Wilmington’s season long voyage along “The Road to The Garden” ended Sunday with the ultimate souvenir.
The Wildcats toppled Franklin 3-2 thanks to a hat trick to return home from TD Garden with the first in school history.
“It’s something you can’t describe. You dream about this when you’re a kid,” said Owens. “We said it from the beginning of the year. We were going to go to The Garden, and win at The Garden. And to be able to do that, it’s really cool.”
After a scoreless first period that was largely dominated by Wilmington, Owens took over early in the middle frame. The junior dangled at the point and fired home the game’s first goal just over three minutes into the second.
Then with 6:58 to play, Owens corralled a rebound off of a Jake Rogers breakaway and backhanded it in for a 2-0 edge that sent the Wilmington faithful who made the trip into a frenzy.
It was Franklin that next grabbed the momentum, however, scoring with 3:30 to play before the break. The Panthers chipped home one more with 41 seconds left on a shot that bounced off the back of leg.
But Owens saved his best for last. With 7:33 to play in the game, the forward whipped a shot off the left post and into the right side of the net on the carom, sending hats onto the ice from the Wildcat student section.
Wilmington stood tall in the defensive zone in the closing minutes, and especially in the final 10 seconds to set off a pig pile in Foley’s crease.
“We’re staying in the moment, just because these don’t come around very often,” said Foley. “You have to cherish it while you have it.”
Senior captain Dalton Rolli moved slowly around the scattered debris of gloves and sticks that had been tossed into the air as the final horn sounded. Hands on his knees, Rolli reflected on the run his team put together this postseason.
“I’m honored, as is our team, to be the first team in Wilmington to win a state championship,” said Rolli, who battled illness in the days before the game and while on the ice. “We’re just trying to soak it all in right now. We can’t believe it even happened.
It was the first championship win in 22 years with Wilmington for , who said it was a difficult hill to climb to reach the peak.
Scanlon led the Wildcats into TD Garden in 2008, but the team fell 1-0 and settled for a runner up trophy.
“This is more of a culmination. Everyone who played for Wilmington High at one time can take a piece of this title,” said Scanlon. “If you’re a Wilmington hockey player, today is a proud day for you.”
The scary part for Wilmington opponents is that while the team loses a , the majority of the squad is eligible to return next year.
, expected to be among the locker room leaders next year, said the group of Wildcat players this year made this ride a special one.
“We’ll be back here again, I can almost guarantee it,” said Pickett. “You don’t get hockey moments like this very often. I’ve played a ton of game, and to have this moment is unreal.”