BOSTON, Mass. -- A highly anticipated matchup of two of the state's top netminders ended up taking a backseat to a couple of periods of tremendous BC High pressure and balance across the scoresheet.
Five Eagles scored goals and Chris LaLiberte dished out a pair of assists as No. 2 BC High broke the game open with four scores in the second period and held on for a 5-2 victory over the 19th-ranked Pioneers at UMass-Boston's Clark Athletic Center Monday night.
Both Peter Cronin (BC High) and Mario Pizzeri (St. John's) were tabbed as ESPN Boston preseason All-State goalies and are expected to be key contributors as each club vies to return to the Super Eight in March. Pizzeri got off to a strong start, stopping 12 shots in the first period as the Eagles applied relentless pressure and outshot the Pioneers by a 13-2 margin.
The one that got through belonged to sophomore forward Connor Noonan, who stole the puck off the stick of a Pioneers defenseman, continued his momentum around the net and fired home a wrist shot to give BC High a 1-0 lead at 7:05 of the first.
Knowing that solving Pizzeri was no easy task, the Eagles looked to create chances by sending waves of bodies toward the Pioneers crease, hoping to create enough havoc to slip a couple through. They did exactly that in the second as freshman Billy Roche, junior All-Stater Tom Besinger and sophomores Tim Larocque and Jake Lemanski all knocked home pucks to help BC High extend its lead to 5-0 after two.
"He’s a very good goalie, he’s a big goalie, and he does a very good job of controlling the puck so we’ve been doing our best to try and get as many as we could to the net and get as many bodies to the net as we could," said Flaherty, explaining his team's gameplan against Pizzeri. "With a big kid like that, if you let him see the puck, he’s going to make the saves. Our hope was that we were going to get a lot of shots on him and we would get to the net with our sticks down and try to bang something home."
Roche's goal came courtesy of a beautiful pass from LaLiberte, who sent a perfect cross-ice pass to the freshman who was hustling from behind the play for the easy one-timer. Just under four minutes later, LaLiberte sent Besinger on a long rush, and the junior flashed across from the left wing to the middle to beat his man and catch Pizzeri down on the ice.
In the waning minutes of the second, the Eagles got another odd-man rush with Sam Topham flicking a pass across to Noonan in the middle for a tap over to Larocque for another open one-timer. 32 seconds later, Lemanski got into the act with assists from John Stillman and Aidan Foley.
"If you saw the goals, they were pretty much all right around the net," Flaherty continued. "That's what we knew we had to do because he’s a good goalie. We knew if we were going to have a chance to beat him it was going to be that way."
The Pioneers got one back early in the third as Chris Coveney and Danny Barlock executed a pretty, give-and-go with Coveney providing the finishing touch at 2:58. St. John's would another late as Connor Maloney tipped in a Bryan Nelson blast for the final margin.
STRONG PLAY ON SPECIAL TEAMS
The Eagles shorthanded unit had a particularly strong night, killing off all five power play chances for St. John's. With the extra man, BC High was 1-for-4 but created numerous scoring chances with only the strong play of Pizzeri keeping them from burying any more.
"We were moving the puck pretty well on the power play and guys were moving around, I think we got five or six shots on one power play alone," Flaherty said. "We felt comfortable and confident moving the puck around and getting pucks through. Man down, we have some guys who have been doing it for a couple of years with Ryan McDonough and Michael Brooks, Chris LaLiberte, Tom Besinger and Stevie DeForge. Those guys are up front, they work hard and they can fly so our hope that we were going to pressure them and make sure they didn't have clean shots and didn't have clean opportunities and I think we did that man down."
STRONG THIRD BY SJS IS SOMETHING TO BUILD ON
The Pioneers never let down for a second despite the 5-0 deficit and managed to control the tempo in the final frame while scoring a pair of goals. It was the kind of effort that coach Brian Murphy could smile about and gives his charges something on the plus side to take with them.
"It was a good test for us and I thought that we responded well, especially in the third period," Murphy said. "We've got some work to do and we're willing to put the time in and see if we can't improve as the year goes on. We've got these guys again at home at the last game of the season so if we can continue to progress and work hard and get a little bit better every day, we'll see where we are the end of the season.
BC HIGH 150TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION SATURDAY
Saturday afternoon at Clark Athletic Center, BC High hosts Rhode Island power Mount St. Charles in special contest designated as the Eagles 150th anniversary celebration game. The school has been in existence for 150 years and each team picks one game to serve as its special tribute.
Alumni, family and friends of the program are invited to come to a pregame skate from 3-4 p.m., followed by a special reception before the puck drops against the Mounties at 4:30 p.m.