Greenfield Edges Wahconah in OT in Western Mass Final

By Stephen Sports
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WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- For 43 minutes Thursday, the Greenfield hockey team threw everything it had at Jake Risley and the Wahconah defense.
When it finally threw an extra skater into the mix, the Green Wave got the result it was looking for.
Greenfield scored the tying goal with 1 minute, 25 seconds left in regulation and got the game-winner in the second minute of overtime to hand Wahconah a 2-1 loss in the Western Massachusetts Division 3A Championship game at the Olympia Ice Center.
Bryan Baumann scored off a pass from Jacob Bryant early in the eight-minute extra session to send top-seeded Greenfield (19-3) to Saturday’s state title game against Lunenburg and record just the fourth goal Risley allowed in Wahconah’s three-game post-season run.
On Thursday, he was sensational, stopping 35 shots -- 33 while protecting a 1-0 Wahconah lead earned with a Ryan LaPierre goal in the fourth minute of play.
“Jake was outstanding,” Wahconah coach Matt Risley said. “He’s been a rock all year. He was the reason we were in the game. That’s a good team over there. They put a lot of shots on net, and he’s up to the task.”
For most of the night, it looked like the only scoring would come from the stick of LaPierre, who carried the puck into Greenfield’s zone from the red line and slipped a shot past Riley Drew on the gloveside.
And, in fact, that was pretty much the extent of the offense for Wahconah, which managed just 15 shots against Drew.
Risley, on the other end of the ice, faced a relentless onslaught, especially in the second period, when it felt like the puck was in Wahconah’s zone for 14 of the 15 minutes.
That period also featured the night’s only power-play, a Greenfield man advantage that came midway through the stanza.
Considering how penalties have been a problem for Wahconah at times this winter, its ability to stay full strength most of Thursday night seemed to bode well for its chances to win the program’s first sectional title since 2014.
“They played a great game,” Matt Risley said. “They were disciplined. I would have liked to have seen more pucks to the net, but it’s a great group of kids. They played their hearts out this year, and I can’t say enough about them. They went from a three-win team to a 16-win team. That speaks volumes to the character in that room right there.”
Two plays that could have easily resulted in penalties both went in favor of Greenfield at critical junctures.
With about two minutes left in regulation, Wahconah’s Mason Alfonso appeared to be tripped at the blue line attempting to bring the puck into Greenfield’s zone.
Instead, the puck was cleared. Twenty-one seconds later, Greenfield pulled Drew, and just four seconds later, the Green Wave scored the equalizer off an offensive zone faceoff.
With 6:50 left in overtime, a Greenfield player grabbed LaPierre’s stick and pulled him down without a whistle.
Thirty-nine seconds after that, Baumann scored the game-winner.
Although Thursday’s game marked the high school finale for a talented group of Wahconah seniors, their coach hopes it is a springboard for bigger things for the program.
“It’s huge for us to take this step forward,” Risley said. “It gives the kids believability that if they work hard, they can go out and win. That’s what this team has instilled in Wahconah hockey. Hopefully the younger kids took the message and work in the offseason and come prepared ready to play next year.”
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