WEST SPRINGFIELD -- With just nine players and a goalie on the roster at this point in the hockey season, Wahconah will take all the breaks it can get.
It got a big one Thursday night.
Facing a 3-1 deficit late in a Western Mass. Division III-A quarterfinal, Wahconah took advantage of a power play and scored four goals in the final 2 minutes, 45 seconds to stun Easthampton 5-3 at the Olympia Ice Center.
"They want me to be living off a defibrillator," Wahconah coach Don Disbrow said after the win. "I don’t know if we had new legs, but it helped us out."
Wahconah will meet top seed Agawam, 4-0 winners over Turners Falls, in Monday’s semifinals. The teams met in December, with Agawam winning 6-4 in North Adams.
Shut down all night by Easthampton goalie Matt Sarafin (43 saves), the Warriors’ first line of Ryan Ouimet, Lane Grogan and Nick Montferret finally broke through in the game’s final minutes. Easthampton’s Mike Grise was sent off at the 2:51 mark for a cross check, and Montferret scored 6 seconds into the advantage to cut the deficit to one goal.
The power play was done, but the Warriors weren’t. Ouimet beat Sarafin with 1:52 left to tie the game, a goal Eagles coach Greg Smith said was a "questionable call." The goal appeared to come off its moorings, but stayed in place enough for Ouimet’s goal to be counted.
With new life, the Warriors didn’t wait much longer to take over. With 1:11 remaining, Grogan would score to give the Warriors their first lead since late in the first period.
"The power play started it all," Ouimet said. "At the end, I think we just had more to play for. They kind of thought they had it in the bag. We’re used to coming back -- against St. Joe, against Agawam ... so we expected this."
Ouimet, the state’s leading scorer this season, added an empty-netter with 3.9 seconds remaining. Before those third-period goals, however, he -- and the rest of the Warriors’ high-scoring front line -- couldn’t get anything past Sarafin.
Jake Beckwith, from the checking line, scored Wahconah’s first goal in the opening period. After that, the Warriors saw plenty of good opportunities go nowhere but into or under the Eagles goalie.
"He was stopping a lot of the first shots," Disbrow said. "The rebounds were there, but we weren’t getting there. The defense was clearing them, or we weren’t going hard enough to the net."
Wahconah did all it could with a limited roster, but Grise was able to tie it at the 11:40 mark of the first, and Rob Carmel scored in both the second and third periods to give Easthampton what looked to be a comfortable lead.
"You could see them [Wahconah] starting to build steam," Smith said. "With 3 minutes, 35 seconds left, I said ‘Guys, there’s a lot of hockey left.’ Unfortunately, it was that penalty that really changed the tide for us."
Ouimet looked frustrated most of the night as shot after shot failed to hit the back of the Easthampton net. In the Warriors locker room, though, with a win secured, he was understandably relieved.
"[Sarafin] was frustrating me, but hey, my teammates pulled through for me," Ouimet said. "That’s all I ask."
Roger Stedman stopped 19 shots for Wahconah, which is one of two Hennessy League teams still alive in the III-A draw. St. Joseph will play No. 2 seed South Hadley in Monday’s 6 p.m. semifinal at the Olympia, with Wahconah-Agawam the 8 p.m. game.
"Knowing we just did that, that we can come back from that many," Ouimet said, "I think we’re pretty set."