Hockey coaches are always telling their players to get more pucks to the net, throw pucks to the net and good things will happen.
Well, that coaching philosophy worked wonders for the Plymouth South hockey team Sunday at TD Garden, And because of it, the Panthers are the 2018 MIAA Boys Division 2 state champions.
Junior Alex Hayward’s backhander from a tough angle snuck in just inside the near post to give Plymouth South a 4-3 overtime win over North sectional champ Stoneham in a game that resembled an up-and-down track meet.
It was the first state championship for Plymouth South, which finishes the season at 20-3-2.
“It was an just an absolutely outstanding game,” said Plymouth South head coach Mike McCosh. “That game could have gone either way. We ended up getting the last goal.”
On Hayward’s game-winner, he sped up to a loose puck on the left wing side. moved into the Stoneham zone on his off-wing, went wide and flicked a backhander toward the net that snuck inside the right post 2:26 into overtime.
“We work on it all the time, getting pucks to the net,” Hayward said. “That was pretty much it. I didn’t have a real lane to the net and didn’t have people with me. So I took the next best option. I threw the puck toward the net and got a lucky bounce.”
The Spartans held a bit of an edge in the first period, outshooting Plymouth South 11-5. But, it would be the Panthers leaving the ice with a 2-1 advantage.
Senior Joey Van Winkle drew first blood for Plymouth South when his snap shot from the blue line eluding Stoneham goalie Peter Barry during a power play. Collin Cosetllo and Sean Colbert had assists on the goal.
Stoneham tied it 1-1 at 6:47 during its own power play opportunity. Jake Burridge fed Joe Carroll in the faceoff circle, and Carroll crilled home a wrister after calmly collecting the pass, picking his spot and firing it home.
With 32 seconds left in the period, the Panthers took a 2-1 lead. Defenseman Jake Worrick grabbed the puck at left point and deposited a wrist shot past a screened Barry for an unassisted tally.
A pair of great individual efforts pushed the Spartans to a 3-2 lead after two periods.
First, junior Nick Feliciano would tie it up at 8:51. Feliciano broke through the Plymouth South defense, went in alone on Panthers goalie Cam McPhee and slid in an low shot under the goalie while be taken down. Burridge would also assist on that goal.
At the 13:11 juncture, Burridge would score his own goal. He made a great rush down the left wing side, got an angle to the net, got the puck on his forehand and slid the puck off the far post and into the cage.
Stoneham had the momentum entering the third period, but instead, the Panthers capitalized just 27 seconds into the frame. Peter Fantoni fired from the right side. The puck was going wide, but OT hero Hayward was able to get his stick on it and re-direct it into the near side.
Feliciano had a golden chance to put Stoneham back on top late in the period after capitalizing on a turnover, but his bid clanged off the post.
Plymouth South entered ovetime with 1:46 left of power play time. The Spartans killed it off, but Hayward was able to win it less than a minute later.
“Basically, we told them to get everything to the net and get rebounds,” McCosh said about what the coaching staff told the kids prior to overtime. “We needed to play every second, every shift. We can’t lay down.”
Final shots on net were 34-26 in favor of Stoneham.