Rebels Overcome Rockets to Gain First Place in Bay State Conference

James Cullinane

Junior Kyle Guilbert takes the ball up the field.
Junior Kyle Guilbert takes the ball up the field.

The defending state champion Rebels faced off against the Needham Rockets on May 1o with first place in the Bay State Conference on the line.  The Rockets, led by sophomore Mark Riley and senior William Stenberg, proved to be a worthy opponent for the Rebels.  The Rebels showcased the toughness that made them champions in 2009, escaping with a 13-9 victory in one of the biggest games of the season.

The Rebel’s offense aggresively attacked the Rockets net from the opening face off.  Junior Kyle Guilbert scored the first goal of the game on the Rebel’s first possession.  Senior Danny Matthews scored only moments later to put Walpole ahead 2-0.  Riley scored Needham’s first goal, but would be held to a very pedestrian performance.  Junior Adam Niden countered with a pair of goals, silencing the Rocket crowd and giving the Rebels a 4-1 edge.  Stenberg scored with two minutes remaining in the first quarter, but his goal was quickly countered by Guilbert.  At the end of the first quarter, the Rebels remained on top by a score of 5-2.

The second quarter revolved around Senior Captain Ryan Izzo.  Izzo made his presence felt immediately with his speed and physical defense.  It did not take long for Izzo to score in the second quarter, spinning through the Needham defense before firing a shot past Needham’s goaltender.  On the following face off, Izzo assisted Matthews for his second goal of the game, putting Walpole ahead 7-2.  Walpole fans were all left holding their breath for a moment when Junior Chris Norberg went down hard with three minutes remaining in the quarter.  Izzo responded by laying hard hits on every Rocket who came his way.  Following a Needham goal, Izzo found his way to the net again, finishing with another goal, putting the Rebels on top 8-4 at the end of the first half.

The third quarter proved to be a back and forth battle between the top Bay State contenders.  Following a save by Junior Matt Niden, Guilbert took off down the field scoring another goal to give the Rebels a 9-4 advantage.  Adam Niden would add another goal to the Walpole lead, but the Rockets made sure to remind the Rebels that they would not be an easy team to overcome.  The Rockets rattled off three staight goals over a two minute span to narrow the Rebel lead to 10-7.  Izzo and Riley would exchange goals to make the score 11-8 at the end of the third quarter.

The Rebels remained aggresive into the fourth quarter.  Guilbert rifled a shot past the Needham goaltender to give the Rebels a 12-8 lead.  Guilbert would then assist Senior Tim McDonald to put the Rebels on top 12-9.  The Rockets would show one last gasp of life, scoring to cut the Rebel lead to three with only two minutes to play in the game.  This lead would hold until the end of the fourth quarter, improving the Rebels record to 11-2 and giving them temporary control of the Bay State Conference.

The key to the Rebels victory game in the form of defense.  Senior defenseman Peter Bowes held Needham’s weapons in check throughout the game.  Matt Niden made a smooth transition from midfielder to goalie in senior PJ Painten’s absence.  Niden stepped up to the challenge and played a great game in net.  Sophomore Russell Ollis filled the void left by Niden at long stick midfielder, showcasing the Rebel’s young talent that will lead them in the future.  Senior Connor Whittemore made his return to the field, playing a significant role in shutting down the Rocket’s offense.

After a hard fought game, it is apparent that the Rockets have nothing to be ashamed off.  Needham scoring leader Mark Riley said ” We really fell into a whole when we got down 5-1. Unfortunately, we were never able to dig our way out of it”.  When asked about his transition to a starting role from previously coming off the bench, sophomore Russell Ollis said, “The senior leadership on this team really helped me to feel like I have been starting for months. ”

The Rebels will look to improve their record to 12-2 on May 12 against Natick.