A three-goal outburst in the final five minutes of the third period was more than enough to propel the fifth-ranked Belmont High School Girls' Hockey into the Division 2 state semifinals with a convincing 5-2 victory over number four Norwood High School Mustangs Monday night in Canton.
"They showed that they wanted this game and played so well," said Head Coach Mark Haley at the end of the quarterfinal match.
Belmont will meet number 1 and undefeated Duxbury High School, likely on Saturday, March 10 in Bourne on Cape Cod.
While Belmont goalscorers – led once again by junior Alexandra Cellucci with a pair of goals and an assist – continued their hot pace (10 goals in two playoff games), the story of the game was the brick wall built in front of the Belmont net by junior goaltender Megan Foley.
Repeating her performances against Woburn and Lexington, Foley relied on guile, pluck and sometimes luck to keep the Mustangs' high-power offense off the scoreboard and limited Norwood's star, Emily Kelly, to a single goal.
"It was an outstanding game from Megan," said Haley, including a point blank reaction save on Kelly with just under six minutes to play that preserved the Marauder's two goal lead at the time.
Before a vocal and ruckus collection of supporters – many fellow Belmont athletes – which traveled down Route 128 for the game, the Marauders took control of the game early with their trademark passing and speed, being rewarded with the first goal in the first three minutes of the game as freshman standout Erin McLauglin redirected a blue line blast from senior defender Courtney Winn by Norwood's Samantha Baturin.
But fourth-ranked Norwood, playing essentially a home game in neighboring Canton, came back as Kacie Smith picked up the rebound of her shot that Foley could not find and popped in the equalizer midway in the first.
The second period resembled more of a track meet than a hockey match as both teams used their speed and short passing game to create one scoring chance after another with both goaltenders playing outstanding in the nets.
But with just under six minutes to play, Belmont scored on three consecutive shots: Senior Erin O'Donovan ended her scoring drought with a pretty rebound with 5:52 to play, linemate Cellucci put in the goal of the match – a backhand snap shot – and senior Casey McLaughlin made it a sister act, joining Erin on the scoring sheet, with a killer goal with just over a minute to play that deflated an already tired Mustang tream.
The game's final 15 minutes belonged to Belmont's defense, lead by co-captain senior Britta Marden and sophomore stalward Kendal Brown, who bottled up Norwood's offense in center ice and only allowed three good scoring opportunities late in the period.
Any hope of a late Mustang rally was snuffed out when defender Becca Moore stepped in front of an attempt by Norwood to clear their defensive zone, then drove to the goal line before feathering a pass to a wide open Cellucci for the backbreaker with two-and-a-half minutes to play.