the back of the net.”
With 5:45 left in the first period, Thomas was on the post to tap in a rebound after good work from Robert Treiber and Lou Cappucci. Tierney almost got to that point-blank shot, but it was an early lead for the Warriors, which was one of the goals that Carlow set for his team before the game.
He explained, “We knew that a kid like him, as good as he is, to get comfortable in net only makes him better. To get one early was big because it puts a lot of pressure on their team, which we knew was having some trouble on the offensive side of the puck.”
Medfield controlled most of the play with far more of the puck possession and a 34-22 advantage in shots. OA was content to try and sit back and not allow Medfield’s speed to cause odd-man rushes and let Tierney keep the score low.
“We tried to clog up the middle a little bit,” said first-year OA coach Mark Homer. “They’re a quick team, there’s no doubt about it and not just the first line but all three lines. You take the middle of the ice, try to stay on the strong side of the puck and try to put the puck on net as often as you possibly can and hopefully you get a break.”
Tierney lived up to the billing to prevent Medfield from getting a second goal, although John MacLean had a wrist shot ring off the crossbar midway through the second period. Homer could only marvel at how much the netminder has meant to the Tigers in their run to the semifinal.
“Jimmy speaks for himself in the way that he’s played the last six or seven games,” said Homer. “He made some unbelievable stops out here tonight to keep us in the game. Right now, I don’t think there’s a better goaltender out there. He was in a zone.”
OA (12-9-2) had two goods scoring opportunities in the opening minute of the third period on rebounds from Medfield goalie Dan Graham, but no one was able to get a stick to them and the chances were cleared. The Warriors then gained control of play again (dominating 18-10 in shots in the third) but could not find the goal to put the game away.
In the closing minutes OA had a few other chances as it started to be more aggressive pushing forward and leaving forward Matt Campanella high in the neutral zone in hopes of catching Medfield in a quick transition. The Tigers would get two more good chances -- a pass into the slot just rolled off the blade of an open OA forward and then a shot from the point handcuffed Graham but Medfield cleared the rebound.
With 56.3 on the clock, Jack Scannell stole a pass at the blue line and skated in unopposed to fire home an empty net goal to make it 2-0. Twenty seconds later, Justin Hirschfeld added a second empty netter and let Carlow, and the bench, breathe a lot easier.
When asked about his reaction to Scannell’s goal, Carlow smiled and replied, “A big sigh of relief because it’s such a tense game and one bounce of the puck and it’s a tie game. Anything is possible at that point.”
Homer reflected, “The score doesn’t indicate the game -- we were one shot away. We’re probably not the most talented team compared to some of the teams in here, but we have more damn heart than any other team that you’ve probably seen.”
He added, “We took one of the best teams in Division 2 to a 1-0 game with two minutes left what more could you ask for as a coach? That scoreboard is not going to determine how I feel about this team.”
This was the third time in the past four seasons that Medfield has reached a sectional semifinal (the previous two were in D3) and the first time that it has advanced to the finals.
“This is the third time that we’ve been in this game with this group of guys and never gotten by it,” said Carlow. “I was just really happy for them to get over this hump.”
Medfield will play Canton in the final on Sunday at 4:45 p.m. at Gallo.