The Walpole Express will play in the EHL championship game for the first time as they defeat the Worcester Jr. Railers by a score of 3-1 in a Frozen Final semifinal matchup Saturday night.
Out of the three goals Walpole scored, two of them came from defensemen with Alex Raketich and Jerrett Overland finding the back of the net. Jack Boschert stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced, as the Express will advance to Championship Sunday to face the New Jersey 87’s. Game time is 3pm.
“It’s exciting, all the work that the guys have put in all season long and it comes down to one game, it’s exciting for our players and we look forward to it,” said Express head coach Josh Holstrom on his team advancing to the championship game.
Out of Boschert’s 22 saves, his best one came early in the second period when Railers forward Jonathan Heise controlled a rebound and had a wide-open net to shoot at, only for Boschert to reach back towards the goal with his stick and bat the puck out of mid-air.
“That’s a game changer right there,” Holmstrom said of Boschert’s save. “That one stays out of the net and we go down and we end up scoring later on in the power play there. He’s been great all playoffs, all season long.”
The first period was scoreless, largely due to the Railers’ penalty killing and its goaltending from Stefan Kulhanek. The Railers took four penalties in the opening frame, including two penalties at the same time to give Walpole a five-on-three power play for two minutes.
Alex Raketich finally broke through on the power play early in the second period as he launched a slap shot from the blue line that went under the blocker of Kulhanek for his first goal of the postseason.
Holmstrom gave credit to his power-play units for sticking to the game plan after struggling in the first period. “We just tried to stay composed with it, obviously it gets a little frustrating when you get that many chances but we kind of stayed with the structure on it and finally we got a big goal,” he said.
Overland doubled the lead early in the third period and picked up his third goal of the Frozen Finals. Dalton Garcia jammed on the breaks near the half-wall and found Overland in the high slot, where he hammered a one-timer past Kulhanek to put the Express up 2-0.
As the Railers pulled Kulhanek for the extra attacker, Alex Pratt managed to seal the game with an empty-net goal as he chased down a loose puck and buried his third goal of the postseason. Matt Pimental scored in the final minutes of regulation for the Railers, but the damage was done and the Express finished the game with a 3-1 victory.
Out of the five goals Walpole scored over its first three games of the Frozen Finals, four of those goals came from defenseman, including three from Overland. He spoke about the team’s ability to generate offense from the blue line.
“Coach (Holmstrom) really just likes us to jump in the play, and he gives us all the ability we want, and we know that we have good enough forwards and good enough skating to the point where we can jump up and if we make a mistake, we do have the ability to get back,” Overland said.
This is the first time the Walpole Express will play in the EHL championship game, and as they get ready for Championship Sunday against the New Jersey 87’s, Overland said his team will be up to the task.
“We celebrated for about 30 seconds and now we’re moving on and turning the page, we’re really dialing it in for the championship game,” Overland said.
For a complete schedule of the EHL Frozen Finals, you can check out the official Frozen Finals hub on the league website.