Wahconah Rolls into Sectional Semi-Finals

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The Wahconah hockey team Tuesday exploded for three goals in a three-minute stretch of the second period to take a 7-1 win over Belchertown in the quarter-finals of the Western Massachusetts Division 3A tournament.
Third-seeded Wahconah (15-3-2) struck first with a goal in the first minute of the match but ended the first period tied, 1-1.
It stayed tied through the first 10 minutes of the second period.
But with 5 minutes, 1 second on the clock, Mason Alfonso tipped in a slap shot from Trey Massaro to put their team up by a goal.
Less than a minute later, Luke Peplowski scored to double that lead. And with 1:59 on the clock, Owen Kroboth broke in on the right side and scored a power play goal to give Wahconah a three-goal cushion.
“After the first period, we came in the locker room and got fired up, came out and dominated the second and third,” Kroboth said.
“We just talked about puck movement and intensity.”
Kroboth was one of six Wahconah players to light the lamp on Tuesday at the Olympia Ice Center.
“That’s what you look for as a coach,” Wahconah coach Matt Risley said of the balanced attack. “You want everyone clicking at the right time. That tells me they’re playing team hockey, they’re moving the puck, they’re looking for each other. That was great to see.”
Mike Cullett got the scoring started when he put back a rebound just 35 seconds into the game.
But Belchertown (7-9-3), which earned a tie against Wahconah on home ice in the regular season, got a break in the sixth minute when Ryan LaPierre was whistled for a cross check and assessed a five-minute major penalty.
The Orioles scored one minute into the man advantage, but Wahconah was able to close the door from there … and close the door the rest of the way.
A big reason why was senior keeper Jake Risley, who was credited with 19 saves in the win.
“We have a ton of confidence in Jake,” Kroboth. “Jake is an outstanding goalie. We can count on him in any situation.”
Coach Risley later gave his son a chance to come off to a nice hand from his teammates and the crowd with 2:34 left in the third and Wahconah up, 6-1.
Back when it was still a three-goal margin, Belchertown earned its second power play opportunity of the game as the horn sounded to end the second period.
Wahconah killed off that power play chance and extended its lead moments later with an unassisted goal by LaPierre off a nifty one-on-one move in front of the net after bringing the puck in from the left wing.
With 8:44 left to play, the Orioles earned their third power-play chance and took a gamble, pulling their keeper. Ernie Lampron quickly became the sixth Wahconah player to score when he potted an empty-netter to make it 6-1.
With less than two minutes left, LaPierre scored his second, tipping in an Alfonso shot to provide the final margin.
The win puts Wahconah in Saturday afternoon’s sectional semi-final against No. 2 Amherst (13-4-3). It also erases the memory of Wahconah’s last trip to Olympia -- a disappointing tie last week against non-qualifier Ludlow.
“It was kind of an eye-opener, I’d say,” Cullett said of the Ludlow game. “It was just like: We can’t settle back. It’s not going to be given to us. We have to go out there and earn it anywhere -- small ice, big ice. We went out there and did that today.”
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