BOSTON -- BC High senior captain Tom Besinger was quick to return the No. 18 jersey that he borrowed from teammate Aidan Foley after Saturday's Catholic Conference clash with rival Catholic Memorial. Foley just better hope that Besinger left a few goals in thats sweater for him.
Besinger scored the first and last goals of the game, the latter capping a stirring, three-goal, third period comeback that lifted the third-ranked Eagles to a 4-3 victory over the eighth-ranked Knights in the 13th Annual Ed Wright Memorial Hockey Classic at Walter Brown Arena.
"I gave it right back to him. I'll say I forgot my shirt at home," joked Besinger afterward.
Besinger was named Most Valuable Player of the game and was presented the trophy by Boston College coach Jerry York (BC High Class of 1963) and Boston University coach Jack Parker (Catholic Memorial Class of 1963). Both were first-line players in the initial game between the two programs in 1962, and they were joined by other members of those squads as well as past Wright Cup MVP winners to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of hockey between the two schools.
What the BC High (10-2-2, 5-1-2 Catholic Conference) captain did not leave at home were his leadership skills and playmaking abilities. Besinger scored the game's first goal at 3:29 of the second period, banging home a one-timer off a feed from Connor Noonan.
Despite giving up the early score, Catholic Memorial (8-6-2, 2-5-0) was in command of the game for the first two frames, piling up 34 shots and getting three straight goals from Liam Coughlin, Beau Starrett and Jack O'Hear to take a 3-1 lead into the third.
BC High head coach John Flaherty knew his team needed a spark and said it was Besinger who provided it, first in the locker room between periods, and then out on the ice in the third.
"Tommy Besinger is a player, he's a competitor. He works hard and I think he took it personal that we were getting outworked the first two periods," Flaherty said. "He was the most vocal in the locker room after the first two periods so I knew he'd be ready for the third. He has the ability to take it to another level and he did that tonight. He raised his game to another level and he put a few away, which we needed. Leadership we needed, and he provided it."
The Eagles responded with their best period of the night and the comeback started when defenseman Sam Topham sniped a shot from the left wing circle at 7:54. Just under two minutes later, a bad CM giveaway at the Eagles blue line led to a breakaway for Patrick Kramer, who raced in alone and shifted to his backhand to tie the game at 3-3.
Then, with 3:42 remaining, Besinger got the game-winner after a strong forecheck resulted in him getting the puck down low and tucked in a wraparound bid.
"We came out real slow in the first and second," Besinger admitted. "We weren't doing what we normally do - chipping pucks low, getting behind their D and trying to get pucks to the net. Come the third period we just knew we had to get a lot of shots on net, keep them low for rebounds and we just had to put them home."
THE GREAT WALL OF CRONIN
With the excitement of the comeback, it can't be forgotten that Eagles goalie Peter Cronin not only gave his team a chance to get back in the game, but also helped the comeback stand up.
The Knights peppered the BC High net with and endless array of shots, 79 total according to CM coach Bill Hanson, with 43 of them getting to Cronin. Some of the senior captain's best work came in the third, when shortly after Kramer tied the game, Cronin (40 saves) stared down a point-blank slapper from Mike Stathopoulous on the left wing dot.
Not long after Besinger notched the go-ahead goal, Cronin stoned Coughlin on another point-blank blast, then turned aside shots on both a 2-on-1 bid as well as a 3-on-1.
"What cannot get lost in this whole thing was Peter Cronin in the third period," Flaherty stated emphatically. "He made save after save after save. I would argue that, they earned their bounces, but they got three very good bounces on those goals. Some goalies would get flustered, some goalies would want to hide in the net and Peter didn't. He attacked, he made the saves. In the third period alone he had three or four point blank shots. Liam Coughlin is probably one of the most dangerous kids in the state and Peter had a point blank stop on him a couple times."
Added Knights coach Bill Hanson, "We put 79 shots out there tonight,  on net. [Cronin] played out of his head. We had chances. We had a three-on-one, we had a two-on-one but we just didn't capitalize."
GROWING PAINS CONTINUE
Normally, the Catholic Memorial roster is full of experienced players, bit this group yields just six seniors among its numbers and a number of freshmen are contributing, notably goalie Brandon Collett (23 saves), who has been terrific throughout his rookie season.
Hanson has watched his young team go through several stages and while they remain two points of shy of returning to the postseason after a two-year hiatus with four games left (against Xaverian, Braintree, Central Catholic and Fairfield Prep) he hopes that if his team does qualify, they will have developed into a group that gives others reason to shudder.
"We've had the breakdowns and that first goal was a breakdown," Hanson admitted. "But that's what happens with young teams and we just haven't been able to overcome that. As I said to them, I put the season into three five-game increments. The first five games, we're averaging over five goals a game. Games six through ten, over four. And from 11 through 15 the other other night, we have eight goals and gave up 16. So we have to win by shutouts and we're 0-3-2."
"Tonight we scored enough against a real good goalie to win," Hanson continued. "We had the lead, we're a good third period team but again, they got some fortunate plays. I don't know what their coaches will say but if I was on the other side of the ledger I'd say we escaped with our lives out there tonight."
He added, "I want to make the tournament and when the seedings come out, I don't care where we are. I want everybody to say, 'The one team we don't want to play is Catholic Memorial.'"