HINGHAM, Mass. -- With all the purple and red in attendance one could have confused yesterday’s game between top-ranked Springfield Cathedral and Hingham for the Super Bowl.
Make no mistake, for the overflow crowd at Pilgrim Arena on Saturday, it was much more important.
After a scoreless first two periods, the No. 1 Panthers broke through and were able to hold on and win a physical 3-1 game over the host Harbormen and solidify their spot as the best team in the state.
“Hingham is a storied powerhouse, [and] year after year we know they’ll be there in Super 8,” Cathedral head coach Brian Foley said. “It was going to be a defensive battle, and we were lucky to get a few goals there.”
The first 30 minutes were controlled by the Harbormen who pressed the tempo offensively and brought the crowd into the game with a series of thundering hits. Justin Ryder, Sam D’Antuono, and the Hingham attack buzzed around the ice, especially in the first period, but were unable to finish several golden chances.
Cathedral sophomore Peter Crinella finally broke the stalemate when he stuffed home a rebound 37 seconds into the third.
“Pete’s a goal scorer,” Foley said. “He got some nice rebounds, charged the net, and luckily beat the goalie. Big way to start to the third period.”
Fellow sophomore Nick Chaoush scored the eventual game-winner midway through the third on a breakaway.
Hingham head coach Tony Messina was able to sum up his opinion of the game in one word.
“Disappointed,” Messina said. “We had a good game going into the third, and having the game at home, I expected our team to come out on top. I told the guys we had our chance but we didn’t step up to the moment.”
The game went flying off the rails in the final minutes of the game. D’Antuono put the Harbormen (11-5-1) on the board with a power play goal with just under four minutes left.
The pace ratcheted up and came to a head a few minutes later when a near-fight broke out after a scrum in front of Cathedral goalie John Liquori. Gloves, sticks, and emotion littered the ice and by the time the snow settled each team had two players in the box. Hingham lost one of their biggest weapons in junior Matt Brazel for the remainder of the game, and Cathedral (13-0-2) had to finish the game the bulk of the game with three defensemen.
“[It] kind of threw us off with Brazel in the box for the last three minutes,” Messina said. “Very uncharacteristic of him.”
“We had three defensemen there and we were wondering who would go out, but luckily the younger guys stepped up on D to finish off that kill,” Foley said. “That was key for us.”
Johnny Leonard added an empty-netter late to seal it.
LIQUORI STEPS UP
Liquori turned aside 19 Hingham shots and shined brightest during the extended penalty kill in the third.
“I’ve been waiting for these big games to come and I was ready,” Liquori said. “It was fun, nervewracking towards the end. That’s when we stepped it up.”
Liqouri gave credit to the blue liners in front of him, who kept lanes clogged and pucks in front of him.
“It’s rough, but my defense is great,” Liquori said. “They make it that much easier.”
ROAD GETS BUMPY FOR HINGHAM
Despite letting a big one get away from them, the Harbormen won’t have much time to stew over the loss as their schedule gets harder down the stretch.
The next eight days includes a trip to play a talented Marshfield squad followed by a visit from Winchester. The Harbormen finish the season at the Cape Cod Classic where they’ll open against Austin Prep in a game that will have major Super 8 implications.
Messina was blunt about the stretch run.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Messina said. “Every game’s going to be just like that so get used to it.”