Heading into Sunday’s state championship game, Wellesley knew, despite its high-octane offensive attack, that goals could be at a premium facing Canton senior goalie Colleen Kelleher.
After dominating the first period, the Raiders finally were able to dent Kelleher when senior Jenna Harrison buried a wrister. It would be the only goal that Kelleher (31 saves) allowed on the day, but the Bulldogs were unable to put any pucks past Wellesley goalie Lexi Schultz.
The Raiders were crowned MIAA Girls Division 2 state champions with the 1-0 win over second-seeded Canton.
“Going in we knew it would be a close game,” said Wellesley coach P.T. Donato. “In basically every tournament game we’ve had it’s been a one-goal game heading into the third period. We knew it would be close facing a goalie like Colleen Kelleher. She brought her team to the championship game last year. We were able to make the plays we needed to make at the end of the game to win.”
The Raiders enjoyed a considerable territorial edge in this game, especially in the first two periods and ending up enjoying a wide advantage in shots on net, outshooting the Bulldogs 32-8. Although it had a few excellent scoring chances, Canton had a hard time generating offense in this one.
“I didn’t think we concentrated enough of getting shots through,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich. “Sometimes we tried to make that extra move. Going into it, we thought if we could outshoot them, or be even, we would have a very good chance. My hats off to Wellesley. They are a heckuva team. They are the best team we have faced this year. They are a true champion.”
On the winning goal, Harrison was able to collect the puck just inside the blue line. She made a neat deke past a Canton defender, curled into the slot and put a well-placed wrist shot into the near side. Lauren Burke drew an assist on the goal.
Early in the third period, Canton put on its best offensive pressure of the game. The Bulldogs had couple of solid chances, but shots either slid wide of the net, or were stopped by Wellesley goaltender Lexi Schulz.
Wellesley has been one of the premier D2 programs in the state, as this was the Raiders’ fourth trip to the state finals in the last five seasons. They lost in each appearance in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Although many players on the current roster were not on those clubs, the thought was still there, not wanting to lose in a state final again.
“It definitely was,” Donato said. “We have so many sisters,cousins that have played before. We try to keep it out of the back of our minds as much as we can, but it is just human nature to still have those thoughts. we don’t want to be that team that lost four out of five. The girls really earned it. They blocked a lot of shots and kept things to the outside.”