WATERTOWN — Methuen-Tewksbury girls hockey is seeded 20th in the 22-team Division 2 bracket, but has combined to beat three higher seeds 20-7.
That includes yesterday’s 3-1 victory over No. 5 seed Gardner in the quarterfinals.
The Cinderella story of this first-year varsity program, which plays top-seeded Duxbury at Gallo Ice Arena on Saturday, continues and is becoming even more real in the eyes of the players.
“I never thought we would make it this far,” said Methuen sophomore Amanda Conway, who certainly has become a believer. “I think we can go all the way (now). We’ve made it this far. We’ve got to push hard.”
Conway sealed the deal on an empty netter with 41 seconds remaining. But a seventh grader — Tewksbury’s Kelly Golini — netted the winner. She put Methuen-Tewksbury ahead 2-1, scoring with 9:20 remaining in the contest.
“She’s pretty incredible,” Conway said about Golini. “When they said we had (three) seventh graders, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s weird. Seventh graders? They’re a little bit young to be on a high school team.’ But when she got out there, I was like, ‘She’s going to be good. She’s going to be one of our best players.’ And she has been.”
Golini is only 13 but she knows a thing or two about state tournaments. Her brother Mike Golini was a member of the 2011 Tewksbury High boys team that won the Division 2 state championship.
“I just want to do what they did,” she said, adding that she knew with the game tied 1-1 in the third, the most important thing was to take shots.
“I just knew it was near the end of the game and we needed to get pucks to the net,” Golini said. “So I just threw it up there.”
Tewksbury’s Hayley Sutherland scored her team’s first goal, tying the contest 1-1 on a power play in the second period. Sutherland, who also had two assists, had watched Golini play a couple of times before this year.
“But I didn’t have any idea she was going to be this good,” Sutherland said. “She’s a huge part of this team now. That was a great shot.”
Methuen-Tewksbury goalie Taylor Lirakis was tremendous in net, stopping 40 shots.
“She’s like a brick wall out there,” Conway said about Lirakis. “I’m so proud of her.”
Neither Methuen nor Tewksbury had a sub-varsity program last year. The girls at both schools have really jelled well together.
“I thought we weren’t going to get along at all,” Conway said. “We actually have been like best friends. Every day at practice, we’re best friends.”
These best friends have quite the challenge, though, going against Duxbury.
“They’re pretty good,” Conway said. “They’re a No. 1 seed. I think we can still take them.”
agateHed:Methuen 3, Gardner 1
agateText:Division 2 Quarterfinals
agateText:Methuen (11-7-3):@zzAgate:agateText: 0 1 2 — 3
agateText:Gardner (13-5-2):@zzAgate:agateText: 1 0 0 — 1
agateText:Goals:@zzAgate:agateText: M — Hayley Sutherland, Kelly Golini, Amanda Conway
agateText:Assists:@zzAgate:agateText: M — Sutherland 2
agateText:Saves:@zzAgate:agateText: M — Taylor Lirakis 40, G — 25