Three Line Rotation Gives Rebels Complete Team Win over Milton

Coach Dowd look on in last years game.

Coach Dowd look on in last years game.

Matt Brownsword

Walpole Rebel teammates look on during game.
Walpole Rebel teammates look on during game.

 

For Boys Hockey, it was unfortunate that their biggest game of the season — against then undefeated Milton for the top spot of the Herget — was scheduled for Saturday, January 11 when the Patriots had their biggest game of the season.  However, despite the little fan support, the Rebels matched the success of their Route 1 counterparts by thrashing Milton 4-1 and securing the early season lead of the Herget with a record of 7-2-1.

Seniors Pat Quinn and Sean Donnelly scored two goals apiece as the Rebels took over the game in the beginning of the second period and did not look back. All it took was one power play — after an even first period — for Walpole to find their scoring touch, as sophomore Tim Farrow unleashed a shot from the right side of the blue line that Donnelly tipped in, capitalizing on the elbowing penalty assessed to Milton. Quinn added another goal in the period off of a nice centering pass from senior Billy Moore — who has led the offensive attack thus far — to add an insurance goal to the Rebels’ lead.

The third period was a little chippy, as the penalties started to tally up for both sides. It was the Rebels who had to defend on the 5-3 power play first — highlighted by an ambiguous roughing call on senior Brendan Sullivan — which they did effectively. Then, late in the period, Milton went 2 men down for 44 seconds and Donnelly made the Wildcats play with his second goal of the night, from junior Danny Hamilton. Although it looked highly unlikely that Milton would make a comeback down 3-0 late in the final period, the struggling Milton keeper was pulled, resulting in Quinn putting in the empty net goal for his second and the Rebels’ fourth — effectively ending all hope for the Wildcats. A Milton goal on Walpole’s fourth line off a breakaway ruined senior goalie Tim Kurker’s bid for his second shutout of the season.

The result was fairly similar to last year’s result against Natick in the Rebels’ first game of the season, as they beat the Red and Blue 4-0 in a complete performance to take an early season Herget lead.

Defense for the Rebels this season has been a rotation with one constant — senior Pat Baker — that consisted of freshman Andrew Moore, Farrow, junior Dan Johnson, and Sullivan against Milton. With the strong, consistent play of Baker and the improvement of the underclassman — as well as the continued shutdown goalie play by Kurker — Walpole’s defense has become almost un-breachable, only giving up one goal each to Herget foes Natick, Wellesley, and Milton, respectively.

“Pat Baker has been huge for us all year,” said Coach Dowd. “In my opinion he is one of the best players in the league, not just on defense.  We rely on him to do a lot for us.  He plays against the other teams top line, kills penalties and quarterbacks our player play.”

“They’ve been great all year,” said Baker, talking about the underclassmen defenders. “We knew before the season started that some kids were going to have to step up — and so far, so good.”

“[Kurker] has certainly stabilized our situation in net,” Dowd said about his emerging goalie. “Timely saves and his compete level have rubbed off on our team as well.  His GAA (goals against average) right now is 1.13 which speaks to the team in front of him but also how well he is playing.”

It was the three line rotation up top for the Rebels that was the difference — normally, high school teams feature a mixture of two strong lines and a sporadic third line shift, however, Coach Ron Dowd played all three forward lines fairly evenly.

“I know we would not have beaten the teams we did without the play of all three lines and six defensemen,” Coach Dowd said. “We try to build a team with each player having a role. We roll out three lines then spot another forward or two during the game. We have been able to win games in the third period because of this.”

Although they did not account for a goal — Quinn plays first line along with his brother, junior Kevin Quinn, and Moore; Donnelly, with seniors Tommy MacNamara and Tommy MacDonald — the third line of Hamilton, senior Ryan Brown, and sophomore Jimmy McKenna held Milton scoreless and created a few chances of their own.

“We needed to be able to compete with Milton for 45 minutes, across three lines,” said Baker. “And the third line stepped up big time and kept the pressure up the whole game.”

The win puts the Rebels at the top of the Herget, as the Rebels look to contend for not only the Herget Title but the overall Bay State Conference Title as well. Dedham, then rival Norwood — who knocked the boys out of the playoffs last year — present the next challenges for the Rebels as they look to maintain their spot at the top.