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Saturday, March 1, 2014
D1 North: St. Mary's 4, Winchester 3 (SO)

By John McGuirk

WOBURN, Mass. -- The old adage of one team wanting it more than the other does not apply here.

Both St. Mary's of Lynn and Winchester left their collective hearts and souls on the Ned O'Brien Rink ice following Saturday night's Division 1 North quarterfinal match up.

When it was all said and done, a full 45 minutes of regulation had been played as well as two six minute overtime periods and an eight round shootout to finally decide a victor as the top-seeded Spartans prevailed, 4-3.

St. Mary's senior forward Chris Donovan concluded this edge-of-your-seat marathon by beating Sachems outstanding junior goaltender James Offner with a backhand shot over his stick and move his club into Wednesday night's semifinal against No. 4 Reading (a 5-3 winner over Melrose) at Chelmsford Forum with the opening face off scheduled for 7:10 p.m.

"When I got that puck in the shootout I knew what I was going to do with it," said an exasperated Donovan at game's end. "I wanted to go short side because during the previous shootouts I saw the opposing goalie making all the saves on his glove side. I felt he was going to have a weak blocker side. When I came down on him I saw him leaning more towards his backhand side so I knew he was going to have to shift. Once he shifted, I pumped and then went backhand on him. This was a big win over a very good team and I'm just glad we were able to get the job done."

St. Mary's converted 2-of-8 shots during the shootout, while the Sachems went 1-for-8. The Spartans (16-4-2) other score in the shootout came from Chris Price in the fifth round. Senior Nolan Redler had the lone tally for No. 8 Winchester (12-6-5), coming in the second round.

Bailey MacBurnie was equally instrumental in this triumph. The senior netminder made several magnificent saves in regulation and then came up huge in the shootout, allowing just the one marker.

"I think I'm pretty good in shootouts because we work on them every day in practice," said MacBurnie, finishing with 31 saves. "I wasn't feeling that much pressure. It was more like whatever happens, happens."

Prior to that, this contest, in front of a full house, had its share of twists and plots. The Sachems had built a 3-1 lead after two periods only to watch in vain as the Spartans storm back with a pair of goals in the third from defensman Clay Yianocopoulus and forward Shawn MacBurnie to deadlock things. During the two overtime frames, nothing was settled in spite St. Mary's out-shooting the Winchester 7-4. That set the stage for a classic finish that ended in celebration for one team and bitter disappointment for another.

"We didn't have our A game early on but we just kept battling," St. Mary's head coach Mark Lee said. "We finally got things going in the third. I give our team credit because they fought through things, never quit and got us into overtime and the shootout. To end a game like this is pretty sweet. There is just no quit in our kids. This team wants to keep it going. They actually like each other and want to be together. It really is like a family. They are just a great group of kids that won't die for you and just want to continue to work.

"We felt very confident during the shootout having Bailey in net for us. I thought he did a tremendous job to keep us us shooting in the shootout. I also give a lot of credit to Chris Donovan. He didn't see a lot of action today but he helped move this team along to the next round of the playoffs."

Ironically, for Winchester, this marks the second time in as many years its has seen its season end on a shootout. Last year, in the North final, the Sachems were defeated by Burlington in similar fashion.

"Another tough way to end the season," Winchester head coach Matt Spang said. "It is what it is. It's tough for things to end this way for this group of guys for a second year in a row. I thought James was great for all night in net for us. I'm very proud of him and all of our team. Our guys can't walk out of this rink with any regrets. They spilled their guts out there tonight, and as a coach, I cannot ask for anything more than that. They gave me everything they had."

Price, a junior, would open the scoring with a power play goal coming at 57 seconds of the first period. But the Sachems answered one minute later when Andrew Chalas managed to slip a shot in between MacBurnie's pads to knot things at 1-1. Winchester went ahead at 4:42 of the frame after Brendan Greene pushed in a rebound, coming off an initial shot by David Troiano.

With less than a minute remaining in the period, St. Mary's watched a golden opportunity to tie things fall by the wayside. Forward Jordan Manthorne was awarded a penalty shot but his attempt sailed wide of its intended target keeping the Sachems in front. They would then add to their lead just 3:17 into the middle period. Danny Marx, standing all alone inside the left circle, ripped a shot which caromed off the right pipe and into the back of the net.

For a team that was given serious consideration only a week ago for a Super 8 bid, St. Mary's didn't look the part over the first 30 minutes. In that sequence, the Spartans had six power play opportunities but were only able to convert just one for a score. With just 15 minutes remaining in their season, it was now do or die for them.

Looking for any kind of boost, Yianocopolus gave them one. The junior flashed towards the net following a Price shot from the left point. Offner (37 saves) initially stopped Price's laser but the puck trickled behind him where an alert Yianocopoulus managed to push it over the goal line at 3:25, making it a 3-2 affair.

With new-found momentum, St. Mary's would tie it up five minutes later. With Winchester playing a man short because of a delay of game penalty, Shawn MacBurnie fired a short side goal underneath Offner's blocker and suddenly it was a brand new game. The Spartans were 2-of-8 on their power play chances while the Sachems finished 1-for-5.

"At the beginning of the game I didn't feel like I was getting into the rhythm I wanted to and I thought it might end badly for us," said Bailey MacBurnie. "In the third period, myself, Jordan [Manthorne] and Chris [Price] really got our guys going. We all said that this would be it for us if we didn't get something going. Everyone really played their hearts out in that third period. We have a strong team and a strong coaching staff so we were not going to give up no matter what."