- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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FALMOUTH, Mass. -- Waltham isn’t going to impress you with an array of beautiful offensive hockey. While the Hawks are returning to postseason play with an 11-6-2 record after Saturday’s 1-0 win over Super 8 hopeful Archbishop Williams, Waltham has scored just 39 goals on the season.
Thankfully, playing behind a stout defensive unit led by senior goaltender Nick Russo, the Hawks have maintained a +13 differential in goal ratio and allowed just 26 pucks in their net this season.
In the last couple of seasons, the Hawks have been a .500 team, and then a snake-bitten sub-.500 team last year, when they suffered through a chain of more one-goal losses than just about any squad in MIAA hockey.
The formula hasn’t changed for John Maguire’s team, but maybe it’s just an element of puck luck that created the difference this year. More likely, it’s an element of sound fundamentals in the defensive zone, on display in the Hawks’ shut-out win over Archies on Cape Cod. While 45 shots found their way to Russo, the Hawks’ goaltender saw just about every one of them.
“Sean Kelley, Steve Hanley, Nick Sutherland, Sean Richard, and couple more guys, they’re all great,” Russo said. “They let me see the puck, they keep things wide and they clear things out in front on rebounds.”
While the Hawks continued dodging fate, Waltham finally worked to score the lone goal of the game with 1:52 remaining in the third. Justin Provencher’s blast on the power play was the difference.
“They outplayed us in the first, but it was a whole-team effort,” Russo said. “But then we were even, then [Provencher] put one in and that felt amazing.”
Of all the teams in this year’s Cape Cod Classic, Waltham might be the underdog. They didn’t make the Super 8 Watch List, in fact, they’re the only team in the eight-team field in Falmouth not to have made a Top 25 poll appearance this season.
But Saturday showed the Hawks aren’t to be trifled with and, if Russo continues to make stops at a prodigious pace, they will prove a tough out in the upcoming state tournament.
“These are all tournament teams, or Super 8 teams, so winning down here is huge,” Russo said. “It gets you ready for the tournament.”
MONDAY'S CAPE COD CLASSIC SECOND-ROUND SCHEDULE
Duxbury vs. Hingham, 1 p.m.
Archbishop Williams vs. Arlington Catholic, 3 p.m.
Austin Prep vs. BC High, 5 p.m.
Waltham vs. Falmouth, 7 p.m.