Wilmington boys hockey head coach Steve Scanlon saw a team that was grossly outplayed. North Andover mentor Pete Marfione, however, begged to differ.
“That’s the definition of surviving and moving on,” said Scanlon, whose team scored a first period goal and added an empty netter to grab a 2-0 win at Chelmsford Forum on Tuesday night. “We’ll see where it goes. We’re thrilled to be moving on. We’ll rest up a little bit. I don’t know if we looked tired or what, but we just didn’t play good. We were fortunate.”
Thanks to the victory over North Andover, the Wildcats advanced to the North Division 2 title game on Monday night, where they’ll battle Winthrop for a spot in the state championship tilt.
Having seen top competition throughout the season, Marfione said Wilmington is second to none.
“They’ll probably win the next two games I’d imagine,” said Marfione. “They’re the best team we’ve faced all year. I’d be surprised if they didn’t win it all.”
Cam Owens continued his dominant postseason when he launched a rebound into the open net with 1:47 to go in the first period. The junior has now scored four goals in three playoff tilts.
Freshman goalie Drew Foley made sure that lead stood, fighting off 25 shots in the game, nine in the third period. With 18 seconds to play in the game, Jake Rogers took a feed from Owens, dangled around a defender and found the open net to seal the win.
“Drew was big today. A lot of big saves,” said Owens. “He gives us all the confidence in the world. If somebody goes down, I know he’ll stop them 10 out of 10 times.”
Though Foley had several clutch saves, his prettiest came with 10:05 left in the second frame. The freshman went down onto his stomach in anticipation of a shot that never came. Then, when the North Andover shooter attempted to lift the puck over the downed goaltender, Foley managed to glove it.
The Scarlet Knights had a flurry of chances again with 9:46 to play, but none of the point blank shots lit the lamp behind Foley.
“We bent but didn’t break, and the goaltending was great again. That’s what we need,” said Scanlon. “Truth be told I don’t think we played the whole night to be honest with you. Sometimes we rely on our goaltending a little to much if you ask me.”
Wilmington earned the No. 8 seed in the bracket despite some frustrating individual tendencies that Scanlon pointed to throughout the campaign.
According to Owens, those issues are behind the Wildcats.
“Since the playoffs started, I feel like everyone just wants to win for the team,” said Owens. “No one is in it for themselves, they’re thinking about the team. Everyone goes out there for the person next to them. They’re not thinking about themselves.”
Winthrop, the No. 10 seed, notched its third straight shutout of the playoffs and advanced to the final with a 6-0 win over Saugus in the second semifinal. Monday’s game is slated for 6 p.m. in Lowell at the Tsongas Center.
A large crowd of Wildcat supporters made the trip to North Billerica on Tuesday night. Following the game, Owens made his plea to the fans to bring the same enthusiasm against Winthrop on Monday.
“We had a big fan section tonight, and they helped us out a lot. We couldn’t have done it without them,” said Owens. “Everyone come out to the game. Bring your parents, your kids, your grandparents, their kids, everyone. Let’s go.”