BOSTON – The Old Rochester Bulldogs are a team that features two 40-goal scorers, a 20-goal scorer and two more with double-digit goals.
So for the Lowell Red Raiders to keep them within striking distance for two and a half periods of Wednesday’s MIAA Division 3 boys’ hockey state semifinal is an accomplishment in and of itself.
In the end, however, Noah Strawn’s hat trick was too much to overcome as the Red Raiders’ magical season came to an end in a 5-1 loss at Harvard’s Bright Arena.
“I think we did a really good job of limiting their opportunities,” Lowell head coach Brian Akashian said. “Patrick Cote played great in net… our kids played very, very hard.”
The Bulldogs’ offense started the first period with a purpose, outshooting the Red Raiders 8-0 to begin the game before Landon Goguen notched his 20th goal of the season of a feed from Strawn from behind the Lowell net.
After two empty first period power plays for Lowell, Strawn notched his first goal of the game, the eventual game winner, just 45 seconds into the second period as he steered in from the left side and deked Cote (37 saves) to slide the puck into the net glove side.
“We’ve played against good players all year, and he’s obviously an excellent player,” Akashian said. “We know he’s going to get his goals… tonight, we were a little snakebit.”
Lowell (15-10) cut the lead in half at 4:48 of the second period. Connor Barter fired a one-timer on one knee from the top of the left circle off a feed from Brendan DeMarco to beat Bulldogs goalie Chase Cunningham (21 saves) over his right shoulder.
The next 15 minutes of game action would prove to be a stalemate, but the pivotal moment may have been Lowell’s Ben Asselin leaving the game with what was reported to be a broken collarbone.
“When Asselin went down with a broken collarbone, we lose our second-leading scorer and a guy who plays a lot on the PK and the power play, and does everything well for us,” Akashian said. “We were scrambling a little bit, but these kids were great. They hung in there the whole time.”
But in the final five minutes, the Bulldogs showed they had more left in the tank, as two more goals from Strawn, pushing him to 47 on the year, and one by Sam Henrie, giving him 40, sent the considerably large Old Rochester student section into a frenzy.
Despite the loss, this season has been a success by every measure for Akashian’s squad. From two wins two years ago to three wins last year to a sectional title and a state semifinal berth this year, the young Red Raiders have a come a long way. And with their top line of Asselin, DeMarco and Thomas Hassett coming back next year, even bigger things could be on the way.
“I hope everything continues to progress,” Akashian said. “It’s going to be a big offseason for a lot of these younger kids to get in great shape… we’re going to have a target on our back next year, and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready, willing and able to do it.”
Old Rochester (24-3) will face Shrewsbury in the Division 3 state championship Sunday at TD Garden.