WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The ultimate decision will be up to the committee, but St. Mary’s made one final statement that it belonged in the Super 8 on Thursday afternoon in the consolation game of the Ninth annual Cathedral Hockey Classic with a convincing 7-0 shutout victory over Needham.
“It was the second game in a row, we didn’t have a whole lot of jump in our step the first period,” Spartans head coach Mark Lee said. “We weathered the storm and finished the game strong. We put some pucks in the net when we had to and we’re happy with the outcome.”
Clay Yianocopolus started the scoring for the Spartans 9:26 into the first period on a terrific individual effort. The defenseman-turned-forward made a strong move to the net, but his initial shot was denied by Needham goaltender Mike McHale. Yianocopolus retrieved his own rebound behind the net and banked it in off McHale.
That first goal really gave St. Mary’s the spark it needed, as the Spartans would score twice more before the period ended. Jackson Allard tipped home a Connor Foley shot at the 13:04 mark, and 29 seconds later leading scorer Shawn MacBurnie found the back of the net off a nice centering pass from Foley.
The score stayed 3-0 well into the second period when Jordan Manthorne scored a short-handed goal. The senior captain was relentless on the forecheck, finally stealing away the puck and firing it on net. His shot deflected off a Needham defender and into the back of the net.
Foley added another goal just over a minute later to give St. Mary’s a 5-0 lead after two periods. Jon Powers and Yianocopolus assisted on the score.
Austin Frankel finished off a nice feed from Manthorne just 48 seconds into the third period to give St. Mary’s the 6-0 advantage. Later in the period Allard scored his second of the game when he batted home a loose puck in front of the net.
Spartans senior goaltender Bailey MacBurnie was pulled midway through the third period in favor of Connor Jennings. The two combined for the team’s fourth shutout of the season. Lee’s club has allowed just 36 goals over the 22-game regular season.
“Our strength is that we’re usually pretty disciplined in the defensive zone,” Lee said. “We got away from that against a very powerful Malden Catholic team yesterday. We got back to that today, blocking shots and taking lanes away.”
The loss ended the season for Needham and the high school careers of its four seniors.
“We knew it was going to be tough coming out here, playing two very good teams, regardless of who we played today,” Rockets head coach Mike Bertoni said. “We knew that it was going to be a challenge. We fought to the end today. As disappointing as it is, we have to credit the seniors for keeping the team together and battling to the end.”
St. Mary’s will have to wait until Saturday when the Super 8 selection committee decides the team’s fate. It will either be on to the Super 8 or the Division 1 North bracket for the Spartans.
“I think our record speaks for itself,” said Lee of his team’s Super 8 resume. “We’ve played all the top teams and we competed with them. Even the loss yesterday against Malden Catholic, we struggled in the first period, but battled and played well the last two.”
He added, “I think we’ve probably earned a spot to at least be in the play-in game. I really believe in this team.”