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Sunday, January 5, 2014
Recap: St. John's (S) 5, Archbishop Williams 2

By John McGuirk

CANTON, Mass. -- Prior to the start of Saturday night's non-conference tilt versus Archbishop Williams, Mike Mead, the first-year coach of St. John's (Shrewsbury), voiced his concern regarding the fact that his Pioneers had not played in a week and were about to square up against a highly-formidable opponent on the road.

Obviously his team felt differently. St. John's converted three first-period turnovers into goals and added two more scores in the middle frame to come away with a 5-2 triumph over the Bishops at the SportsPlex.

"The kids played very well tonight," said Mead, his club improving to 4-1-1. "All four lines played well together, [goaltender] Mario Pizzeri and all of our defense played well also. We were aggressive. We had our legs underneath us and we jumped on the puck well. We hadn't played since last Saturday so we were fresh."

The Pioneers stuck to an up-tempo style for the first two periods before converting back to a slow-down, defensive-minded final 15 minutes in an effort to maintain their lead. St. John's dictated the action from the opening face off, displaying an aggressive, in-your-face style that seemed to catch Archbishop Williams a little off-guard.

With the forwards causing all kinds of chaos inside the Bishops' defensive zone, that would eventually lead to turnovers – something uncharacteristic from the Bishops. At 6:14 of the opening period, the first of many turnovers, led to the Pioneers' first score. Junior forward Pat Storer stole the puck and broke in on Archbishop Williams netminder Matt McCaughey, beating the junior with a shot over his left shoulder.

But a little more than a minute later, forward Eric Keefe tied matters, pushing in a rebound past Pizzeri (30 saves).

The pace remained fast and furious throughout the period. With St. John's playing a man down, once again Archbishop Williams got careless with the puck resulting in Pioneer junior Kevin Quinlivan taking it just outside the right circle and beating McCaughey to go up 2-1 at 7:46.

"St. John's came out and played hard," Bishops coach Derackk Curtis said. "They back-checked and there were times when we got the puck to their blue line and they'd have all five guys back. They worked hard, blocked a lot of shots and were physical. The first period we kind of shot ourselves in the foot by not executing."

Once again, Archbishop Williams was able to answer the St. John's score with one of its own after Pizzeri couldn't snag a rebound that ended up on the stick of Nick Menzel, who pushed it into the back of the net at 13:58 knotting this contest at 2-2. But any momentum gained was gone in an instant. With just 40 seconds remaining in the period, Danny Barlok, another junior, stole an errant pass deep in the Bishops zone and slipped a shot past a shell shocked McCaughey to send St. John's into the first break ahead 3-2.

The Pioneers refused to take their foot off the gas pedal during the second. At times, Archbishop Williams (3-2-1) was seen standing around and watching St. John's make crisp passes around them without putting much pressure on the forwards. That was clearly evident midway through the frame when Chris Stalmok, a sophomore forward, was allowed two attempts just in front of the crease without being pushed out. Stalmok's second try found its way underneath McCaughey's pads giving the Pioneers a two goal advantage.

"We felt we let (Archbishop Williams) hang around in the first period so we wanted to come out and make sure we were ready for the second period," Mead said. "The boys responded and played very well in that second period. One of the things we focus on the fore-check and focus on cycling the puck down low and it seemed to work tonight."

With Archbishop Williams still playing back on its heels, another St. John's rush up the ice proved costly. A shot by Storer was stopped by McCaughey (30 saves) but the puck rolled off to his right to forward Mike McGillicuddy, who promptly backhanded it top-shelf to extend the Pioneers margin to three goals at 1:58.

"This is a huge win against a team like that," said McGillicuddy, a senior. "They are a Super 8 contender every couple of years and it was good to have that kind of lead on them going into the third period. It's nice to have a gap like that. In the third period we were focused on playing defense and not let them come back. A lot of goals do come off mistakes and if we can keep getting turnovers like we did tonight hopefully it will lead to a few more goals for us."

For the remainder of the game, as McGillicuddy stated, St. John's game plan was to blanket the defensive zone and force Archbishop Williams to shoot from the outside for the most part. The Bishops did send 12 shots Pizzeri's way in the period, but the senior stopped all to preserve the victory.

"We never really got going," said Curtis, his club having now lost two straight. "Sometimes when you are in those types of games one or two mistakes can really cost you. Tonight we made more mistakes then they did."