FALMOUTH, Mass. – With all the talk surrounding Malden Catholic and Springfield Cathedral as the heavy favorites for the Super 8 championship, Austin Prep may not be all that far behind.
The No. 4 Cougars and their fluid offense were the talk of the week at the Buddy Ferreira Classic and while it took them an added overtime period in the championship game to knock out Hingham, the Cougars emerged as a serious championship threat.
“It’s an honor to win this tournament,” AP coach Louis Finocchiaro said. “I’ve known Buddy [Ferreira] all my life since I played high school hockey, so to win this for our nine seniors in the locker room it was great to get that for them.”
With just 21 seconds remaining in the overtime period and a shootout on the horizon, Eric MacAdams took a pass from Collin Murphy along the boards and rifled off a shot from the high slot. The puck edged by Harbormen defender Michael Saleski and snuck over the left shoulder of a screened Matt Personeni for the game winner.
Officially, the game will go down as a 1-1 tie as the MIAA does not recognize overtime during the regular season.
“We had a nice fore-check going and Collin Murphy came down the wall made a nice play and got the puck to me in the slot and I got the shot off and it went in,” MacAdams recalled of the game winner.
Hingham may have been the most dangerous team in the tournament as the Harbormen were fighting for their Super 8 lives while playing their best hockey of the season. From the opening drop of the puck, Hingham never backed down against the Cougars, taking Austin Prep out of their game plan early.
“We knew they pass the puck in their offense and like the long stretch passes and have the speed,” Hingham coach Tony Messina said. “There is really nothing you can devise to bottle that up but we just had to make sure that on the third fore-check we made hood decisions.”
Hingham was the better of the teams in the opening period, outshooting the opposition 9-6 while getting the early go-ahead goal from Nicholas Droster. Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Droster fired a quick shot from the point that hit an AP stick on the way in, taking just enough off it to flip over goal Dylan Regan’s glove.
“I thought they took a lot of time and space away form us today and were aggressive,” Finocchiaro said. “I thought they did a good job on puck possession and didn’t let us retrieve the puck out of the zone.”
Regan was brilliant the rest of the way, turning aside 13 shots over the final two periods, including back-to-back desperation saves in the third period and again in the overtime period. Regan was named tournament MVP for his performance over the week.
“Dylan Regan for us all year in games has come up big and that’s what you need from your goalie in crucial times Finocchiaro said. “Against BC High in that second period we were up 2-0 he made some real nice saves and against tonight made some real nice saves.”
Regan kept AP in the game until they got the equalizer off the stick of Anthony Cieri when he stick work through the slot beat Personeni to the far post in the final minute of the second period.
Matchup battle: Hingham goalie Andrew Ehler got the start in the Harbormen’s first two games of the tournament, allowing a combined three goals against Archbishop Williams and BC High.
But the two goalies have split the duties all season long and paired with the fact that Personeni has the bigger frame, the junior got the start.
Personeni was brilliant against the offensive-minded Cougars making 27 saves in many high pressure situations and was named to the all-tournament team despite only one start.
“Andrew Ehler played the first two games, they’ve split time this year about evenly,” Messina said. “Matt is tall and ranges so he does a good job with the side to side so we thought we was the right guy in there and he played excellent.”
Super 8 implications: The Super 8 committee meeting won’t be held until Sunday, which leaves three solid days for debate on who the final teams in the perennial tournament are the most deserving to be there.
Many thought that a Buddy Ferreira Classic title would be enough for Hingham to be selected in front the other public schools in contention in Franklin, Woburn and Burlington.
But since officially the game will go down as a tie, it only clusters the final four teams even further for the final three spots.
“I think we are on the buddle, we proved we can play with the good teams, whatever happens, happens, it always takes care of itself,” Messina said. “ I always tell the kids just play as hard as you can since we can’t control that decision but I think we played tonight like we belong.
As for Austin Prep, they cemented themselves into the No. 3 spot with their dismantling of BC High on Monday night and only further solidified their position with the title.
“I think we just have to go in [to the tournament] with the same game were playing right now with hard work and crisp passes,” MacAdams said. “We’re not a team with a bunch of skill players but we’ll work hard and try to grind you down.”