BOSTON – Springfield Cathedral has had trouble getting over the hump in the first game the past few Super 8 tournaments, but the Panthers had no such problem this year.
The Panthers defeated Duxbury, 4-1, in the first game of the best-of-three series on Sunday afternoon at the TD Garden. It was a closer game than the final score would indicate with two late goals skewing the appearance.
“There are always so many nerves in game one of this tournament,” said Cathedral head coach Brian Foley. “We got a game one win and that’s something we’ve been searching for the last couple years. We’re happy with the result.”
“We played a great game as a team. We came out hard in the beginning,” said junior forward Zac Prattson.
Brotherly connection: Springfield Cathedral has three pairs of brothers on its team and one of those pairs came up with the first two Panthers goals.
Zac Prattson, the older of the two Prattson brothers, scored the game’s first goal on a shorthanded bid at the 2:36 mark of the opening period. Holy Cross commit Peter Crinella broke up a pass in the neutral zone and led Prattson who took a step inside the blue line before taking a slap shot on goal that found the five-hole.
“I was busting down the side and saw a shot opportunity. I just threw it on net and slipped it five-hole,” said Zac Prattson.
After Duxbury had tied the score in the second period, younger brother Riley helped Cathedral regain the lead for good. Just after a power play had expired, Riley Prattson found himself alone on the right side. UMass recruit John Leonard sauced the puck over a Duxbury defender’s stick to Prattson who took a step in before raising the puck past Duxbury goaltender Tucker Kelly.
“[Riley] always steps up to the challenge. He played really well today,” Zac Prattson said of his brother’s play.
“They’re great,” Foley said. “Zac got the first goal for us, which was huge. He’s a captain and a leader. He’s more of a lunch pale, blue-collar type guy where his brother Riley is more of a skill guy. I was happy to see them both score.”
The other two sets of brothers are Bryce and Cam Peritz and D.J. and Keith Petruzzelli.
Goaltending controversy: Springfield Cathedral has the luxury of having two very good goaltenders. Freshman and Quinnipiac commit Keith Petruzzelli got the nod in goal Sunday. He made several very nice stops, including a flurry in the second period where he stuck his toe out for a nice kick save.
“Keith was 5-0 as a starter coming into today,” said Foley of his freshman. “He’s now 6-0 on his young career. He stepped up today and played really well for us.”
“Game two is up in the air. I can’t tell you that one yet,” said Foley when asked who his game two starter would be. “[Senior] John Liquori is a great goalie and they both had a great week of practice. You talk about competition. To see how they competed this week was really good.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnny [Liquori] takes game two,” added Foley.
Power forward: Crinella, a junior captain, might not be the fastest player on the ice, but his physical presence along with his heavy shot make him one of the most dangerous players with the puck in high school hockey.
His third period tally put the game out of reach when he once again used his body to fend off a Duxbury defender after having received a home run pass from defenseman Matt Cieboter.
He shot the puck high and wide on a power play attempt in the second period after he was left alone in the slot, but it was the type of play that shows his ability to make space and create havoc for the opposition.
Youth is served: Springfield Cathedral is without a doubt the youngest team in the tournament. Foley’s team dresses just one senior and he doesn’t play when Petruzzelli occupies the crease.
The starting lineup consisted of four freshmen and two juniors, and many more young players, including eighth grader Devon Tongue, see significant ice time.
“You never know how your kids are going to come out,” Foley said. “I thought we played a little nervous early on, but as the game moved along we had some good moments.
“We talked about being here before and not accomplishing our goal. That was a big thing before the game. We just wanted to play a solid hockey game and block out where we are.”
Dragons see some positives: Despite losing 4-1, Duxbury head coach John Blake felt there were several positives to take away from Sunday’s Super 8 opener.
“I think our guys have a sense of confidence that we can play with these guys going into Thursday now,” Blake said. “We were in the game late, but we’ll need to get it going right away.”
The Dragons might have needed a period to get their legs under them and let the magnitude of the game sink in, but a whole different team took the ice for the second stanza.
“I thought the first period, whether it was nerves a little bit, we were off as a team,” said Duxbury head coach John Blake.
Dragons senior forward Matt Saia scored his ninth goal of the season just 48 seconds into the second period on a nice individual effort. He stole the puck away from a Cathedral defender and beat him off the boards before roofing a shot over Petruzzelli’s blocker.
Duxbury will need to be focused right from the get-go and concentrate on some of the minor details of the game in order to be more successful in game two.
“I think it’s got to be a full 45-minute effort on Thursday. We’ve got to play mistake free hockey in order to beat Springfield. We made a few mistakes and they made us pay,” said Duxbury head coach John Blake.
The two teams will meet again in the second game of the best-of-three series on Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Tsongas Center on the campus of UMass-Lowell.