NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- No. 3 seed BC High passed its first playoff test in over two years with flying colors in a 2-0 win over No. 6 Needham in the first game of the 2011 Super Eight Tournament on Saturday at Lawler Arena on the campus of Merrimack College.
The Eagles (14-4-3) controlled play for most of the game, but had to survive a flurry of quick-striking scoring opportunities by the Rockets.
Luckily for the Eagles they were armed and ready with sophomore Peter Cronin, who made 14 saves for his first playoff shutout.
“We did give up some chances, but Peter Cronin is a very good goalie,” Eagles head coach John Flaherty said. “We scored two goals, but he easily saved three or four on his end.”
The first period was more like the beginning stages of a championship-boxing match. Neither team wanted to be the ones to leave itself open and make the first mistake, but in the second period the Rockets let some big shots fly.
Tom Coleman got a quick shot on Cronin on the first shift of the second period, and D.J. Walsh and Coleman broke out on a 2-on-1 opportunity, but an offside call wiped out the scoring chance.
Cronin had to use his facemask to fend off another Coleman blast later in the period, and he was able to poke the puck away from Sam Nickles on the doorstep when it looked like Sam Nickles was ready to get enough daylight for the game’s first goal.
But it may have been his save on Nickles in the third period that truly was the game saver. Nickles came barreling down the right side of the ice, but Cronin was able to cut off the angle and trap the puck in his armpit to keep the Rockets off the board.
“He was coming down and I knew I had to get an angle on him,” Cronin explained. “He was a (right-handed shot) so I kind of squared up to the puck and after that it was just reaction.”
“Thank God Peter played his head off,” senior captain Mike Cashman said. “He played really well for us.”
All of those saves by Cronin and missed opportunities from the Rockets allowed Cashman and the Eagles to take advantage of a power play in the third period.
The spacing on the Eagles first two power plays was a little bunched up, but a few adjustments from Flaherty and his team got Cashman wide open in the right circle and he went top shelf to beat Connor Murray (23 saves) with 6:28 left to play.
“We talked about kind of waiting and moving the puck around and finding the guy that is open,” Flaherty said. “First couple of ones we were forcing it. We weren’t allowing ourselves to find guys open. We were just forcing and forcing.
“We just talked about making a couple of adjustments, but the kids on the ice are the ones that delivered.”
Andrew White delivered the second goal of the game, when he intercepted a pass with the Eagles facing a 6-on-5 and put home and empty-netter with 32.2 seconds remaining.
The chances were there for Needham, and although the Eagles outshot the Rockets 26-14, the bulk of the best scoring opportunities were in its favor.
“You are not going to win if you don’t score,” Rockets head coach Bill Guisti said. “I don’t care who you are playing. I thought we played a pretty good game. I thought our defense kept them at bay for the most part.”