11:33 PM ET
Phil Garceau, Special to ESPNBoston.com
BOURNE, Mass. – The Newton North Tigers haven’t beat Bay State Conference foe Braintree in what seems like an eternity, which includes two regular season losses this season.
The Wamps have had Newton North’s number over the last decade, and with Braintree the top-seeded team in the Division 1 South, the trend was likely to continue, on paper at least.
But when the No. 8 seed Tigers were matched up with the Wamps for the third time this season following a first-round victory over King Philip, Newton North didn’t fret over recent history, but rather, was excited.
The Tigers took that excitement and used it to fuel one of their best performances on the ice this season, utilizing a career night from junior forward Patrick Mullowney and a pair of overtimes to sink the Wamps, 3-2, in the Div. 1 South quarterfinals at Gallo Ice Arena.
“We were excited, I don’t think Newton North has beaten them in something like 30 games or something like that,” Mullowney said. “They beat us twice this year but we couldn’t have been happier being paired up with them.”
Before last season, the Tigers had not sniffed the postseason since 1997, but last year in head coach Jamie Gresser’s first season, he not only guided Newton North to a postseason appearance, but a Div. 1 South victory as well.
Now in his second season, Gresser has his squad in the Div. 1 South semifinals.
Mullowney was quick to credit the group of seniors for their leadership in changing the culture.
“Our group of seniors, our captains, our leaders they do a great job leading us through these games. We may not be the best team, but we are going to work harder than anyone else.“
While he may not be apart of that senior class, Mullowney was the difference maker on Friday night. He scored two goals, and assisted on a third, none bigger than his game-winning goal with 2:23 remaining in the second (with teams skating four-on-four) overtime.
Off a feed from Curtis Judd from his own zone, Mullowney took the puck in stride and entered the Wamps zone. Upon entering the zone, the junior quickly fired a snap shot that beat all-state caliber goaltender David McDonough over the right shoulder, sending the Tigers into the Div. 1 semifinals.
“That’s a snipe from a top-notch goal scorer,” Gresser said. “He’s got that kind of ability and our offense tends to run through him.”
Newton North’s ability to overcome the Wamps momentum entering the overtime period was a victory within itself, as Braintree tied the game at two with 2:38 remaining in regulation. A rebound snuck just far enough away from goaltender Tom Joyce for Braintree’s Ben Burke to pounce and slide a quick shot into the net to complete Braintree’s comeback form a 2-0 first period deficit.
With a newfound energy behind them, Braintree sparked to life over the final two minutes of the game, and continued that buzz early in the overtime period, but Newton North began to right the ship by the end of the extra period.
“I don’t know what it was to be honest, we had a good week of practice, had a good scrimmage against BC High, I wish I had an answer for tonight,” Braintree coach Dave Fasano said.
Jumping early: For two teams that are quite familiar with one another, Newton North and Braintree went through the early phases of feeling each other out to begin the game. Neither team had a quality scoring look with few shots found the net.
But late in the first period, the Tigers took advantage of a pair of defensive miscues with Mullowney having a hand in both.
At 13:17 of the period, Mullowney lit the lamp for the first Tigers goals, and just over a minute later, he slid a pass over to Zach Gordon for the one-time goal to give Newton North a lighting quick 2-0 lead.
“I just can’t explain it, its just so uncharacteristic, we‘ve only give up 24 goals all year so to give up two in the first period is so unlike us,” Fasano said. “Yeah, it’s old dreaded thing that it’s tough to beat a team three times in a row, and that’s not the team I wanted but it is what it is.”
Waking the giant: While the Wamps aren’t built to overcome large deficits, Newton North knew that they were in for an all-out attack from Braintree over the final 30 minutes of the game.
“We were feeling pretty good about getting a lead in the first period but we knew we had a lot of work to do,” Gresser said. “We knew they would come out with heart and we were on our heels for much of that second period, they came out with a lot of fire.”
Braintree shored up its defense by utilizing a heavy back-check, helping the offense find its form. With more zone time, the Wamps cut the deficit in half the at 6:17 mark of the middle frame on a glove-side shot by Ryan Coady but got no closer before the intermission.
The Tigers didn’t back down in the third, keeping the pressure on the Wamps by attacking the net. With 2:48 remaining and a faceoff coming to the right of Joyce, Gresser decided to take his with 2:48 remaining.
Less than 10 seconds later, Burke had the game-tying goal in the back of the net.
“We tried to give our guys some rest because that’s a deep team and we had some guys that were double shifting,” Gresser said. “We had the lead and felt we could preserve the legs and it just didn’t work out.”
Braintree had a huge momentum boost following Burke’s game-tying goal and nearly found the net before the end of regulation. When they didn’t, the Wamps continued to control the puck to begin overtime but appeared to run out of steam as the extra frame wore on.
After an even second overtime, the Tigers got the break they wanted on a career shot from Mullowney.
“My defenseman Curtis (Judd) gave me a great breakout pass, we were all tired but the game plan was to just chip away and I got a lucky bounce and it just happened to go over his right shoulder,” Mullowney explained.