BOSTON -- Catholic Conference rivals No. 6 Catholic Memorial and No. 7 St. John’s Prep entered Monday’s holiday matinee hungry for a win. Both teams sat at 4-4-0 entering the matchup with the Eagles yet to notch a conference win on the season.
Despite controlling play for the greater part of two periods, it was CM who left Walter Brown Arena with a sub-.500 record. Prep struck for three third-period goals, including senior captain Sam Kurker’s third of game, in a 5-1 victory.
“It was a must-win game,” Kurker said of the Eagles’ mentality leading in.
CM (1-2-0 Catholic) outshot the Eagles, 21-12, through two periods, but trailed 2-1.
Prep goaltender David Letarte (25 saves) was instrumental in keeping the Knights at bay early. Not to mention, Letarte along with the Prep defense, helped limit CM to one goal despite seven power play opportunities, including two 5-on-3 situations during the third period.
“He made some big saves early in the game, to keep things close,” Eagles head coach Kristian Hanson said. “Even after they came back, 2-1, he made a big save after that. If it had gone to 2-2, the game could’ve went either way.”
Prep (1-3-0 Catholic) went to the room with a 1-0 lead after the first intermission.
With the Eagles on the forecheck, Kurker forced a turnover in the Knights’ end. His dish out front found Brian Pinho, who beat CM netminder Shane Starrett with a wristshot for a 1-0 lead at 8:28 of the first.
Starrett denied the Eagles from striking again in the period, stoning Tyler Bird on a 2-on-1 chance, in close, at the goalmouth with five minutes remaining.
The Eagles added to their lead four minuts into the second, with Kurker potting his his first of the game.
Jack O’Hear put CM on the board with a perfectly placed wristshot from the slot. The power play tally, assisted by Liam Coughlin, cut the deficit to one before the second imtermission.
“We were doing alright, we played exceptionally well for two periods,” CM head coach Bill Hanson said. “We were right there with the power play opportunities.”
However, the Knights had the wind kicked out of their sails with Kurker’s second of the game, which came 21 seconds into the third period.
From there, the Eagles dominated what once was a tight game. Prep junior Nick Gianelli netted his first goal of the season on a short-handed breakaway at 1:55. Kurker collected the hat trick with a power-play goal with 6:37 remaining.
“The last couple of games, we’ve have opportunities to score and we haven’t capitalized on them,” Kristian Hanson said. “Today, we had fewer opportunities, but we did a better job with the ones we had.”
POWER TO THE PK
As the Knights’ goal-scoring struggles continued, the Eagles bettered their percentage on the penalty kill, which has been among the state’s best in the first half of the season.
Along with top-line stalwarts Kurker and Pinho, the Eagles’ PK has been a well-rounded group, with contributions from players up and down the lines.
“Our PK’s been pretty strong all year,” Kristian Hanson said. “Sam [Kurker] and Brian [Pinho] kind of lead the way with that, but then we’ve had other guys step in there like [Nick] Gianelli and [Derek] Osbahr and [Nick] Bragole, those were guys that were on the JV last year. This year, they’ve been asked to step up and contribute on the PK and play significant minutes.”
KURKER ON ASCENT
Kurker received weighty praise last week when he was ranked 41st among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm draft rankings. As one of only two MIAA skaters (along with MC’s Brendan Collier) included on the list, it speaks volumes that Kurker was the second highest ranked skater with New England roots, following Kent School’s Cristoval Nieves.
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound winger was also the second highest ranked high schooler (behind Nieves) on the list.
The BU-commit credited the achievement to the hard work he’s put in the weight room, under the watchful eye of recently named Boston Red Sox strength coach Mike Boyle.
“It’s nice to get recognition, but you have to keep working hard," Kurker said. "That’s so far off [the draft] that you have to keep on working.”