Marlborough hockey opens season with win over Westborough

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Marlborough hockey opens season with win over Westborough
Marlborough and Westborough players battle for possession of the puck. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

WESTBOROUGH – Both teams entered hungry for a season-opening win, but only one could leave victorious.

During both hockey teams’ opening game and the Boroughs Cup semifinal matchup, the Marlborough Panthers defeated the Westborough Rangers, 4-1, at NorthStar Ice Sports on Wednesday night. 

The Panthers will now face Wachusett in the Boroughs Cup championship game on Saturday. 

Marlborough started the season strong, getting ahead early after scoring two first-period goals. Just over five minutes into the action, Oliver Harris smacked the puck into the net, and at the 10-minute mark, Luc Masse’s long-distance, power-play goal put the Panthers ahead 2-0. Marlborough outshot Westborough 11-6 in the first period.  

“Every game you want to get the lead, but especially the first game. The younger guys are nervous, there’s a lot of nervous energy in the first game, everybody’s been waiting for it. When you get the lead, get that first goal, it really takes a lot of pressure off of everybody,” Marlborough Head Coach Mike O’Brien told the Community Advocate.

Westborough came into the second period with more energy – outshooting Marlborough 7-6 – but the Rangers could not get the puck past Marlborough’s Roman Belli. Belli made his varsity debut last season in another 4-1 win against the Rangers. 

“Roman is an excellent goalie… I think you saw tonight how excellent of a goalie [Belli] is,” O’Brien said. “He had some chances to play last year and he really played well, so my expectation for him this year is exactly what he did tonight. He made a lot of great saves, and I expect him to play really well this year.”

Marlborough went up 3-0 after Alex Todd’s second-period goal. Westborough’s Chris Pascale put his team on the board halfway through the third period, but Marlborough’s Cam Ellsworth would soon match the goal, keeping the Panthers three-point lead. Marlborough maintained the 4-1 lead until the final buzzer.

O’Brien said that while change like seniors graduating and freshman coming into the program is natural in high-school athletics, he has a “very good” core group of players that have significantly helped out the younger members of the team. The Marlborough coach has high expectations for his squad this year.

“Every year our standards are pretty high here… We want to qualify for the state tournament… It’s all about qualifying for the tournament, and playing your best hockey at that time of the year and building towards that,” he said.

Westborough, meanwhile, will play Algonquin – who lost to Wachusett in the other Boroughs Cup semifinal – in the Boroughs Cup consolation matchup. The Rangers, who are guided by first-year head coach David Belbin, will look to exact revenge on Marlborough on Jan. 31 at Navin Skating Rink.

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