Photo: Emma O’Donovan scoring her first goal vs Waltham.
It’s been the script Belmont High School Girls’ Hockey has been using the entire 2019-2020 season: Junior Emma O’Donovan scores, First Year Bridget Gray saves.
And Belmont didn’t deviate from its successful formula as O’Donovan’s brace was all the Marauders needed as Gray came up with a 31 save 2-0 shutout victory over Waltham High School in the Sweet 16 of the State Girls’ Division 1 tournament on Monday, March 2, at the Ryan Rink in Watertown.
“We knew this was going to be a big game,” said Belmont Head Coach Ken Murphy, having played the Hawks earlier in the season that ended in a 1-0 victory.
“It just went our way tonight. Our goalie really stepped up and made some terrific saves,” said Murphy.
Next up for Belmont is the highest remaining seed in the tournament as the 7th seed Marauders take on two-seed Austin Prep on Saturday, March 7 at noon at Woburn.
It turned out to be an afternoon for recording landmarks as O’Donovan knotted her 30th goal and 40th point for the season while 9th grader Gray racked up her 10th shutout in 22 games with a gaudy 1.38 goal against average.
“It was a big team effort. We came out pretty slow as we had a lot of nerves in the locker room but we managed to pull it together in the end,” said O’Donovan.
From the puck drop the game pitted teams’ mirror images with similar breakout transition styles with great goaltending on both ends anchoring the defense.
Belmont took advantage of the game’s first power play when O’Donovan took a pass from Senior Meaghan Noone and between a pair of Waltham defenders snapped her favorite wrist shot by Waltham’s senior goalie Caitlyn Burke’s blocker to break the deadlock with 9:35 remaining in the second.
Enter Gray who stoned Waltham the rest of the way making 13 of her 31 saves in the third.
“It was definitely stressful in the third,” said Gray, making stellar saves off a pair of Waltham power plays early in the final stanza. “But in the moment, you’re really not thinking about it, you just think ‘how can I save the puck the best you can’.”
Gray and Murphy both acknowledged the steady work from the defensive led by the speedy Noone who skated down Waltham’s wingers and led the transition.
“I’m never nervous when she’s out there,” Murphy said about Noone.
Seniors Maggie O’Connor and Jenna Crowley along with junior Del Bonnin prevented the Hawks from setting up in the slot or cross the blue line unchallenged.
“I can’t tell how many blocked shots they had. They help me out so much,” said Gray.
With 30 second remaining, as junior Kendall Whalen dumped the puck towards Burke, O’Donovan reached out and tipped the puck by Burke to seal the win.
Both Murphy and the players acknowledge that Saturday’s match up against Austin Prep will be a testing contest.
“They’re very good but I think we have the heart to really give them a game and hopefully get the win,” said Gray.