Three down, two to go.
All year long, the Arlington girls’ hockey team has had its mind on winning a state title. With scoring depth, an experienced goalie and a strong defense, the No. 2 Spy Ponders entered the Division 1 state tournament as the #2 seed after an impressive 18-1-1 regular season.
On Saturday night, Arlington took another big step towards that goal with a 5-1 victory over No. 7 Bishop Feehan to advance to the state semifinals later this week.
The Spy Ponders (21-1-1) will face Shrewsbury in a state semifinal game, with the winner heading to the TD Garden to play for the state championship on March 20. The Shamrocks’ season ends at 13-7-3.
“I thought we played well the last couple games, but Marblehead gave us a tough game and it was no different today. (Feehan) put some pressure on us,” said Arlington coach Jeff Mead. “But, overall, if we keep playing our way and we get a lead, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Maddie Krepelka got things started with a fantastic individual rush up ice, weaving in and out of green jerseys and sticks before she capped it off with a pretty backhand for a 1-0 lead 6:36 in. Just 1:08 later, Gabby Russo potted a goal on a deflection in front (assists to Julia Krepelka and Maddie Krepelka) to make it 2-0. Russo also had a chance on a shorthanded breakaway in the final seconds of the period, but Bishop Feehan goalie Avery Blanchard (30 saves) stoned her.
Molly Conneely stuffed home a power play goal on a loose puck in front with 9:42 left in the second to put Arlington up 3-0 and seemingly put the game out of reach.
The Shamrocks showed some life with 3:59 left in the period though when Brooke Borges raced up the left wing and eventually dished a pass over to Julia Tamul who put it home to get the Shamrocks on the board. Maddie Krepelka struck again less than two minutes after that to halt any momentum, stuffing a backhand wrap around in to make it 4-1 after two.
“When they scored to make it 3-1, it definitely changed a little bit. But we kept going and got some good goal scoring and ended up coming out on top,” said Mead.
“We knew that getting scored on, we had to come out and score the next shift,” added Krepelka. “We talked about that on the bench and we did it and we executed that wrap around. I think that started from the movement down in the D zone, but yeah, we just knew we had to come out and get that one back.”
Jennifer Bannon capped the scoring for Arlington with 10:25 left in the third, intercepting a puck in the Spy Ponder zone, then racing up before finishing on the backhand.
There are seven seniors and four juniors on this year’s Arlington team. After getting knocked out in the first round in 2019, the quarterfinals in 2020 and then not getting the chance to play in any kind of postseason last year, this team has its eyes locked on a trip to the Garden.
Krepelka believes this year’s team is closer than the others were, and that might just be enough to propel the lady Spy Ponders to a title if her and her teammates can win two more games.
“This year, we’ve got a lot of sisters on the team and I think the chemistry is just incredible,” said Krepelka. “This entire year, we’ve just been moving the puck great and I don’t know, it’s just a great group of girls.
“If there was a team to get to the Garden, this is the team that can do it.”