ARLINGTON, Mass. -- Arlington Catholic may have skated away from Monday afternoon's non-conference hockey tilt with a feeling it deserved better.
For the record, the Cougars held off Bishop Guertin, 2-1, inside Ed Burns Arena, but for their effort, the belief here was this one should not have been that close.
But in the game of hockey, even if you are dominating your opponent, a win is still a win no matter how you attain it. The No. 3 Cougars will take it and move on.
"Hey, a win is still a win right?" said Cougars longtime coach Dan Shine, who picked up career victory No. 499 with a chance for 500 when AC hosts Austin Prep Saturday night. "We'll take the win."
The Cougars controlled the offensive end for much of the 45 minutes, putting up 38 shots, including 19 in the second period. Had it not been for the brilliant performance by Cardinals goaltender Griffin Scanlon, it's anyone's guess what the finally tally could have been.
"I thought their goalie played real well and I thought they did a good job closing up gaps in the middle of the rink," Shine said. "We did have a lot of nice clean shots that were blocked by their defensemen. That's just good defensive play by our opponent because I felt we did a lot of things right. We've been harping on our kids to move the puck, get in space and create opportunities. At times today we were doing that but again, it goes back to their goalie playing very well for them."
The Cougars, which suffered their first loss of the season last Saturday against St. Mary's of Lynn, improve to 8-1-1. BG, whose roster is made up primarily of underclassmen, drop to 2-8-1.
Throughout the season, the Cardinals have found life difficult once they have the puck inside an opponent's defensive zone. Scoring goals has been a premium. However, against AC, the offense was able to strike first.
Just 1:39 in, and with his team already on the power play, sophomore winger Mike Barrett pushed back a rebound from the right point to give BG the early 1-0 lead.
It lasted for approximately three minutes. The Cougars defensemen had been doing an admirable job moving the puck around the perimeter just inside the blue line and hardly receiving any pressure from the Cardinals. While all this was going on, the AC forwards and center were switching in an out in front of the crease in an attempt to screen Scanlon on a long shot or re-direct anything coming from outside. The latter of two came into play after junior Ivan Mikhaylov deflected a shot in front that sailed over Scanlon and into the net, knotting things at 1-1.
Following the first intermission, AC took its game up a notch. Perhaps not happy with their play over the opening 15 minutes, the Cougars picked up their speed and skill strengths. Passes had become much tighter and more direct, and their ability in handling the puck across the neutral zone and along the half walls was more precise. Throughout the period, the Cardinals found themselves often chasing any Cougar with the puck on his stick or getting caught out of position.
It took AC all but 1:10 into the frame to take the lead. After two hard shots were stopped by Scanlon in succession, the goalie was unable the corral the second attempt. The puck slid out to the front of the net where sophomore Andrew Somerville was standing all alone. The forward flipped it into the net.
"We're just looking to capitalize on any chances that we can get," Somerville said. "We try to work the puck deep and play our game. Ugly wins like this do happen but we still got the win. We do need to start coming out better to begin games. It seems in the first period we come out a little slow and then we tend to catch up later on. It's been working for us so far but that's not always going to be the case so we need to focus on coming out to start games on a better edge."
AC was resourceful throughout the second period, attacking Scanlon virtually on every shift down ice. Scanlon, however, proved his worth. After giving up Somerville's marker, he never flinched and stoned the Cougars the rest of the way in keeping his team in this contest.
"Griffin played really well for us," said Gary Bishop, now in his 22nd year with the Nashua, N.H. based school. "He's been a very good goaltender for us in all of his four years here. He doesn't panic and made some great stops today. This could've been a 4-1 game at the end of the second period. We're happy with our goaltending. We just need to find ways of getting the puck into the back of the net. We've been struggling all year long to convert. We don't get plenty of chances but we do get some chances. We just haven't been able to finish. We're not bearing down around the net."
The Cardinals put up a much-better effort in the third period. At both ends of the ice, they were matching the Cougars stride-for-stride. On two occasions, they had solid opportunities to notch the equalizer.
However, AC senior netminder John Richard (17 saves) came up a pair of big stops when he needed to help keep the Cougars in front for good.