On March 12, the Hopkinton boys hockey team punched their ticket to the state finals with a win over Walpole 5-1 at Loring Arena in Framingham.
The arena was packed with fans of both teams and the noise was deafening as the game got underway. The Hillers started aggressively, applying a press and seeing several shots saved by the Walpole goaltender. But it was the Timberwolves that struck first. With 8:20 remaining in the first period, in what may have been the only defensive lapse of the game, the Hillers allowed too many passes in front of the net and a Walpole forward buried the puck past Hillers goalie Jack Lang.
The Walpole supporters section erupted, but their lead would not last. Just four minutes later, Hillers Freshman forward Cam MacPherson created a breakaway 1-on-1 and he sailed a shot into the back of the net.
Toward the end of the first period, with seconds remaining on the clock, the Hillers moved the puck around in the Walpole zone. Senior Pavit Mehra found himself open and drilled a shot into the net, but it was waved off by the referee as time had expired. It was clear from the booing that the crowd disagreed.
This perceived injustice may have been Walpole’s undoing, because in the second period, Mehra would not be denied. It is hard to overstate the level to which the Tri-Valley League MVP forward commanded the ice, as he scored three goals in 9 minutes, and then a fourth with 1:41 remaining in the period.
The Hillers headed into the third period up 5-1, and the responsibility fell to keeper Jack Lang and Hopkinton’s defense to hold the lead. Lang endured several punishing shots and made countless saves, at one point jumping off the ice to block the puck with his body. Though Walpole tested them, the Hillers never broke.
When time expired the boys took to the ice, celebrating with themselves, their fans and coach Scott Hayes.
The Hillers now face the third-seeded Canton in the MIAA Division 2 Finals at TD Garden next Sunday at 11:00 AM.