NEEDHAM, Mass. -- It is a rivalry that often goes unnoticed except by those who play in it.
Noble & Greenough and St. Sebastian's are separated by a few mere miles along Great Plain Avenue. Annually, these two prep schools have wage fierce battles against one another, whether it be on the field, court or in the rink. It is also a secret to nobody that both schools often compete against each other in soliciting the region's top student-athletes.
From a hockey standpoint, the Bulldogs and Arrows are not short on possessing exceptional talent. Wednesday night, the two programs squared off in a highly-anticipated ISL Keller Division match up.
Nursing a one goal lead after two periods, Nobles would break it open in the final frame, scoring three times to come away with a 4-0 victory inside Henry T. Lane Rink.
The Bulldogs (7-3-1) received solid contributions from forwards Mike Fahie and Cam Burke, both scoring a pair of goals. Not to be excluded, Miles Wood and Luke Stevens each registered two assists, while junior goaltender Brendan Cytulik stopped all 22 shots he faced.
"St. Seb's is just down the street from us and it's a big rivalry," said Fahie, a junior. "This is the second ISL game that we've played. This is for first place in the ISL because St. Seb's is right behind us. It feels good to get this win."
The opening frame was more of a feeling out process as neither club could find the back of the net. Things would heat up a bit in the second period as both teams pushed their respective offenses to a higher level. The Arrows (7-4-1) opened the frame with some quality looks on Cytulik, but had nothing to show for it.
Likewise, Nobles was also finding open lanes inside the offensive zone. It would finally pay off when Burke, a sophomore, took a quick feed from Stevens from the right circle and ripped a one-timer past Danny Higgins at 7:21, putting the Bulldogs ahead 1-0.
"I thought we were out-competed in the first period but thought we were better in the second and third periods," said Bulldogs head coach Brian Day, his club putting up 31 shots, including 14 in the final period. "I thought as the game progressed we got progressively better. We kept most of their shots to the outside and didn't give up any second chance opportunities. I thought it was a good defensive effort and our forwards did a nice job getting back to help out defensively. I feel we still need to manage the puck better in the neutral zone. There were some instances where we had a chance to go but then we turned it over and now their coming the other way. We need to clean that up better so to make it harder for opposing teams to score."
Nobles defense also progressed as the game moved forward. Led by Pat Murray, Billy Sweezey and Alex Hreib, the objective was to tie up the neutral zone and pinch St. Seb's along the boards every time they moved the puck up ice. The defense also payed close attention to senior sniper Will D'Orsi throughout. The Yale-bound forward had some solid attempts on net, but, for much of the contest, was held in check.
Clinging to its one-goal advantage entering the second intermission, Nobles knew it could not sit back and rely on Cytulik to solely hold down the fort. Instead, the Bulldogs played uptempo to begin the period. Immediately, they applied pressure inside the attacking zone. The dividends from it would show quickly after Fahie poked in a rebound just 53 seconds in.
Continuing to show balanced movement with the puck, the Bulldogs added to their lead midway through the frame. Wood, a Boston College commit, laid a nice pass to wide-open Fahie, who blistered a shot by Higgins putting Nobles up by three goals.
"Coached talked to us after the second period and said we needed to come out harder," Fahie said. "The first period we were a little down and in the second period we started to pick it up. During the third period we played more to our system by pressing the net. We were able to get shots on net and just banged them in. I was fortunate to get two goals but my line mates set me up pretty good."
St. Seb's, who put up 18 shots over the first two periods, suddenly found its offense nearly non-existent over the final 18 minutes due in part to Nobles' strong forechecking and ability to shut down the passing lanes. It was becoming more evident that the Arrows were growing frustrated with the sudden offensive drop off. That, in turn, would allow the Bulldogs to capitalize yet again as Burke, standing alone between the two circles, found enough daylight to slip his shot past Higgins with under two minutes remaining and close this one out.
"When Nobles scored its second goal I think we lost the emotional push in the game," said St. Seb's head coach Sean McCann. "We took a step backward in how aggressive we were. We were trying to push pressure on their defense and tire them out and if you had looked at the end of the second period I thought we had done that. But without continued pressure, we allowed them to sit back and feel comfortable.
"The third and fourth goals were just insurance for them because we didn't play the way we had in the first two periods. We had some good looks but didn't capitalize on them. We just didn't drive hard enough which is something we need to address."