METHUEN – In their first three games, it was really difficult to gather a full report on the Tewksbury/Methuen Co-Op Girls' Hockey team. The Red Rangers had played two of the top three teams in the area, had players in and out of the line-up, and it's the first few weeks of the season, so that's always tough regardless of the schedule.
On Wednesday afternoon, game four took place at the home Methuen High Arena and through the first two periods, it looked as if the Red Rangers' struggle to find the back of the net was going to extend to another game. The Red Rangers had many unlucky bounces, nailing the crossbar and post several times, and they found themselves in a three goal hole against a strong Framingham team, which has been built up from scratch going 0-19-1 two years ago.
Then the home team turned it on. Tewksbury resident Emma Giordano got it going scoring her first varsity goal coming just 3:05 into the third period and that followed with two more tallies, one from Jessica Driscoll and a second one from Giordano – three goals in 11:24 – to end regulation tied at 3-3.
A five minute overtime followed, and neither team scored, thus the non-league game ended in the deadlock.
“(Framingham's Liz Luong, a freshman is) an excellent goalie and just a really strong goalie,” said Red Rangers head coach Sarah Doucette. “They are a pretty good team and I think it was promising to see us battle back from a 3-0 deficit. We had a lot of action down their end, we moved the puck well and I thought that was one of our better fuller games, but we just ran into a really good goalie.”
Luong certainly is one of the stronger goalies in the area and was outstanding early on, stopping Driscoll late in the first period, then Driscoll and Nikole Gosse early in the second and then Kat Schille came off the right wing boards, cut to the middle and put a strong backhand shot on net, which was also turned away.
That came late in the second period, and the teams skated off the ice with Framingham holding on to the 3-0 lead, scoring one in the first despite being outshot 12-4, and then adding two more in the second, while holding a 13-4 edge in shots.
The third period was all the Red Rangers. Shortly after defenseman Livia Lawrence made a great play to nullify a 2-on-2 scoring bid, Giordano notched her first career goal pouncing on a rebound after the play was originally set up by Schille and Gosse.
Then 4:14 later, Driscoll scored her 52nd career goal as she also put home a rebound off an initial shot taken by Tewksbury resident Riley Sheehan.
The score remained 3-2 and with under four minutes left, Giordano had the puck on the right wing side. Starting out from her own end, she gained some speed to get past the blue line, banked the puck off the boards and went around the defenseman. She collected the puck back up, skated through the neutral zone and as she got into the Flyers' end, right at the top of the right circle, she unleashed a hard wrist shot which landed underneath the top crossbar on the opposite left hand side to tie the game up.
“I thought both of them were nice goals. We have been working on rebounds for goals and she did that on the first one, and then yeah her second one was impressive,” said Doucette.
In overtime, the Red Rangers held a 4-3 advantage in shots, and Framingham did have a power play with 41 seconds to go but the defense and goalie Michelle Kusmaul (20 saves) held on to gain the big point.
The Red Rangers are now 1-2-1 on the young season, having lost to Acton-Boxboro (1-0) and Billerica/Chelmsford (3-1), sandwiched between a 5-1 win over Westford Academy.
“I think we're getting better. We've had some people in and out of the line-up so that's been a little bit of a challenge, but the girls have been responding well at practice and have been responding well when we struggle so that's really promising. Hopefully we can stay healthy and stay consistent and things will look good for us going forward,” said Doucette.
Two days later, the Red Rangers were defeated by Lincoln-Sudbury, 2-1 in overtime, to fall to 1-3-1 on the season.
“Both teams played a really strong game. They are a tough opponent and forced overtime, with us losing in overtime. We are playing smart, strong hockey. We just need to find a few more ways to win the close games. The team is feeling positive and working hard so hopefully our difficult schedule will benefit us as the season continues,” said Doucette.
Emma Ryan scored the team's lone goal, her first varsity tally. MJ Petisce had the assist. Kusmaul made 25 saves in the net.
The Red Rangers will face Andover on Thursday at the Breakaway Ice Center in Tewksbury (7:10 pm) and will stay on the road for the following three games with stops at Shrewsbury on Saturday, HPNA on Wednesday and then Masconomet on the 17th.
Doucette needs one more win to earn her 100th as head coach.