Walpole, MA - On the heels of two weekend wins, the Walpole Express EHL team clinched the Boston Division Championship. After finishing in last place in the division last season, the Express tied up the division title win with eight games remaining in the regular season – a major accomplishment.
In game one of the weekend, the team traveled four hours to play a hardworking and physical Vermont Lumberjacks team. The Express came out flat as they struggled to shake off the “bus legs” early in the game. Thanks to goaltender Connor Rodericks the Express were able to keep the game even – the taking the 1-0 lead when Colin Biebel collected a nice pass from Frankie Ceafalu. The Express came out with a little more jump in the second period but were unable to capitalize on some opportunities and held the 1-0 lead heading into the third.
The third period featured some great up and down hockey. Again, it was Biebel who gave the Express a two-goal lead as he collected a breakaway pass from winger Adam Lane to score five-hole on the Lumberjacks’ netminder. Rodericks stood tall in net, saving shot after shot while the Express got into some penalty trouble. Late in the game the Lumberjacks capitalized on a 5-on-3 to cut the Express’ lead in half. Fortunately, the boys from Walpole successfully held off the attack and came away with the 2-1 win.
“Connor was the difference-maker in net for us,” said Coach Jon Lounsbury. “It was a tough game for us with the travel up and back. I’m proud of how the guys found a way to win.”
In game two, the Express headed to Haverhill, Mass. to play the Valley Junior Warriors. Once again the team came out flat and found themselves down 1-0 early. Eventually, Biebel netted his third goal in two games to even the score at 1-1. Valley capitalized again in the first to take the lead heading into the second, 2-1.
Walpole rallied as Nick Balboa netted three goals and Ryan Charko also found the back of the net to give the express a 5-2 lead with nine minutes remaining in the game. The Express penalty kill was strong and Evan McCarthy made some big saves in net. A team-wide mental lapse in the final minutes almost cost the Express lead as Valley stormed back with two quick goals to bring the game within 1. The Express defense led by veteran Nick Dotolo did an outstanding job blocking shots and playing physical – allowing the Express to come away with the win.
“I’m proud of the effort at the end of the game but wish we had that effort for the full 60 minutes,” Lounsbury said. “Still, winning the division is a huge turnaround for the program. These guys pour their heart and soul into the team and it’s nice to be rewarded for it.”
The Walpole Express have eight games remaining in the season and look to climb their way up in the league standings.