TYNGSBOROUGH, Mass. – Depth, for lack of a better word, is good.
No. 4 Central Catholic showed that last night as each of its three lines shined as the Raiders downed Westford Academy, 5-1, at Skate 3.
Lloyd Hayes took an Alex Lester feed for a short breakaway and scored 46 seconds in to give the Raiders a lead they would not relinquish. Colin Soucy did his thing in net, turning aside 15 Westford shots, including a cross-net, Tim Thomas-inspired dive to stop Jay Drapeau point blank in the second period.
“[Soucy] hasn't missed a beat since last year,” Central coach Mike Jankowski said. “He's able to make saves that you don't expect him too and the team builds off that. When he closes the door on one end it builds momentum the other way.”
The Raiders' top line of Hayes, Lester, and Alex Webber used that momentum to dominate the first period whenever they were on the ice. The Raiders outshot Westford 15-6 in the first period.
Lester capped off the dominance with a short-handed slapper that beat Kyle Martin glove side.
“We tied Acton-Boxborough [on Monday] and considered that a tough one,” Lester said. “We really wanted to come out early and set a statement.”
The Ghosts fought back in the second. Drapeau scored from an impossible angle a minute in to halve the deficit and Westford played with vigor in the middle stanza that was missing earlier in the game.
Drapeau, along with linemates Cam MacDonald and Ryan Hesseltine, provided the motor for the Grey Ghosts.
“Jay is an unbelievable athlete and an unbelievable competitor,” Westford coach Bob Carpenter said. “You can't find a guy that works harder or a nicer guy than him. Him and Cam MacDonald play hard and play well.”
Westford put the most pressure on Soucy in the second and had their highest shot output with seven pucks put at goal. However, Central found a way to curb Westford's enthusiasm with a pair of goals in the final two minutes that took flipped momentum back to the visitors.
“Those were back breakers,” Carpenter said. “We were hoping if we could bring them into the third period 2-1 we would be in pretty good position. I think we had a couple of defensive breakdowns, and when you play a club as good as Central they're going to take advantage.”
WHITE LINE STEPS UP: Jankowski names his lines after colors, and in the second period the “white” line of Richie Greenberg, Kevin Regan, and Eric Robbins stepped up when the Raiders needed it.
Greenberg scored Central's first second period goal. A scrum in front of the net left the puck at his feet and he poked it home amidst the chaos. Just over a minute later Greenberg fed Robbins in front who potted a backhanded, one-timer to put the Raiders up three at the intermission.
“We don't have that high, high-end player, but we have a nice group of character guys that can skate real well and are disciplined,” Jankowski said. “That white line of Robbins, Regan, and Greenberg had two in one shift and that really turned the game around.”
Lester said having so much talent beneath the top line makes his job a lot easier and a lot less stressful.
“It's great to know that we have a lot of depth in our team; we trust our guys a lot,” Lester said. “It's good to know that when I get off and we're gassed we're safe with the next two or three lines.”
Central's depth is a byproduct of having so many players who have played in big games for a long time. Players like Zach Cote and Conrad Jepson, who have risen and grown with the Central program, provide a backbone on the ice that can't be taught.
“This is that first time that we have that solid core back, we have that depth back, and we have the goaltending,” Jankowski said. “It's exciting. It's fun to be a part of and see what we can put together going forward. We think we're going to keep getting better and better as it goes.”