DORCHESTER, Mass. – It happened again, and this time it was even more disparate.
With archrivals BC High and Catholic Memorial squaring off in a de facto Catholic Conference championship game at UMass-Boston, Wednesday night, the Knights were looking for a better effort than their 4-1 loss about a week prior. BC High had dominated that tilt at Conte Forum, at one point in the second period outshooting CM by a 22-4 margin.
The second leg of the teams’ league slate wasn’t all that different, as the Eagles again flexed their offensive muscle with a remarkable dominance in time of possession, en route to a 5-0 victory.
Through two periods, BC High had outshot the Knights 24-2 – a dizzying disparity between two of the state’s preeminent programs and bitter rivals.
The Eagles’ attack was balanced as well, as five different players scored, with eight players cracking the score sheet in total and, as a sum, they skated away with the Catholic Conference regular season crown in front of a capacity crowd on Senior Night.
“I think it’s big for whole school, everybody in the locker room,” Eagles senior captain Steve DeForge said. “That’s the first trophy you want to get, but there’s a couple more championships we want to get. There’s that one down in Falmouth [Buddy Ferreira Classic] and then we want to get the big one, the Super 8.”
Although BC High (12-1-3, 6-1-1) held the Knights (9-4-3, 3-2-2) without a shot in the first period, the Eagles were held off the board until its final minute. The Eagles peppered CM goaltender Brandon Collett (28 saves) with 12 shots in the first, but didn’t break through until there was 7.2 seconds remaining in the period, as Chris LaLiberte stuffed home a loose puck from the doorstep for his first on the season.
The Eagles’ momentum swelled in the second, when they scored four times in the span of two minutes and 11 seconds.
Three of those goals came during a stretch of 4-on-4 and an abbreviated power play. First, senior defenseman Sam Topham’s skillful keep at the point resulted in a DeForge goal at 12:07. Then, just 26 seconds later, Patrick Kramer was the beneficiary of a Ryan Shea pass on a 2-on-1 break.
On the power play, Topham rifled off a top shelf slap shot at 13:17, with Shea (2 A) and DeForge (1 G, 2 A) adding assists.
Connor Noonan capped the late-period flurry with the Eagles’ fourth goal of the second at 14:18.
While the Knights had several scoring chances in the final period, they didn’t come close to establishing pressure in BC High’s zone and the Eagles held a33-6 shot-on-goal advantage overall.
“They won every puck, they won every battle,” CM head coach Bill Hanson said.
“Passes went off sticks, but that’s because they were in our faces. It wasn’t for lack of effort, I thought we gave good effort. We’re just not as good as they are, it’s simple as that.”
Oh, what a night: Any hockey matchup between BC High and CM is memorable, but to the Eagles’ seniors it was much more than that.
“They knew this was a special opportunity, playing their last home game in front of an amazing crowd,” Eagles head coach John Flaherty said. “It was a special moment.”
They seized the opportunity, controlling play from the get-go, in the same manner they had just a week ago, when they took control of the league race with a win at BC’s Conte Forum.
For the Eagles, it was a slight revision to an already effective script.
“You know he’s a good goalie, so we want to get traffic and you have to get shots,” Flaherty said. “We were trying to get pucks everywhere and anywhere to get them to the cage.”
On the flip side, while Hanson was less than thrilled with his team’s compete level in their first meeting with BC High, the same could not be said for Wednesday – even considering the margin of defeat.
“They’re just much better than we are,” he said. “They have much better personnel, highly-skilled and the way that they play forces us to look bad. It’s them.”
CM finishes out its Catholic Conference schedule Friday with a visit to No. 1 Malden Catholic.
Mastery on the breakout: A large element to the Eagles’ success this season has been their deep and talented defensive corps. It’s not unusual for BC High to roll seven defensemen in games, with perhaps the state’s best top two pairings.
While sophomores Billy Roche and Shea have generated a good amount of buzz, BC High has leaned on its senior pairing of Topham and Trevor Davis.
Topham, in particular, was excellent on Wednesday. Whether putting on a perfect pinch in the lead up to BC High’s second goal, or stemming the breakout with a tape-to-tape outlet pass, Topham typified the performance the Eagles have gotten from their blue-liners this year.
And that all starts with the work of BC High assistant coach Bob Roche.
“He’s very nit-picky,” Topham said of Roche. “But it’s good for all of us. He keeps us from the making the same mistakes over and over again.”
That is borne out of the incessant pursuit of perfection and attention to detail in practice.
“Half of every practice, at least the practice before a game, we’re working on the neutral zone,” Topham said. “We’re looking to see where the open guy is. We do drills where we break it out, looking for each other. We’re working on it all the time.”