FRAMINGHAM – The ride ain’t over yet.
Trailing 2-0 after one period, No. 3 seed Shrewsbury High School hockey team dug deep and rallied for a 4-3 win over No. 2 Notre Dame of Hingham in the Division 1 semifinals, Saturday night at Loring Arena.
With the win, the Shrewsbury hockey team is headed to the TD Garden for their first-ever State Championship game, date and time to be announced. The Colonials will be taking on the winner of Sunday’s second semifinal between No. 1 St. Mary’s of Lynn and tournament Cinderella, No. 13 Billerica.
“This is unreal, it’s the most unreal feeling. I’m really proud of this team, I can’t believe we just did that,” said Shrewsbury junior goalie Risa Montoya, who finished with 21 saves. “I’d love to see Billerica … St. Mary’s would be a really fun game. I’m just really excited to go there.”
It was Shrewsbury’s second straight trip to the Final Four. Last season, they dropped a tough 2-1 game to Arlington. This year, it was the Colonials dishing out the heartbreak.
“I told the girls, last year was growing pains,” said Shrewsbury Head coach Frank Panarelli. “We made the Final Four again but we wanted more, we wanted to go to the Garden.
Senior Rachel Bunsick scored the go-ahead goal, her fourth of the season, 4:40 into the third period. Busnick dug the puck out the corner and fired it to the front of the net, where it deflected off the skate of NDA defenseman Sarah Francis and past goalie Ava Larkin for the 3-2 lead.
Busnick added an assist to lead the Shrewsbury offense. But the Colonials got points from nine different players, showing off the scoring depth that has been their calling card.
Clinging to a one-goal lead, Shrewsbury got some much-needed insurance, when freshman Lauren Albertson knocked home the rebound off a shot by senior Maddie Mrva, with 6:15 to play, making it 4-2.
“It was amazing, it felt so good. It was like I was flying,” said Albertson.
Notre Dame (17-7-0) was able to pull back the score to within one on Lauren White’s second goal of the game with 5:20 remaining. The Cougars caught a huge break when Busnick was whistled for hooking, giving them a power play with 2:41 left in regulation.
NDA pressed the attack, but the Shrewsbury defense was equal to the task, denying the Cougars any type of quality scoring chance against Montoya.
It was a far cry from the first period, when the Colonials appeared a bit shell shocked.
Notre Dame dominated the first 15 minutes, claiming the lead on goals by Caroline Hartnett and White, midway through the period. It could have been 3-0 were it not for the tremendous work of Montoya between the pipes.
“They’re a very fast-starting team, Notre Dame, I knew that. So, when we went down 2-0, I was like, ‘We’re not outta this game. Let’s keep working, working, working,’” said Panarelli. “I just said to the locker room, ‘Let’s win this next period.’”
Shrewsbury had much more life in their skates in the second period. Still, the Colonials needed an emotional boost, and they got it when NDA’s Ava O’Donoghue went off for elbowing with 7:14 to play in the period.
Sensing the urgency of the moment, Shrewsbury put together one of their best power plays of the season.
Larkin (20 saves) made a nice glove save on a bid by Mrva in the slot. Moments later, a blast by senior Taylor Ryder was blocked by defenseman Lucy DelGallo but it dropped straight down onto the stick of sophomore Mia Ryder, who poked it past Larkin to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Less than a minute later, with the Colonials continuing to buzz the net, junior Sadie Cusson drove home the rebound of a shot by sophomore Blaire Fay to tie the game with 5:51 left in the second period.