Boston High School: Andrew Brandano

Fitzgerald on Bruins: 'A great honor'

July, 1, 2013
Ryan Fitzgerald became the second generation of his family drafted into the NHL Sunday night, when he was selected by his hometown Bruins in the fourth round (120th overall).

Following in his father’s footsteps (Tom Fitzgerald was drafted by the New York Islanders in the first round in 1986), the Boston College-bound North Reading native realized a childhood dream, joining the team his father finished his NHL career with in 2006. He also got to share the moment with his dad, who was working the Pittsburgh Penguins’ draft table in his capacity as the team’s assistant general manager.

The family connections don’t stop there. His uncle, Scott, is the Bruins assistant director of amateur scouting, so it truly was a family affair.

Fitzgerald, who skated last year with the Valley Junior Warriors of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, graduated from Malden Catholic and, while skating with the Lancers, was part of back-to-back MIAA Super 8 tournament championship teams in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

We caught up with Fitzgerald Monday morning to get the wrap on his draft night experience:

On waiting to hear his name called: “It’s a long night. I was sitting there with my brother, Casey, and his friend, Andrew Brandano (player at St. John’s Prep). My dad was on pin and needles all night, definitely a little nerve-wracking for him. He stayed on the floor the first round, and then came up to sit with us for the second, third, fourth rounds. When it finally happened, it was a big sigh of relief for him.”

On whether he knew Bruins would be destination: “With my uncle, I’m pretty familiar with organization. It’s a team that I talked to a lot during the process. I thought they might be a team that was interested in me. I met with them at the draft combine and met with a bunch of their local guys. I came out and trained with them one time, so I knew they were interested. My uncle told me they had a close eye on me. It’s really a great honor.”

On the draft day experience: “When you walk into the rink, it’s amazing. You’ve seen it on TV, but it’s completely different in person. It’s just a great atmosphere. You wouldn’t think that it’d be that rowdy at a draft, but the fans show up and they get into it. It’s great.”

On what his brother, Casey (also a BC commit), means to him: “He’s been great. He’s a great brother and he was really supportive through everything. He always is. His draft is coming up soon, so he got to sit back and take it all in. I’ll be there for him when he goes through it, too.”

On which team he was rooting for in Eastern Conference final: “You’re always a Bruins fan, growing up here, but you’re a part of the Pittsburgh family with my dad working for them. But when they played the Bruins, it was a stressful time in the Fitzgerald house. After the Bruins won, it was tough, but we wanted the Bruins to win [the Cup] because of my uncle. We were rooting for the team and for him to win it.”

Super 8 tournament primer and picks

March, 2, 2013
There are less than 24 hours remaining before the puck drops on the Super 8 tournament Sunday at UMass-Lowell’s Tsongas Center.

So we’re taking this opportunity to break down the final eight. As the tournament takes on a best-of-three format for its first-round matchups this year, we’re taking a look at the head-to-head breakdowns for each series, along with predictions:

Series: No. 1 St. John’s Prep (17-2-1) vs. No. 8 Central Catholic (14-5-3)

Players to watch: Prep – F Brian Pinho, F Tyler Bird, F Andrew Brandano, F Jack McCarthy, F Cam Shaheen, D Brent Murray, G Billy Price; Central – F Lloyd Hayes, F Corey Webber; D Nick Gorski, D Alex Lester, G Colin Soucy.

Previous meeting: Central 2, Prep 1 on Dec. 26.

The skinny: Central fought its way into the eight-team field with an improbable comeback against Hingham in Monday’s play-in game. But they’ll have to be ready to go out of the gate against the top-seeded Eagles. Prep is deepest team in the field — from its forwards to its defensemen — and the Raiders will have to weather the Eagles’ ability to wear teams down by consistently rolling four lines (Claude Julien surely would love this Prep team). The goaltenders will also be under the spotlight in this series with both Price and Soucy making their debuts in taking over for tournament stalwarts David Letarte and Kyle Williams, respectively. The play of both goaltenders has been a strength for their teams this year.

X-factor: Can the Raiders parlay some momentum gained from their dramatic play-in game overtime victory into a Game 1 win against the Eagles? Also, what kind of a factor will Central winger Mike Kelleher be?

Prediction: Prep in two.

Series: No. 2 Springfield Cathedral (16-1-4) vs. No. 7 Malden Catholic (12-6-3)

Previous meeting: MC 2, Cathedral 1 on Feb. 21.

Players to watch: Cathedral – F Peter Crinella, F Dominic Blad, F D.J. Petruzelli, F Johnny Leonard, D Matt Foley, D Jack Williams, G John Liqouri; MC – F Mike Iovanna, F Ara Nazarian, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Pat Wrenn, D Casey Fitzgerald, D Nick Rolli.

The skinny: While the Panthers enjoyed some down time this week, MC set about making a statement in its 9-1 dismantling of Archbishop Williams in Monday’s play-in game. Perhaps no team in the state has been hotter than the two-time defending Super 8 champion Lancers and they’d like to prove that, once again, this is their time of the year. There will be plenty of top-tier talent on the ice when the team’s top forward units face off with Cathedral’s line of Crinella-Artie Potter-Blad opposed by MC’s Iovanna-Nazarian-Sifferlen troika. The key to this series, however, will be which team’s second and third lines come to play.

X-factor: Cathedral goaltender John Liquori. As we saw in the Panthers’ game against St. John’s Prep in the final week of the regular season, he’s capable of stealing points and games for them. He’ll need to be at his best to curb the Lancers’ attack.

Prediction: Malden Catholic in three.

Series: No. 3 BC High (14-3-3) vs. No. 6 Catholic Memorial (12-6-2)

Previous meetings: BC High 5, CM 1 on Jan. 16; BC High 4, CM 3 on Feb. 2.

Players to watch: BC High – F Tom Besinger, F Pat Kramer, F Steve DeForge, F Chris LaLiberte, D Sam Topham, D Ryan Shea, G Peter Cronin; CM – F Liam Coughlin, F Jack O’Hear, F Kevin Hock, F Aaron Clancy, D Dennis Medeiros, D Sean Heelan, G Brandon Collett.

The skinny: Can’t get much better than this, right? Right up there with Bruins-Canadiens. The teams will add another chapter to their storied history in the 50th-anniversary year of their hockey rivalry. While the Eagles claimed both meetings against their Catholic Conference counterparts during the regular season, the play was largely even (minus one second-period outburst in BC High’s 5-1 win in January). So expect more of the same in this series.

X-factor: Liam Coughlin. The Eagles had success neutralizing the rangy center during their regular season appearance, both in the offensive zone and in the face-off circle. But we’ve seen Coughlin (25-16-41) take control at times this season, and he’ll have to do so for the Knights to advance.

Prediction: BC High in three.

Series: No. 4 Austin Prep (13-1-6) vs. No. 5 Reading (16-1-5)

Previous meeting: N/A.

Players to watch: AP – F Nolan Vesey, F Bobby Carpenter, F Jake McKenelley, F Eric MacAdams, F George Sennott, D Andrew Cross, D J.J. Layton; Reading – F Rob Devaney, F Mike Thomson, F Jake Barbera, F Mark Dente, G Evan Morelli.

The skinny: The Battle of Reading is just one subplot to a group of first-round series rife with context. The high-flying Cougars attack will have to break through a sticky Reading forecheck that can give opponents fits. AP does enter tournament having played some of its best hockey of the year in the final week of the season, wrapping up a Cape Cod Classic championship. The Rockets, meanwhile, will gain the fan bases of the rest of the state as the lone remaining public school entrant in this year’s field.

X-factor: Nolan Vesey. Has the potential to be the best player in the tournament. For a young squad such as AP, however, Vesey’s leadership will be vital for their long-term Super 8 chances. He needs to set the tone.

Prediction: Austin Prep in three.

Recap: No. 2 St. John's Prep 4, No. 8 CM 1

January, 31, 2013
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Andrew Brandano scored twice for St. John’s Prep as the Eagles shut down Liam Coughlin and Catholic Memorial’s lethal offensive weapons, 4-1, Wednesday night, in a Catholic Conference clash.

St. John’s Prep (12-2-0, 6-1-0 Catholic Conference) goalie Billy Price continued his stellar play turning away 18-of-19 shots. Price made several big saves, including robbing Coughlin from point blank on several scoring chances.

“A lot of his saves were quality stops,” St. John’s Prep coach Kristian Hanson said. “Billy has been solid for us all season, and that was no different tonight.”

Although Coughlin was held off the score sheet that didn’t mean he played poorly because he was still a force in the offensive zone.

“He is one of the best players in high school hockey, and I think he stood out there tonight because he did a terrific job,” Catholic Memorial head coach Bill Hanson said. “It takes more than one player to win hockey games.”

Catholic Memorial (8-5-2, 2-4-0) has run into a bit of a rut going 0-4-2, but there is one thing it must do differently next game:

“Score more goals,” Bill Hanson said.

In the first period, both teams came out like a house of fire throwing bodies around on occasion. St. John’s Prep challenged Catholic Memorial goalie, Brandon Collett early and often. Collett turned away several one-time attempts from point blank, which included a sliding pad save on Justin Longo. Collett had 26 saves on the night.

“They have a young goalie [freshman], so we knew that we needed to get a lot of shots on goal (30),” St. John’s defenseman Ean Mendeszoon said.

In the second period, St. John’s Prep scored two early goals inside of the first three minutes. Brian Pinho started the scoring sliding the puck through Collett’s five-hole on a breakaway.

“[That goal] absolutely got us going because we had a poor first period,” Kristian Hanson said. “We needed something to get us going, so what was a big goal for us.”

Only 1:13 later, Cam Shaheen flung a perfect pass to Paul Crehan, who was waiting by the back post. Crehan buried the puck on a bang-bang play.

Catholic Memorial would answer on the power play though as Beau Starrett buried a rebound past Price, cutting the Eagles lead to only, 2-1.

“After they scored that power play goal it kind of put us in a little bit of a funk,” Kristian Hanson said.

Catholic Memorial’s Kevin Hock came right back on a breakaway following the Starrett goal. Hock fired a shot and followed his own rebound, but Price was able to turn away both shots.

In the final seconds of the third, Brandano tallied his first goal of the night on a play set up by Jimmy Currier. Brandano looked as if he was going to shoot as he charged the goal, but he went to the backhand.

“I thought about just shooting, but I went backhand because I saw the goalie sliding over,” Brandano said.

Brandano put the game out of reach midway through the third period, as he followed his down rebound and beat Collett.

“It was a really nice team play,” Kristian Hanson said. “We got the puck up to Currier, and he found Andrew [Brandano]. He was calm and patient with the puck because he didn’t just shoot out, and he buried it on his own rebound.

Recap: No. 3 St. John's Prep 3, No. 2 BC High 2

January, 27, 2013

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Jimmy Currier had scored but one goal all season for St. John's Prep entering Saturday's Catholic Conference showdown with league-leading BC High.

It's safe to say Currier is officially "off the schneide."

The junior delivered a pair of highlight reel goals in the second period, one to tie the game, the other serving as the eventual game-winner as the third-ranked Prep claimed a 3-2 victory over No. 2 BC High at in the Fifth Annual 1st Lt. Derek Hines Memorial Game at Ristuccia Arena.

"Jimmy's capable of that and we've felt that way all year," praised Prep coach Kristian Hanson. "He's a really talented offensive player. I see it in practice and sometimes it takes one out there to give a kid confidence to go out and do it again. After he got that first one today, you could see it in him - he was confident handling the puck. It was a beautiful shot on that third goal. Jimmy had a great offensive day today."

The victory pulls the Prep (11-2-0 overall; 5-1-0 CC) into a tie with BC High (9-2-2; 4-1-2) atop the league standings with ten points apiece with a game in hand. Thanks to Malden Catholic's 4-3 victory over Catholic Memorial Saturday evening, St. John's can clinch its first league title since 1994 outright with wins over the Knights and Xaverian next week.

Currier's work on both tallies was a thing of beauty. Just one minute after BC High took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Tom Besinger, Currier went end-to-end, weaving around a pair of defenders like pylons before switching back to his forehand just in time to stuff the puck inside the far post at 6:12.

"When I was coming down, I had my feet moving a lot and after I cut to the middle I saw [linemate Andrew] Brandano and I was like, 'I should have gave it to him' and I just ended up going around him and putting it in," Currier described.

Just under five minutes later, Currier found himself with the puck in the right wing corner deep in the BC High zone. He floated out high and left, all the way over the top of the circle and fired a wrist shot through traffic back to the right side to give his club a 3-2 lead it would not relinquish.

"When I come out of the corner there it brings up so many options," the junior recalled. "I was coming across, moving left to right and the goalie was moving left to right. I just shot it far side and he didn't see the shot because there was a screen in front."

The Prep scored the game's first goal in equally spectacular fashion. Sprung loose up the right wing by one of his defensemen, Cam Shaheen worked his through the BC High zone, pushed the puck between the skates of his defender, then whirled around him and fired a wrist shot while dropping to one knee at 6:49 of the first.

BC High responded just over two minutes later as freshman defenseman Ryan Shea unleashed a rocket from the point for a power-play marker. BC High grabbed its first lead at 5:12 of the second when Besinger swooped in and buried the rebound of a shot by Sam Topham.

"They are a very good team and we knew that coming in and we skated with them," BC High head coach John Flaherty said. "They're a junior-senior team and they are very good. Brian Pinho, Jack McCarthy, Tyler Bird - those kids are as good as any kid around."

"You know they're coming at you and you know you've got to hang in there for the ride," he continued. "The fact that we skated with them for three periods and we were able to hang around and almost have a chance to tie the game at the end, that's a positive. It's an emotional game for them. A tribute to one of their all-time good players at St. John's Prep so its an emotional game for them. We knew that coming in and I'm proud of my guys for hanging in there for three periods and giving ourselves a chance at the end."

Recap: No. 3 SJP 5, No. 6 Austin Prep 1

January, 20, 2013

STONEHAM, Mass. -- Reading a 5-1 box score on paper looks as though the winning team had its way offensively. But, in hockey, as in many team sports, numbers can belie how important a sound defense is to influencing offensive prowess.

That was certainly the case Saturday night in No. 3 St. John’s Prep’s 5-1 non-league win over No. 6 Austin Prep, dealing the Cougars their first loss of the season. The Eagles’ victory was enabled by a stifling defensive display by their blue-liners. St. John’s held the Cougars in the single digits in shots on goal for the game, outshooting the Cougars 31-9 and controlling the flow of the game.

The Eagles were so effective in their own end, at times, it was easy to overlook them.

“We just played solid D and kept it simple, getting the puck up to the forwards, grinding, getting the puck out,” junior defenseman Evan Leclerc said. “We were just playing simple, true hockey.”

The Eagles (9-2-0) also played with the lead nearly from the get-go, as Tyler Bird opened scoring at 2:43 of the first on a partial break, sprung by an outlet pass from Ryan Byrne. St. John’s went to the room after the first with a 2-0 advantage after Cam Shaheen’s third goal of the season, with assists from Justin Longo and Paul Crehan.

They kept the pedal to the medal, starting the second period with a goal just 58 seconds in. Leclerc tallied his first of the season after some nice work down low by forwards Brian Pinho and Andrew Brandano.

The Cougars (6-1-3) broke up the shutout bid at 8:22 of the second with Brent Hill setting up a snipe from George Sennott.

The Eagles rounded out the second with Longo tallying his second point of the game, tallying an unassisted goal on a broken play.

Jack McCarthy increased St. John’s lead to four at 1:53 of the third.

“Coming in, Austin Prep was undefeated, so we knew it was going to be a tough game,” Eagles head coach Kristian Hanson said. “I think the kids really rose to the challenge tonight. I think from the first shift that our energy was pretty good. We have good team speed, but when we want to be physical, I think we can be a dominating physical team. I think we did that well tonight.”

Even with a goal in two, the most impressive part of Leclerc’s game came in the Eagles’ defensive zone. Leclerc thwarted a couple of Cougars rushes with bone-rattling hits.

“He was very physical,” Hanson said. “Yeah, he had the goal, but we thought he did a lot of little things. He was quick, he was physical, he made good decisions with the puck. He was one of our best guys out there tonight.”

Along with the all-around solid effort of its defenseman, including Brent Murray and Ean Mendeszoon, St. John’s also saw its depth in play.

Longo, a fourth-liner, chipped in with a two-point game (1G, 1 A).

“He’s an unsung hero type, but he’s had some huge goals for us this year,” Hanson said of Longo. “He’s a fourth-line guy, but he has the skill level of a first or second line guy. That fourth line has really played well this year. They play well in any kind of situation.”

Recap: No. 3 Prep 5, No. 16 Xaverian 0

January, 17, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With only three seconds remaining in the second period, St. John’s Prep senior forward Brian Pinho pounced on a Xaverian turnover and wristed a shot under the crossbar that broke open a game that, at least on the scoreboard, was still close.

That goal gave Prep a 3-0 lead heading into the final period and clearly deflated the Hawks, which had hoped to go into the third still within a couple of goals.

“To give that one up with three seconds was a real poor mistake that we made,” Xaverian head coach Dave Spinale said. “That gave them that life and it deflated us a little. That’s something we have to correct down the road.”

He added, “We come out and make it 2-1 and it’s a whole new ballgame. We hurt ourselves tonight.”

The goal was the first of two for Pinho, who had a hand in each of the Eagles’ tallies in a 5-0 rout of their Catholic Conference rival on Wednesday night at the Foxborough Sports Center. Pinho finished the game with two goals and three assists.

Xaverian (4-4-2, 0-2-2 Catholic Conference) just could not contain Prep’s captain.

“Brian, in my opinion, you could argue is the best player in the state,” said Eagles coach Kristian Hanson. “It’s not all about goal-scoring. He creates opportunities for other guys, he draws a lot of attention to himself, he can dish the puck, he can play defense…we utilize him in every aspect of the game.”

No. 3 Prep (8-2-0, 3-1-0) dominated the action from the opening whistle. Junior forward Jack McCarthy scored a power play goal just 2:30 into the game to give the Eagles an early lead and Xaverian spent much of the opening 15 minutes defending deep in their own zone. The Hawks were back on their heels and made a number of blocks and deflections to protect goalie Matt Michaels (19 saves).

Hanson felt his team was fully prepared for the game and, despite a long bus ride to Foxboro, was the team with the most energy to start the game.

“We definitely looked like we were prepared to play tonight,” Hanson said. “We talked about the game a lot the past couple of days. We know that Xaverian is the type of team that can beat anyone. It’s always tough to get on the bus and come down to Foxborough, so we’re pleased with the final result.”

The second period was more even with both teams struggling to create clear-cut scoring opportunities. The best chance for Xaverian was created by junior forward Brian Cahalane. He slid the puck through the crease while falling towards the boards and it caromed off the skate of a Prep defender and agonizingly wide of the far post.

With 3:11 remaining in the second period, Pinho fired a defense splitting pass across two lines and hit Nic Gianelli in stride. The senior drove at Michaels and finished with a backhand that slipped through the 5-hole to make it 2-0.

Spinale was not impressed with his team’s effort in an important conference game and was blunt about what he thought of the performance.

“I thought we were unfortunately flat all night,” he remarked. “That’s probably our worst effort of the year and it came at a bad time. They were better in all three zones. They were faster, more skilled, they were just better all the way around.”

The Hawks had an opportunity on the power play early in the third period, which might have gotten them back in the game. Instead, Prep turned it into a goal of its own when Gianelli returned the favor with a quick outlet pass to Pinho, who held off the defender and dragged the puck across goal to score.

Gianelli and Pinho combined to set up linemate Andrew Brandano with little more than four minutes remaining in the game to complete the scoring. Prep goalie Billy Price (20 saves) kept out a late Hawks flurry for the shutout.

Prep will face No. 6 Austin Prep in Stoneham on Saturday night, while Xaverian travels to face No. 18 Chelmsford on Monday.


Recap: No. 4 St. John's Prep 4, No. 2 CM 1

January, 13, 2013
BOSTON — After being outplayed in the first period, St. John’s Prep took control of the game and rallied its way past Catholic Memorial in a potential Super 8 match preview, 4-1, Saturday at Walter Brown Arena.

St. John’s Prep (6-2-0, 2-1-0 Catholic Conference) couldn’t buy a scoring chance in the first as Catholic Memorial and Liam Coughlin made easy work of the Eagles. Coughlin led the first period charge for the Knights as he gave Catholic Memorial the early, 1-0 lead. The Knights outshout St. John’s Prep by an 8-1 margin during the first period.

“We only generated one shot in the first period, and [our struggles] kind of carried over from Wednesday against BC High,” St. John’s Prep head coach Kristian Hanson said.”

Luckily for the Eagles, their goalie, Billy Price (29 saves) was doing his best impression of Tim Thomas; Price tries to model his own play after the former Vezina Trophy winner.

“Billy has been playing well all year, and he played well tonight,” Hanson said. “He did a great job keeping his composure, especially late in the game because they put a ton of pressure on him.”

St. John’s was outshot, 30-19, but the Eagles were able to keep Catholic Memorial on the perimeter and outside on most of their shot attempts.

“Our defense this season has been great,” Prep defenseman Ean Mendeszoon said. “We are always getting pucks away from net and blocking shots. We’re just doing our job and that’s not really too much. We also try to keep our opponents to the outside and perimeter so they can’t get good quality chances down low.”

In the second period, Prep came to life in all aspects of the game. Coughlin was not getting the looks he was in the first as the Eagles keyed in on the Knights' star scorer.

“Catholic Memorial is a very talented team with kids like Coughlin on it,” Hanson said. “We are paying attention to whom their [top] players are, so that we can limit their opportunities.”

St. John’s finally broke through late in the second period as Nic Gianelli flipped a backhander by Catholic Memorial goalie, Brandon Collett (15 saves), on a breakaway.

Before the end of the period, the Eagles were able to take the lead as Justin Longo rifled a rebound shot to the back of the net with Collett down and out.

“The rebound just came right over to me, and I got a little lucky because I just was able to put it in.”

In the third, it only took 13 seconds for Andrew Brandano to bang home a rebound goal, which came off of a two-on-one rush with Tyler Bird.

With 2:59 remaining in the third, Catholic Memorial (8-2-0, 2-1-0) went to the power play with Gianelli in the sin bin. Unfortunately for the Knights, Price stood tall, and the St. John’s penalty kill never let the Knights get a quality opportunity.

“Our guys did an excellent job tonight by getting in the shooting lanes, forcing them to the perimeter, and preventing the back door chance,” Hanson said.

Catholic Memorial was not done making a last minute push though as Collett sprinted to the bench for an extra attacker. The Knights were looking for their fourth comeback win of the season.

“We have been behind a number of games this year, and have been able to come back,” CM head coach Bill Hanson said.

The Knights had some late pressure on Price, but once again the St. John’s net-minder was not giving in. Price turned away several shots from in the slot and through traffic before Bird iced the game with an empty netter.

Recap: No. 9 St. John's Prep 3, No. 1 MC 2

January, 5, 2013
WILMINGTON, Mass. – Kristian Hanson had seen the scene play out before. Sure, his St. John’s Prep hockey team had No. 1 Malden Catholic on the ropes in the third period, up by two goals. And, in previous experiences, Hanson had seen those leads – perceived to be “safe” – vanish into the ether.

“I don’t feel comfortable until that last second ticks off,” Hanson quipped about playing against the two-time defending Super 8 champions.

Hanson and Co. will sleep tight tonight, having handed the Lancers their first MIAA loss in nearly two calendar years while finishing a 3-2 victory at Ristuccia Arena on Saturday. The loss is MC’s first in-state loss since Jan. 15, 2011, (a 2-1 loss to Hingham) and snaps the Lancers’ 40-game MIAA winning streak.

“MC obviously has a reputation as being a third-period team,” Hanson said. “They were down by two to Austin Prep and they were down 2-1 to BC High last week and those both ended in ties. We’ve had personal experience being up on them in the third period that we haven’t been able to hold on.”

The No. 9 Eagles (5-1-0, 1-0-0 Catholic Conference) trailed 1-0 at the first intermission, but strung together three straight goals, including two in the third period to hold a 3-1 lead in the final minutes of the game. MC’s Pat Wrenn added a goal with less than two minutes to play, sliding one past Eagles netminder Billy Price (20 saves) on a deflection off a defenseman’s skate, but Prep escaped another potential Lancer comeback bid.

Eagles senior forward Andrew Brandano figured prominently in the victory, factoring on Prep’s first two goals.

Brandano broke in for an unassisted goal at 6:58 of the second period, drawing the teams even at 1-1. He then set up Prep’s go-ahead tally at 11:11 of the third, throwing a puck at MC goaltender Connor Maloney (18 saves). Mark Azarian deflected the slap-pass to the right of Maloney. Brandano and captain Brian Pinho had the assists.

“We had some really good chances in the first period and we had a golden opportunity in the first period, with the puck sitting on the goal line and missed out,” Hanson said. “Sometimes those chances come back to bite you later in the game.

“But we got lucky on Brandano’s goal in the second period. That maybe gave us a little bit more confidence offensively and we were able to get two after that.”

Prep added an insurance marker that would later prove to be the game-winner on the power play. Tyler Bird shoveled a pass back to defenseman Ean Mendeszoon and the lanky blue-liner’s slapshot beat Maloney stick side.

Perhaps the greatest loss MC (3-1-2, 0-1-1) suffered on Saturday came in the third period when UMass-Lowell commit winger Tyler Sifferlen went down with an apparent lower body injury. Sifferlen was injured when he locked knees with a Prep defenseman on a clean hit in the neutral zone.

Lancers head coach John McLean accompanied Sifferlen to the hospital for observation and wasn’t available postgame.

While Prep might have fallen behind, the Eagles pressed the issue on the forecheck throughout the first two periods.

And while they didn’t have anything to show for it, Brandano felt as thought Prep would break through if it maintained the pressure.

“We were on them from the start,” Brandano said. “Even though we were down one, we just kept on it.”

The Eagles used the forecheck to generate several high quality scoring chances in the first and second, only to see Maloney make opportune saves. Brandano forced a defensive zone turnover for a chance midway through the second and fellow winger Nic Gianelli also turned some dogged work in the MC zone into back-handed shot from his knees, with Maloney making a nice save, at the end of the first.

“We’ve had some problems scoring goals early on this season, so one way to correct that is to keep getting pucks to the net from all angles, eventually one goes in,” Hanson said. “You’re not to score if you don’t shoot.”

For the first time in several years, Prep is breaking in a new goaltender, after the graduation of steady starter David Letarte.

But Price has filled the bill in the early going. He was ready when called upon against MC and kept rebounds to a minimum. Everything else, his defensemen, led by senior captain Brent Murray, cleared.

“Billy’s given us a chance to win every game we’ve been in, that’s all you can ask for,” Hanson said of Price. “He made big stops, he looked great today. He was composed, didn’t get rattled in front of the crowd and facing MC.”

Super 8 recap: St. John's Prep 4, Central 3

March, 8, 2012

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. - No matter good a team's top performers are and no matter how much they carry a team through the regular season, it's unlikely that any squad can win a state championship - especially the prestigious Super Eight - based on the strength of just one potent line.

In Round 2, St. John's Prep got a breakthrough performance from its second line as Andrew Brandano popped in two goals, including the game-winner, to lead the third-seeded Eagles to a 4-3 victory over No. 7 Central Catholic at Lawler Arena.

It seemed as though the Raiders (1-1 Super Eight, 14-4-5 overall) had all the momentum after Mike Kelleher forced a turnover and popped in a shorthanded goal just 3:45 into the third period, but Brandano changed all that with one terrific rush down the left wing.

John Ryan picked up the puck in the Eagles (2-0, 15-5-2) end and sent Brandano flying down the left boards while catching Central in a line change. Brandano walked in on Central goalie Kyle Williams, deked once to pull him out of position, then shot the puck past his glove side for the eventual game-winner at 7:36.

"John Ryan got the puck in the defensive zone and I think the other team was going for a change so I just broke off and John backhanded it up," Brandano explained. "I picked it up, went down the left side and noticed the left side was open so I just shot it and it went in."

Added Central coach Mike Jankowski, "We had the power plays and we had some guys who were running a little bit ragged there and had some forwards at 'D' and unfortunately got caught in a change there and exposed it. You can't do that with these guys, not even a little bit. These guys finish strong and they capitalized on the mistake."

Brandano, who also assisted on a second-period tally by Sam Kurker, has been a great story for the Eagles during the postseason, notching a goal in the Prep's Super Eight opener in addition to the two last night. In just his first season with the varsity, the junior has made a positive impact on the team's fortunes.

"I think Andrew's really emerged this year as one of our go-to guys," Prep head coach Kristian Hanson said. "It's his first year on varsity, he's a junior, we brought him along with the freshman, brought him along on JV, he was one of the top players at both levels."

"He's kind of deceivingly good," Hanson continued. "People look at him, he's not really big but he's one of those guys that just has a natural ability around the net. He's very smart player, he's a very smart kid academically and he's a kid who's done a great job of giving us some balance."

In addition to Brandano's unit, the Eagles third line also contributed a goal as Derek Osbahr tied the game with a second-period tally with assists from Mark Azarian and James Brightney.

"With our third line or our fourth line, the only thing we really want them to do is play even so for them to get a goal is a bonus," Hanson admitted. "Osbahr, that's his second goal of the year. He had a goal in the last game of the year. He's not a goal scorer but that certainly was a timely goal for us."

While the second and third lines stepped up big against the Raiders, the other thing that pleased Hanson was a return to form by the Eagles star forward Sam Kurker. The Boston University-committ had been struggling somewhat to find his form of late, but on this night, Kurker was back to his dominant self.

Offensively, the senior had a goal and two assists. He was also a beast in the defensive zone as well as on special teams while killing penalties. In short, Kurker looked like the game changing player he regularly has been.

"I thought Sam played much better tonight, said Hanson. "We don't pull any punches. We flat out said it him - he struggled the other night. But he came out tonight completely different player - much more energy, much more physical. He had a number of great chances, had a goal and obviously Sam was a difference-maker for us.

The unique format of the Super Eight tends to force coaches to make decisions they might not ordinarily make. Such was the case for Central Catholic, who had an opportunity to pull goalie Kyle Williams in the final minute of play while trailing, 3-2.

Williams looked continuously toward his bench waiting for a signal while his teammates worked to maintain possession in the Eagles zone. The Raiders even took a timeout with a faceoff in the Eagles end with 26.2 seconds left and Williams spent much of it skating behind his teammates, likely waiting for word on what his role would be.

Jankowski, ever mindful of the tiebreaker scenarios that may likely emerge heading into Round 3, elected to keep Williams in net and play it safe rather than risk giving up an empty-netter that might cause problems with goal differential, should that tiebreaker come into play. He also admitted afterward that the format of the tournament plays a major role in the thought process, saying, "It's a tough thing because your natural instinct is pull the goalie and lets get one and obviously play to win, or actually tie it up and then go from there."

A similar situation developed during the first game of the Super Eight when Hingham coach Tony Messina elected to pull his goalie and play for a win, knowing full well his team was scheduled to face top-seeded Malden Catholic in Round 3.

While the two situations are drastically different, both Jankowski and Messina made choices that they felt best suited their teams needs while keeping the overall picture in mind.

Super 8 recap: Prep 4, Cathedral 3 (OT)

March, 4, 2012

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- The one thing St. John's Prep forward Sam Kurker did not want to do following Sunday's Super 8 game against Springfield Cathedral was answer questions about how short-handed goals cost his team a victory.

Kurker committed a turnover that led to one of the two short-handed goals Springfield Cathedral scored Sunday, but he made up for that by netting the game-winning goal with 2:39 left in overtime as the Eagles prevailed, 4-3.

“On a play like that [the turnover] you have to put it behind you and keep on playing,” Kurker said. “I was getting a little worried about a shootout, so when I saw the puck go in it was just like, “Thank God it's over.'”

Kurker's goal was his team-high 29th of the season. He entered the game with 55 points.

“I don't think Sam had a great game today,” St. John's Prep coach Kristian Hanson said. “He'll be the first one to say that, but Sam's a competitor and he's had a lot more good games than bad games. When the chips are down and you need a big goal, he still came through. That's a credit to Sam.”

Brian Pinho scored two goals for the Eagles, who improved to 14-5-2. Andrew Brandano also scored for St. John's Prep.

Senior Frank Crinella scored twice for Springfield Cathedral, which also received a goal from Frank's younger brother Peter Crinella. The Panthers dropped to 10-7-6.

“The good news is now we can root for St. John's to win out, and hopefully we can win two games and advance,” Springfield Cathedral coach Brian Foley said. “I think it was a solid effort. The kids showed a lot of character by coming back twice. It was tight all the way. We had chances to win it.”

Both goalies – St. John's Prep's David Letarte and Springfield Cathedral's John Liquori – made 20 saves.

St. John's Prep overcame a four-goal deficit to earn a 5-5 tie when the teams met during the regular season.

Pinho broke a 2-2 tie with an unassisted power-play goal 3:28 into the third, but Springfield Cathedral pulled even Peter Crinella's short-handed goal at 5:41.

Brandano scored the only goal in the first period. It came 1:28 into the contest.

The Eagles doubled their lead when Pinho scored an unassisted goal 53 seconds into the second.

Springfield Cathedral tied the game on Frank Crinella's two second-period goals. He put the Panthers on the scoreboard when he stole the puck from Kurker in the Eagles' offensive zone and scored a short-handed breakaway goal at 7:44.

Crinella tied the contest at 9:57, when he was the first to a slow-moving puck in the slot and swept it past Letarte.

“We played well in spurts,” Hanson said. “Cathedral did a great job of capitalizing on our mistakes. In the end we were fortunate to get a bounce. It certainly could have gone either way.”

Hanson said Pinho, a junior forward, was the best player on the ice for his team. In addition to his two goals, Pinho collected an assist on Kurker's game-winning goal.

“Brian had two big goals,” Hanson said. “Brian played well defensively and gave a great effort today. As a team we chose him as our player of the game.”

Pinho entered the contest with 15 goals and 22 assists.

Both teams will be back in action Wednesday night. Springfield Cathedral will face second-seeded St. Mary's of Lynn at 5:30, and St. John's Prep will meet St. John's of Shrewsbury at 8. Both games will be at Merrimack College.

“I think the kids believe in themselves and they've proven that they belong here,” Foley said. “That's a big step mentally. We have a lot of confidence going into the next two games.”

ESPN Boston Super 8 primer

March, 2, 2012
There are less than 48 hours remaining before the puck drops on the real Super 8 on Sunday at Merrimack College.

So we’re taking this opportunity to break down the final eight:

1. Malden Catholic (15-1-4)
Marquee wins: Pretty much all of them, minus the Lancers’ one loss to New Jersey powerhouse Delbarton.

Players to watch: F Brendan Collier (22-34-56); F Ryan Fitzgerald (26-14-40); F Mike Iovanna (14-23-37); F Tyler Sifferlen (9-14-23); F Ara Nazarian (10-16-26); D Casey Fitzgerald (1-15-16); D Colin MacGillivray (2-8-10); Brendan White (2-16-18).

The skinny: As in the last couple of years, this year’s Super 8 is viewed as the Lancers’ tournament to lose. Again, they have the best line in the state with Collier, Ryan Fitzgerald and Iovanna saddling into Mike Vecchione’s former spot. But MC’s true strength is depth. Sifferlen and Nazarian would occupy a spot on mostly any team’s top line. Super frosh and BC commit Casey Fitzgerald has filled Conor Evangelista’s role dutifully as a puck-moving defenseman.

X-factor: Goaltending. Connor Maloney watched last year’s Super 8 from the BC High bench behind Peter Cronin. Now, it’s his time to shine.

2. St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-1-3)
Marquee wins: Malden Catholic (Kasabuski Tournament tie); Hingham (5-1); Cathedral (3-2).

Players to watch: F Bobby Mullins (9-20-29); F Jarrod Fitzpatrick (14-7-21); F Cam O’Neill (14-15-29); F Brendan Mageary (13-11-24); F Tim Aylward (10-10-20); D Nikko Markham (6-12-18); D Bryan Wilkins (1-7-8); G Bailey MacBurnie (1.30 GAA, 94.1 save %).

The skinny: So what were the Spartans to do without perennial league all-star Donald Hesse as their backbone? Well, Mark Lee found a more-than-legitimate starter in MacBurnie, a sophomore, who’s played well along with a defensive corps led by Markham. Fitzpatrick has been another revelation in his first season with the Spartans. St. Mary’s has greater scoring depth than in year’s past. And they’re young, as freshman Eric MacAdams (4-14-18) has impressed seeing top-line action.

X-factor: How do the Spartans react in a tight game. In last year’s Super 8 play-in stab, and the Div. 1 tournaments of year’s past, one-goal games have come back to haunt them. If they can sweat out a couple of close decisions in this tournament, they might find themselves at the Garden.

3. St. John’s Prep (13-5-2)
Marquee wins: BC High (3-1); Hingham (2-1); Central Catholic (4-0).

Players to watch: F Sam Kurker (26-26-52); F Brian Pinho (14-20-34); F Tyler Bird (9-5-14), F Andrew Brandano (8-6-14); D Nick Pandalena (6-10-16); D Brent Murray (0-4-4); G David Letarte (2.02 GAA, 91.5 save %).

The skinny: We still haven’t gotten over last year’s championship game; it was simply amazing hockey. There’s no Colin Blackwell, but Kurker (BU commit) has really blossomed this season and has taken this team on his back the way his former linemate did last year. Pinho and Bird, along with Kurker, are a formidable first line to skate against, and are strong in all three zones. Pandalena is a mountain of a defenseman, but beyond him, the Eagles blue line was green entering the season. Murray has elevated his play to comprise a formidable top pairing.

X-factor: Letarte. I believe we said this last year as well. When the senior is on his game, he can be airtight.

4. Hingham (16-4-2)
Marquee wins: Marshfield (6-2); Catholic Memorial (3-2); St. John’s of Shrewsbury (4-0).

Players to watch: F James Gordon (21-17-38); F Matt Brazel (11-20-31); F Matt Hughes (13-11-24); F Ryan Linehan (8-12-20); F Patrick Mannion (6-12-18); F Sam D’Antuono (6-19-25); D Nolan Driscoll (2-7-9); G John Grenier (1.88 GAA, 90.1 save %).

The skinny: If this team had a motto, it would be “lacking experience, but not young.” During the Harbormen’s most recent Super 8 runs, a good portion of this year’s roster watched from way down the bench, or up in the gallery. But this team has collectively raised its game and is benefitted by great coaching. Gordon’s 20-goal season has been a pleasant surprise and Brazel is one worth watching for the next two years. The real revelation has been Grenier between the pipes. The Xaverian transfer is among the statewide leaders in goals against average.

X-factor: Grenier. He doesn’t fit the current mold of a big, butterfly goaltender. Instead, he relies on aggressively challenging the shooter and cutting down angles. We’ll see how it matches up with the precision passing games of MC and St. John’s (S) in pool play games.

5. BC High (10-5-5)
Marquee wins: St. John’s (twice); Prep (5-3); Cathedral (3-0).

Players to watch: F Matt Sullivan (9-15-24); F Tom Besinger (10-15-25); F Bartley Regan (7-6-13); F Steve DeForge (6-13-19); D Brian Furey (3-6-9); D Sam Topham (1-9-10); G Peter Cronin (2.00 GAA; 91.5 save %).

The skinny: Cronin lead this team to the crossover round last year, falling just short of an upset of MC. He was the revelation of last year’s tournament and, as usual, the Eagles will look to their goaltender to continue his strong play. Besinger might be the shiftiest forward in the tournament not named Kevin Emmerling. He’s not big, but he sure can skate. Furey has done a nice job leading a young Eagles blue-line corps this season. ‘Moe’ Regan has produced some dirty goals and has thrived in his role as a power forward, coming off his EMass D1 Super Bowl win.

X-factor: Sullivan. The Eagles’ soft-spoken leader is a lead-by-example type, but thrives in big-game atmospheres. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’s a player we’re talking about months after the tournament.

6. Springfield Cathedral (10-6-6)
Marquee wins: BC High (4-3); Needham (1-0); CM (3-1).

Players to watch: F Frank Crinella (13-15-28); F Thomas Quinlan (11-5-16); F Peter Crinella (5-8-13); F Brendan Ashe (7-7-14); D Matt Foley (0-12-12); G John Liquori (2.40 GAA, 88.9 save %).

The skinny: The Panthers cracked the top six this year after getting bounced in a play-in game last year. This is a team that isn’t very flashy, but is consistently tough to play against, playing a brand of hockey that can be frustrating to opponents. Sophomore John Liquori has been steady, taking over for old stalwart Zac Rondeau. Liquori is the benefactor of a sound defensive squad that likes to play the body and takes care of its defensive assignments with diligence.

X-factor: Frank Crinella is perhaps the most talented player in the state who receives the least amount of deserved credit. This tournament could be a statement for him.

7. Central Catholic (13-3-5)
Marquee wins: Burlington (6-4, play-in game).

Players to watch: F Ryan Daigle (8-15-23); F Mike Kelleher (10-7-17); F Lloyd Hayes (15-8-23); F Alex Lester (7-9-16); F Zack Cote (10-4-14); D Jake Donahue (3-4-7); G Kyle Williams (2.13 GAA, 91.1 save %).

The skinny: Stop me if you’re heard this one before, but the Raiders again used a spirited second-half push after a slow start to get back into the top tournament. If they continue the fast and physical brand of hockey they played against Burlington, the Raiders will provide a tough test. Kelleher’s natural hat trick is a big boost to Central’s chances going forward; if he gets going, he’s one of the most potent pure scorers in the state.

X-factor: Williams. Shocking, right? As the goaltender goes, so goes the Raiders. And it’s no coincidence that Central played its best while last year’s ESPN Boston All-State netminder was at his finest.

8. St. John’s of Shrewsbury (15-4-3)
Marquee wins: Needham (5-4, play-in game).

Players to watch: F Kevin Emmerling (25-28-53); F Vin D’Amato (23-14-37); F Jay Duquette (11-22-33); F Hunter Burdick (6-9-15); D Nick Rutigliano (1-10-11).

The skinny: Akin to Central Catholic, the Pioneers took perhaps their biggest win of the season on Monday. In that shootout with Needham, they showed why they can go toe-to-toe with any team across the state with the top line of Emmerling, D’Amato and Duquette running and gunning …

X-factor: … but then there’s the defense. The Pioneers are going to need to tighten up in their own end. If they allow their three future opponents to enter the zone as they allowed the Rockets to run in the third period, there could be some lop-sided scores.

Recap: No. 3 Prep 5, No. 6 Cathedral 5

February, 18, 2012

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Late game heroics led to a thrilling comeback for St. John's Prep in a midday battle of Super 8 contenders Saturday.

After dropping a four-goal deficit to Springfield Cathedral early in the final period, the No. 3 Eagles battled back in their last six minutes at the Ristuccia Center to force a 5-5 tie with 17 seconds remaining.

With both teams likely qualifying for the Super 8 tournament, the tie may prove an important step for the No. 6 Panthers (9-6-5) in entering the top six seeds and avoiding a postseason play-in game.

“I told these guys that I think that [was] a great lesson for us because no lead is safe,” Prep head coach Kristian Hanson said. “Hockey is a game of bounces. Once we got one or two, I think we started to believe a bit.”

The Eagles' final goal came off an open net tip-in by leading scorer senior Sam Kurker in the finals seconds. Catching a shot off the back of junior Andrew Brandano five yards out from the net, sophomore Tyler Bird slid a pass through a pile to opposite post for Kurker to finish the rally.

The Boston University commit finished the game with two goals and two assist.

“I was thinking 'Is this going to pop out to me right now?' and it actually did,” Kurker said. “I just tried to bury the shot and got lucky there. I crash the net and what happens happens.”

Prep (12-6-1) was nearly finished fourteen minutes early after dropping a blue-line rip by Cathedral senior captain Frank Crinella in the first minute of the final period to go down 5-1. However a deep-planted wrist shot by senior Nick Pandelena with 5:19 remaining helped breathe life back into the Eagles.

A breakaway score by Brandano minutes later led the way for Pandelena to knuckle a bouncing puck off two players and into the top corner for a 5-4 score at 1:23. A ricochet off Kurker during the score credited him with the goal.

“It is [about] chipping away one at a time and getting the next one,” Hanson said. “The last thing you want to do is let them clear the puck easily and run some time off. Just get dirty and get puck to the net.”

Prep looked to be in control early after out shooting Cathedral 8-3 in the first period, but entered the break tied 1-1. Despite intense pressure from the Eagles early in the second, Cathedral capitalized on the Eagles' mistakes to score the next four goals and grab a commanding lead by the first minute of the final period.

Drifting into the Eagles zone, sophomore Brendan Ashe bodied his defender, stunted his shot, and caught the keeper off guard to hit net in the first minute of the second period. Ten minutes later a two man advantage opened a gap for freshman Peter Crinella to slip a low pass in front of the netminder to open Ashe up on the post for his second score at 4:07.

“You just want to get pucks on net in a game against a good team like St. John's,” Cathedral head coach Brian Foley.

Within one minute of Ashe's goal, a near score on a one timer by Prep left Peter Crinella wide open behind a celebrating defense for a one-on-one with the goal keeper to slide the Panthers ahead 4-1. Peter Crinella finished with one goal and three assist, while teammate junior Matt Foley also had three assist for the Panthers.

“One play to me kind of defines that second period,” said Hanson of the Panthers' fourth score.

Sophomore keeper John Liquori made 29 saves for Cathedral, while David Letarte, who played the first two periods for Prep, combined with fellow senior Jared Hynes to make 10 saves. Junior Brian Pinho scored the first goal of the game off an assist from Kurker, while junior Artie Potter evened the game for Cathedral with a deep snipe.

“I think both teams were looking at this game as a chance to be a top six ([eed],” Brian Foley said. “I think we got a little complacent (in the third period) and to their credit they worked hard, but I believe a tie is a good finish for both teams as far as points go.”

Recap: No. 3 St. John's Prep 4, No. 6 CM 3

February, 11, 2012

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- It was a sequence that will probably haunt the dreams of Catholic Memorial and its fans, but will probably bring a smile to anyone wearing the blue and white of St. John’s Prep.

Mark Azarian came away with some late-game heroics to notch the winner with six seconds remaining to spring the Prep (11-5-1) to a 4-3 victory over the Knights Saturday in a matchup between Catholic Conference rivals at Ristuccia Memorial Arena.

Azarian will be the one with the game-winning goal always attached to his name, but the play wouldn’t have been made without the hustle, and patience, of Andrew Brandano.

Brandano got his body in front of a shot at the blue line, and raced out into the open ice down the right side. He got down to the right circle and had Azarian trailing on the play with a Knights defenseman in position in between the two.

Brandano looked to hesitate with the puck, but he was just debating on shooting it with only seconds to go until he saw his linemmate come into play in good scoring position. The junior forward guided the puck right to the tape of Azarian to grab two points, and keep a point away from the Knights in the process, with six seconds remaining in the game.

“The first thing on my mind was to block the shot,” Brandano said. “I noticed the 2-on-1 right away. I saw Mark from the beginning and was going to pass it, but he was behind the defenseman so I held onto it and waited until it opened up. … I just threw it at his stick and it went in.”

Brandano said he thought about shooting the puck at first with Shane Starrett in position, but he changed his mind when a passing lane opened.

“It was wicked long and it felt like it took forever,” he said. “But it was worth it.”

The Eagles’ defense prides themselves on being in position and blocking shots in their own end, and that was the first thing that Kristian Hanson noticed about the big play.

“What made that play was the block,” Hanson said. “He blocked the shot in an absolutely critical point of the game he sacrificed the body. It created the 2-on-1 and Mark just did his job by going to the far post. [Brandano] was very patient with the puck on that.... Obviously it’s a big win for us.”

Sam Kurker has become a force for the Eagles’ top-line against Catholic Conference foes, and he made a name for himself again with three goals to help fuel the Prep.

This was the second hat-trick for Kurker against Catholic Memorial this season, and he’s consistently wracked up multiple point games against familiar foes in the league.

“In the conference he’s scored two or three goals in virtually every conference game that we played,” Hanson said. “It says a lot about him as a player.”

Kurker got the Prep on the board in the first period on the first shot of the game, and he also tied things up at 3 on the power play with a slapper from the left point with 2:53 left in the game.

The road to the playoffs just got a little bit rockier for the Knights.

The Knights need six points in their last four games to be postseason eligible. Their last four games area against Rhode Island foes Bishop Hendricken and La Salle Academy, Connecticut's Fairfield Prep, in addition to No. 7 Central Catholic.

Catholic Memorial has been on the door step of crucial wins this past week, but coughed up one-goal leads in the third period in each of the last three contests.