- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALLSTON, Mass. – Showing great discipline in their defensive system, No. 4 Catholic Memorial beat ISL rival and fellow hockey powerhouse St. Sebastian’s, 2-1, Wednesday night at Harvard University’s Bright Hockey Center.
The Knights got 29 saves from junior goaltender Shane Starrett, but it was the efforts of the defensemen in front of the lanky goalie and the back check of CM’s forwards that helped ground the high-flying Arrows’ attack in the teams’ annual Kevin Mutch Cup game.
“Those five guys, they played terrific,” CM head coach Bill Hanson said of his blue-liners. “They played well because they knew they had support coming back from the forwards. They moved the puck well, they were opportunistic and our goaltender is our goaltender.”
Starrett was particularly strong in the second period, when St. Seb’s out-shot the Knights, 14-5.
Despite not putting a shot on goal through the first half of the period, the Knights took the advantage on the scoreboard, scoring two second-period goals.
John Malewicz found the back of the net on CM’s second shot of the period with 6:13 remaining. A little more than a minute later, senior captain and defenseman Jared Beckwith followed with the Knights’ second tally. Winger Beau Starrett took an assist on the play in addition to setting a screen in front of Arrows netminder Gordon Donnelly.
ADJUSTING ON THE FLY
Both teams exhibited supreme speed throughout. So it was the Arrows’ transition game that had Hanson worried during the first intermission.
“We had to make an adjustment,” Hanson said. “We concentrated on not letting them get chances in transition.”
In addition to limiting St. Seb’s chance coming through the neutral zone, the Knights sagged their forwards down low on defense, limiting the Arrows’ chances in close and keeping shots to the periphery.
“When you collapse all five guys down low, it makes it harder to those second and third chances,” St. Seb’s coach Sean McCann said. “We were focused more of creating offense off the rush by taking speed wide and then driving to the net hard.
“I think we’ve got to be able to create two ways, on the rush and in the offensive zone, whether it’s looking for a guy on the short side or getting shots on net. We have to get a little more traffic in front of the goaltender.”
ARROWS HAVE POINT
St. Seb’s has plenty of offensive firepower, and they’re young to boot. With eighth-grader Cameron Askew and ninth-grade defenseman Noah Hanifin garnering many headlines (both have already given commitments to Northeastern and BC, respectively), the Arrows will be a tough opponent in the Keller Division for years to come.
“We’re not the type of school that’s going to bring in juniors and senior to load up the team,” McCann said. “We’re a school that tries to bring in younger kids in, through the seventh, eighth and ninth grades and really develop them. That’s not going to change.
“But, when you have a good number of players returning from last season, and coming off a pretty successful season like last year, you expect those kids to mature and do better.”
The Arrows had several last-minute chances to tie the game. After a CM penalty with a little more than a minute to play in the third, the teams skated 4-on-4; St. Seb’s had an one-man advantage with Donnelly pulled from the net.
Although the Arrows were unable to finish and scrounge up the equalizer, there were a few things to take away:
Askew is the real deal: An exceptional rush, while splitting two CM defensemen during the second period was a rare lapse in the Knights’ otherwise solid night. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder came flying through the neutral zone, puck on a string, dangled and let off a back-hander that Starrett turned away. Along with his goal later in the period, Askew showed why he’s such a hot commodity at such a young age.
So is Danny O’Regan: While the youngsters grab more of the attention, let’s not forget about the senior captain, who’s scheduled to join a deep local class headed to Comm Ave. and join BU hockey in 2013. There was no better example of the hockey IQ he possesses than during a crucial point of the third period. With time winding down, O’Regan skated to a loose puck along the half wing boards. Then using his body, he shielded the puck from two on-coming CM defenders, creating a mismatch, before shoveling a nice saucer pass along the blue line for a shot from the point. It’s all those little things that help make good hockey teams and hockey players.
The Kevin Mutch Cup was awarded during a postgame ceremony. The annual matchup, which is dedicated in the memory of the former St. Seb’s and BU standout who was killed in 1992, is hosted by Mutch’s alma mater. The proceeds from the game are donated to Dana Farber.
“We always look forward to playing a team like CM, especially with their long and rich tradition there, like St. Sebastian’s does as well, it creates a great event that both teams look forward to,” McCann said. “It always means a lot going into this game and you could see it by the intensity of the game tonight.”