FALMOUTH, Mass. -- No. 5 Austin Prep skated a near-perfect first period against No. 6 Hingham, but it still was almost not enough for the young Cougars.
Hingham scored three times in the third period, but Austin Prep held on to the 4-3 victory in one of four quarterfinals in the Cape Cod Classic at the Falmouth Ice Arena.
The Cougars (11-1-6) needed bookend goals from freshman Jake McKenelley to hold on in the final 6:34 of regulation in an all-important battle of top Division 1 squads looking to impress the Super 8 voters at the end of the season.
“I told them I don’t want to be good in the beginning but I want to be good in the end,” Austin Prep head coach Louis Finocchiaro said. “I want to be mature at the end, I want to be disciplined at the end, but our puck possession was good in the defensive zone, our forecheck was good and we got into the body, we got shots off the cycle.”
The game looked well in hand in the first 30 minutes of play as George Sennott set up Andrew Cross to get Austin Prep on the board at 2:29 of the first period. McKenelley scored his first of two tallies moments later on perfect end-to-end defensive passing that picked up assists for Ryan McDonough and Bob Carpenter and handed the Cougars a quick 2-0 lead after one period.
More of the same in the second as the pesky Sennott set up off the right post just inside the slot and wristed home a rebound from a Brendan Leach slapper off the boards behind the net as Sennott’s stick could not have been in a better place at a better time.
John Grenier was playing well in net for Hingham (12-6-1), including stoning McKenelley on a breakaway with a pretty glove save in the second that would have given the Cougars a 4-0 lead with five minutes to go in the period. But Austin Prep held a 15-8 shot advantage and a 3-0 lead after the first two periods of play.
“We took that next step as in the past we would have given that up and ended up in a tie, but we finished, and we need to build off of that,” Finocchiaro said. “Hingham has a lot of experience, they are well coached, and believe me they are not going anywhere and they will be here for the third period and we will have to battle.”
Finocchiaro was right as Hingham drew their forwards towards the net and pulled their defense up right off the opening third-period face-off and the aggressive play paid dividends.
Only 50 seconds into the first shift, Sam D’Antuono found the back of the net for Hingham’s first goal of the game. The goal was nothing pretty but McKennelly answered for Austin Prep with a carbon-copy goal of his first tally --with assists from McDonough and Carpenter again -- to push the lead back to three goals at the 7:08 mark of the third.
“Ryan [McDonough] gave me a really good pass and I could have hit him back door too but [the defense] kind of went off but it was a really nice pass,” McKenelley said.
The up-front pressure from Hingham was a little too late, but John Carlson and Craig Hildreth would score goals 24 seconds apart to cut the Harbormen deficit to one, 4-3, as plenty of time remained with 6:24 left in regulation.
“Going into the third, we talked a lot about playing desperate because we were disappointed in the first two periods and came out a desperate team,” Hingham head coach Tony Messina said. “We showed signs in the first two [periods] but just not consistent enough and it’s been the story all year long. We needed three full periods today and we haven’t done that in any of the big games we have had.”
So was it No. 6 Hingham coming up short with No. 5 Austin Prep playing not to lose or did the Cougars have the Harbormen figured out just long enough?
“We played phenomenal in the first and second and in the third? We are young and that’s a natural thing to happen,” Finocchiaro said. “It’s something I am expecting but you know what – we finished tonight and that’s a learning process for our team.”
RUNS IN THE FAMILY
Freshman defenseman Luke McInnis showcased his skills up front and at the blue line with not much to show for it in the box score, but Messina knows he has a gem on defense for a few more seasons.
Luke is the son of former NHL-er and Boston College Hall of Famer Marty McInnis and Melissa Hug, who also starred on the lacrosse field for Boston College.
"[McInnis] is all worried that he hasn't scored a goal all season even though he's been on the Number-One power play unit from the start of the season, but he's proving to be a major asset for us," Messina said. "His mother was a great college athlete and he sure has his father's genes on the ice."