Arlington freshman Maddie Krepelka saw an opening and she knew she had to take it.
On Monday night Krepelka and the sixth-seeded Spy Ponders were facing 11th-seeded Needham in the first round of the MIAA Girls Division 1 tournament, and for the majority of the 45 minutes it was a slow, methodical game that looked like it was being played in slush instead of on the ice in terms of pace.
So, when Arlington went to the power play in a scoreless game with 9:42 remaining, it was now or never.
Krepelka gathered the puck just inside her own blue line and then danced through what seemed like the entire Rockets team, cutting towards the middle of the ice and letting a backhander go that went bar-down over the glove of Needham goalie Kenzie Kelly to break the ice with 8:29 remaining.
Gabby Russo added an empty net goal with 21 seconds left and the Spy Ponders survived the pesky Rockets 2-0.
Arlington (15-2-5) advances to the D1 quarterfinals and will take on third-seeded Braintree Saturday in Woburn (2 pm). Needham’s season ends at 15-6-2.
“I saw the lane up the ice, and I mean I normally play defense but it was open so I took it and went to the net and it went in,” Krepelka said of her game-winning charge up ice. “My backhand – I love it. It’s always open on the goalie so I just take it when I can.”
Kelly (22 saves) was very good for Needham and even though Arlington goalie Elise Rodd wasn’t tested much she was big when she needed to be, making 14 saves.
After a quiet first two periods Krepelka’s goal was huge, but Arlington was called for a trip with 2:28 left in the game. Just 33 seconds later Needham was called for its own trip when Russo made a hard drive to the net, effectively ending Needham’s shot at the equalizer before Russo finished it off with the ENG.
“It’s kind of cliche but I just think this was playoff hockey,” said Arlington coach Jeff Mead. “Iv’e got to be honest I was surprised (about the lack of offense). I thought we were the better team for the most part. Win or lose I told the girls I thought we played a real good game and we were able to pull away with it with Maddie’s goal and then the empty netter.”
The Arlington-Needham game was actually the nightcap of a three-game slate in Watertown on Monday. After Belmont beat Waltham in the first game it was 12th-seeded Shrewsbury facing fifth-seeded St. Mary’s.
This one had a bit more pace to it, but just like the game before it and prior to it things weren’t decided until the final moments.
The Spartans got a goal from Maggie Pierce with just 3:36 remaining to pull out a 2-1 victory.
St. Mary’s (16-2-4) moves on to face Woburn in Woburn on Friday (7:30pm) in the quarterfinals while Shrewsbury (14-6-2) sees its season come to an end.
The Spartans led 1-0 after one on a shot from the point by Megan Parthum that had eyes and found its way through traffic while the Colonials had just two shots on Spartan goalie Rhyan Pitari (13 saves) in the first.
Penalties littered the second period, but with 2:16 left in the frame Grace Felicio took about three strides over the Spartan blue line and let a rocket of a slapper go that whistled through the five-hole of Pitari to make it 1-1 heading to the third.
As both teams pressed for the go-ahead goal late, Pierce found herself in front of the net when Jenna Chaplain let a shot go from the point. Pierce got a stick on it for a tip but Shrewsbury goalie Riley MacCausland (21 saves) made a pad save. Pierce stuck with it, jamming the rebound home before being dog piled by her teammates.
“She just shot it, I tipped it and just tried to get the rebound and it went in,” said Pierce. “It felt good, we needed it.”
Ironically, the game-winner came after Pierce’s coach Frank Pagliuca had gotten on her a bit earlier in the game.
“I got on her a little bit in he second period, I didn’t think she was moving her legs,” he said. “She responded in a big way in the third and got us that great goal off Jenna’s shot. Shrewsbury was not a 12-seed they’re one of the better teams w play all year, but I was proud of us. We gave up that tough goal to end the second but I thought we really responded well.”
In the first game at John Ryan Arena, #7 Belmont moved on with a 2-0 win over neighboring Waltham. Junior sharpshooter Emma O’Donovan scored both goals for the Marauders, while freshman goaltender Bridget Gray registered her 10th shutout of the season.