Hopkinton and Lowell came out of the gates of their MIAA Division 3 boys state semifinal at the Tsongas Center like Hagler and Hearns in the ring in 1985.
They traded haymakers to the tune of nine first-period goals.
But it was Hopkinton that ultimately delivered the knockout.
The South champions took a 6-3 lead after the first period and held on for an 8-3 win, earning their first trip to the state championship. The Hillers (17-6-2) will play Wachusett (17-4-2) Sunday, March 17, at the TD Garden in the Division 3 state championship (11 am).
Hopkinton scored 36 seconds into the game and held a 3-0 lead just 3:29 in. It was a punch in the mouth from which the North champions, in their own hometown, just couldn’t muster the horsepower to recover. Lowell finished 16-6-2 and has now lost in the state semifinal in two of the last three seasons.
Hopkinton’s Sean Walsh had two goals in the first period and added three assists. Tommy Hamblet scored twice in the opening 15 minutes. Kyle Rogers and Will Quinlan also scored two goals for the Hillers. Defenseman Steve Simoes had four assists.
The tale of the tape in the opening frame: Hopkinton scored six times on 13 shots in the opening frame, a percentage that would make many NBA shooters jealous.
Lowell didn’t stay on the ropes in the first period. The Red Raiders made it a 3-2 game on Owen Goulette’s goal on feeds from Thomas Hassett and Nick Mandeville 5:59 into the opening period.
But Hopkinton answered just 12 seconds later when Hamblet scored his second on passes from Walsh and Rogers (two assists on the night).
Lowell fought back to make it 4-3 on Thomas Hassett’s goal, but Hopkinton closed out the period with two goals.
Lowell goalie Patrick Cote more than settled down after the first period. He stopped eight of nine shots in the second and all of Hopkinton’s chances in the third.
Hopkinton goalie Cole Thomas, meanwhile, was perfect over the game’s final 37:34. He made 24 saves.
Ben Asselin had Lowell’s other goal in the first. The only goals after the opening period came from Hopkinton’s Quinlan, who added an empty-netter with 1:57 left.