When Medway/Ashland head coach Karl Infanger took over the co-op program four years ago, consistent tournament berths were merely a pipe dream at that point.
On Saturday afternoon in a packed East Rink at the Skating Club of Boston, his squad exploded for five goals in the third period and clinched a third-straight tournament berth with a dominant 6-0 win over Tri-Valley League rival Norwood.
Medway/Ashland (10-6-1, 6-3-0) not only earned a third straight playoff appearance with the win, but also kept its Tri-Valley League title hopes alive, moving to within a point of Westwood with a head-to-head meeting set for Monday in its final league game. Norwood (13-2-1, 6-2-1) had entered play Saturday tied with Westwood atop the standings and also hase one league game remaining (Dedham) next week.
Every day, Infanger puts a message up on the board in the locker room. On Saturday, his team had to think about it for a bit.
“Today’s message was 30=1,” he explained. “I always walk in and ask whatever the message or quote that day means to them and they were a little confused about the 30= 1. The message was 30 girls pulling for one and that one could be whatever they wanted it to be. It could be one victory, one good shift, one good whatever, but I need all 30 girls.”
Both Medway/Ashland goalie Zoe Ratcliffe (20 saves) and Norwood netminder Lily Newman (20 saves) were on top of their game early as the teams remained scoreless after one, but the message came up immediately following the first 15-minute frame.
“After that first period, I looked at them and said “do we have all 30?” and the answer was a resounding no.”
The second was a completely different story as Medway/Ashland outshot Norwood 13-2 and with 7:03 left the second, a fantastic solo rush up ice from Lily Turcotte eventually ended with Haley MacLeod tapping home a loose puck at the left post for a 1-0 lead, a lead Medway/Ashland took to the intermission.
“That second was a good period for us,” added Infanger. “Outshot them 13-2, we were all over them, we were hustling, we were moving and I think they just fed off that.”
After killing 1:46 of a leftover penalty to open the third period, Medway/Ashland went on a scoring spree. First, Turcotte made it 2-0 with an assist going to Emilie Infanger. Infanger assisted on a Katie Crews goal minutes later to make it 3-0 with 9:32 remaining. In the final 4:20, Lauren Bosworth went bar-down and then Dani Moriarty and Maggie Lester capped the scoring with goals of their own.
Being part of a co-op and building team chemistry isn’t always easy. Throw in a pandemic, and the ability for any co-op team, but particularly this one to become so close and have it translate on the ice has been critical.
“Our team chemistry has been unbelievable, especially this season,” said captain Kathleen Fitzgerald. “We click like no other. We come to the ice and we come ready to work every day. Every line, every D-pair from the goalie up, we all just work so well together.”
“Our team chemistry for having so many schools and so much distance between us is amazing,” added Crews. “As much as Covid has been hard with like pasta dinners, we’ve really gotten back into it and it’s totally the chemistry off the ice that helps us on it.”
While the win was a huge one for the program, there are still a couple weeks left in the regular season and Medway/Ashland wants to make sure it earns a quality seed to set themselves up for a deep run.
“No matter what our record is, we still have something to work on each game,” said Lester. “These next couple of games, we’re already in the playoffs but there’s still stuff we can improve on.”
“In practices before games, (Coach Infanger) always tells us to restart and focus on the next game,” added Ratcliffe. “We’re focused on the next game, not the last win.”