STONEHAM, Mass. – Each Colonial player had to dig deep to find their motivation if they wanted any chance of avoiding an upset.
For the hero of the Acton-Boxborough squad, Eleana Cardarelli, it was the thought that it could be the last competitive ice hockey game of her life.
The Colonials scored the last three goals in their Division 1 quarterfinal match with Barnstable, the last coming 1:07 into the overtime period capping off a wild, come-from-behind, 5-4 victory over upset-minded Barnstable.
“I know when I was in front of the net, the puck kind of popped out and I just hit it,” said Cardarelli of her game-winning goal. “My motivation was, I’m playing field hockey in college, so I will never play competitive ice hockey in my entire life again. So that was my motivation but that whole overtime was 100 percent the team.”
Late in the second period, the Red Raiders led 4-2 and had no signs of slowing down but the Colonial turnaround can be traced back to one specific moment. An early timeout from Acton-Boxborough head coach Brian Fontas.
With 3:26 left in the second period and the Colonials with 53 second of 5-on-3 power play coming up, Fontas knew he couldn’t squander the opportunity for his team to get back in the game.
Thirty-eight seconds after the timeout, Kaitlin Hoang netted her first of two goals, when she picked up the puck in the slot, turned and fired to the far post to bring A-B within one.
“We were a little tired and three of our top five power play people were out there and we just said this is it, we need to put the puck on the 5-on-3 and we did,” said Fontas of his timeout.
When the Colonials took the ice for the third period, the team was resurrected. They outshot the Red Raiders (thanks in part to two power plays), 9-4, in the final stanza. Despite the dominance in shots and possession, Barnstable goalie Olivia Sollows stood on her head and kept the game tied.
But 9:17 into the third period, Hoang struck for her second goal of the game and was mobbed by her teammates immediately after the goal.
Once the game was tied, the wind that was in the sails of the Red Raiders was gone and instead it was A-B that controlled the tempo.
After an emotional frenzy to end regulation, it took the Colonials just 1:07 to stamp their ticket to the Division 1 semifinals.
“In the tournament you can’t take shifts off, can’t take periods off because every team wants to win,” said Fontas. “It means absolutely nothing what our regular season record is.”
“When we entered this tournament, everybody is 0-0. We want to play in the Garden but need to play better than that.”
Upset on their mind: Acton-Boxborough knows that they escaped by the skin of their teeth.
“I just told the Barnstable coach you deserved to win the game and they did,” Fontas said.
It won’t make the loss any easier to swallow if you are a Red Raider on Wednesday morning, but the gave A-B everything they had.
The Red Raiders shot out of the gate, led by junior Lindsey Phelan, who had one of the best games of her season, setting up Callie Rogorzenski on a short-handed breakaway in the first period and scoring two more goals in the second period.
The backbreakers for Barnstable, however, were a goal in the final 10 seconds of the first period and a 5-on-3 power play late in the second period.
With 10 seconds to go in the first, Annie Messuri took a shot from the right point that deflected off a Barnstable stick down low and over the pad of Sollows.
Barnstable-Acton-Boxborough III: For the second consecutive year, the Colonials have eliminated the Red Raiders in overtime in the postseason. Last season, it was a 3-2 loss in the preliminary round.
When the two teams took the ice on Tuesday night, there were a combined six seniors who suited up meaning that the cores of both teams will be coming back next season, meaning that we could see this postseason matchup for a third time, and possible it will be over a state title.