CANTON, Mass. – In overtime, the quantity of shots on goal is less important than the quality and Westwood proved that point on Wednesday night against Oliver Ames in a Div. 2 South first round matchup at the Canton Ice House. Despite the Tigers holding a 7-0 edge in shots through the first five minutes of four-on-four hockey, it was the Wolverines’ only shot in OT that proved decisive.
Conor Donohue notched his second goal of the game with 47 seconds remaining in overtime to give Westwood a 3-2 win over OA (13-9), completing a comeback from two goals down entering the third period and denying the Tigers another shot at league rival Canton in the next round.
Of course, from the Tigers’ perspective, the game should never have gone to overtime anyway.
“They fought us hard,” said OA coach Sean Bertoni after a lengthy postgame team talk in the locker room, “but the overtime was our period. Our forwards and ‘D’ kept them penned in but couldn’t bury one and they come up the ice on a one-on-one and I think it was their first shot.”
He added, “That’s what happens in hockey. You can dominate for half a period and they come down, shoot and score. It’s frustrating.”
OA scored once in each of the first two periods to hold a 2-0 lead heading to the third, but Westwood wasted no time in cutting that lead in half. Donohue fired a shot from the left circle that beat OA goalie Owen Connor on the glove side inside the first two minutes of the period.
The goal turned the momentum and the Tigers did not seem to have the legs to stem the Westwood pressure. Although OA, which beat Westwood 5-2 in the regular season finale, would end up with a 6-5 edge in shots for the period, the Wolverines had loads of offensive zone time and the much better chances.
Donohue nearly added a second three minutes after his first but Connor made the save and Shane Cronin missed a golden chance to tie it right on the edge of the crease.
Max Ward had the best chance of the third period for OA but he was unable to get his stick on a rebound off a save by Justin Anderson (33 saves). A minute later, Mark Horsfall slid to his right along the blue line, picking the right angle to fire a wrister through traffic that went in off the post to tie the game with 2:46 left.
“Up 2-0, we make one mistake coverage-wise when the puck was in our offensive zone, we had a breakdown there, the coverage wasn’t there, they come down and score,” Bertoni explained. “The second goal to tie the game, we couldn’t block a shot, we let the ‘D’ walk to the center of the ice.”
Despite struggling through the third, OA looked suddenly refreshed after a quick break before the start of overtime and the Tigers came out flying in the four-on-four.
“I think we had a little more depth to roll out a few more forwards and everyone was on the attack,” Bertoni said. “We executed well in terms of offensive zone possession and coverage but just couldn’t bury one.”
Brett Williams, Rory Madden, and Eric LeBlanc all put shots on goal and the Wolverines were on their heels for the first five minutes. That was until a pass through the middle caught the OA defensemen pushing forward and allowed Donohue to find space in the left circle. His snap shot beat Connor to the far post and set off a raucous celebration.
The Tigers had started the game well. Huter Costello had the game’s first notable scoring opportunity five minutes in but his shot was kicked aside. Colin Bourne nearly opened the scoring with a shorthanded breakaway but Anderson managed to get a stick check in and the puck rolled to the corner.
It looked like Westwood had gotten on the board when Brian Reissfelder went bar down from the slot, but the puck was ruled to have not crossed the line. Neither team stopped skating, although there were questions raised from the Wolverines bench. Only two minutes later, freshman Ross Carroll put the Tigers in front with an inch-perfect backhand tip over the shoulder of Anderson from a Matt McCormack pass out of the left corner.
In the second period, defenseman Adam Healey made it 2-0 for the Tigers when his shot from the point made its way through a sea of bodies in front of goal. Seconds later, OA could have broken the game open with another chance, but a scrum in front led to a prone goalie and a puck that slipped narrowly wide of the post. Williams had a good look from the slot after a drop pass by Bourne, but he could not find the corner and Anderson blocked it aside.
The missed opportunities during a period in which the Tigers had a 13-5 edge in shots would come back to haunt the No. 10 seed. Westwood finished the second with a quick flurry and then turned the game on its head in the third.
“End of the second and most of the third we were holding on. Our energy just dropped and we couldn’t claw our way back, but then we did in overtime,” said Bertoni. He repeated, “But, we just couldn’t bury one.”