BILLERICA, Mass. – The Catholic Central Large race should again prove among the most competitive boys’ hockey contests in the state this season, and No. 10 Arlington Catholic will be a big reason why.
The Cougars captured the championship at the inaugural Winter Classic Showcase, hosted at Billerica’s Hallenborg Memorial Pavillion, with a 4-0 shutout victory over Andover. In it, AC improved its record to 4-0-0 (following a 4-1 win over Reading in the tournament’s first round last week), heading into a key league showdown with Austin Prep on Saturday.
“It was a great win for us, both games,” said junior forward said Cougars junior forward Ryan Smith, who was named the Showcase’s MVP. “We came in here with a lot of confidence after beating St. Mary’s of Lynn in the first game and I knew we had some intensity going. We came out strong with Reading, and we took that into this game.”
Smith provided the first goal for AC on Monday night, tipping home a point shot from linemate Bernie McGovern at 12:41 of the first period.
While Smith took home the hardware after setting up a couple of AC’s goals in the previous win over Reading, he emphasized his linemates’ commitment to sharing in the goal-scoring responsibilities as a source of strength.
“Bernie [McGovern] and Andy [Somerville] are great,” Smith added. “They know where to be when we cycle the puck. Once one person has it, we know the other one is going to be at the net and we just work really well together.
Providing a foil to AC’s top line of Ryan Tierney, Ryan Spagnoli and Jason Smith, the Cougars’ second unit provided the spark on Monday, combining for six points, with McGovern leading the way with three assists. Somerville chipped in a pretty third-period goal on a 2-on-1 down low, in addition to an assist.
The Cougars controlled time of possession throughout, while outshooting the Golden Warriors (2-3-0) 25-11.
While it largely was a quiet night in AC’s defensive zone, Cougars senior goaltender John Richard was called upon to make a few timely and important saves. None was more vital than in the final minute of the second, when Richard stopped Andover captain Mark Campbell on a breakaway, flashing the left toe to take away the bottom portion of the net.
AC went to the room at the second intermission with a 3-0 lead and never looked back.
“Sometimes that’s more difficult for a goaltender, when you’re not getting as many shots,” Cougars head coach Dan Shine said. “He played really strong for us down the stretch last year. We have three, four pretty good goaltenders in the program, but we felt like he was going to be the one going in.”
No. 14 Reading 4, Billerica 0
In the tournament consolation game, played before Monday's championship, the Rockets blanked the host Indians behind the second shutout of the season from senior netminder Ian Lapham and a two-goal game from senior forward Mike Thomson.
Reading (4-2-0) halted a two-game losing skid (Arlington Catholic, No. 7 Xaverian) behind a three-point game from junior Sean Verrier (1 G, 2A), who set up both of Thomson’s tallies.
Freshman Danny Sorabella kicked off scoring for the Rockets at 2:06 of the first, before back-to-back goals from Thomson, bridging the first and second periods.