Boston High School: Chris Johnson

Boys All-Star: South 9, North 2

March, 31, 2013
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Several times during Saturday’s Fourth Annual Aleppo Shriners MSHCA High School Classic, South All-Star head coach Chris Ross commented to his assistant coaches Karl Infanger (Natick) and Derek Harrington (Medway) how amazing it was to be able to coach so many talented hockey players in one setting.

Ross was right. The level of talent he had at is disposal was eye-popping and certainly lived up to its billing inside the DCU Center.

Catholic Memorial’s Liam Coughlin, Natick’s Matt Kustra and Barnstable’s Max Wilman each netted a pair of goals in leading South to a 9-2 demolition of the North All-Stars.

“All of us coaches were remarking on the bench about the amount of great talent that was out there on the ice today,” said Ross, who serves as head coach at Medway High. “Our overall skill level was tremendous and it was a lot of fun to watch and coach these kids. I joked with our other coaches saying ‘don’t you wish you had this kind of talent during a regular high school season?’ For me personally, this event is great and it is a lot of fun to be a part of.”

South left little doubt as to who was the stronger team on this day. Four goals in a span of 5:26 of the opening period made believers out of everyone, including North. Xaverian’s Eddie Pratt got things started with a long-range goal from the high right slot coming at 5:31. Four minutes later Wilman bagged his first with a nifty right-to-left cross over in front of Burlington High goalie Derek Decastro, beating him with a back hand for a two-goal lead. South was not done by a long shot. A Coughlin laser low glove side was followed up by a Kustra marker just 14 seconds apart giving South a commanding 4-0 lead.

“To play in a game like is pretty awesome," said Coughlin, who scored 26 goals this past season for the Knights. “It was kind of weird though playing on the same side with some guys who were our main competitors and rivals during the season. We didn’t talk much but overall it was a lot of fun.”

North finally broke its offensive drought early in the second as the Chelmsford High duo of Tommy Bishop and Drew Dawson joined forces. From behind the South goal, Bishop lifted a perfect feed to Dawson, out in front, who one-timed his shot past Duxbury goaltender Chris Johnson to make it a 4-1.

But any thoughts of a comeback were short-lived. Kustra made it 5-1 late in the period to send South into the intermission on top by four goals.

“At the end of this season I sprained my ankle so this was the first time I had been on the ice since then," said Kustra. “I expected to play a few shifts but to score two goals is something I never expected to have a game like this."

As if leading by four goals wasn’t enough. South came out for the final period looking for more and got it.Wilman, voted the game’s MVP, and Medway’s Jack Kilty each found the back of the net to continue South’s lamp-lighting ceremony.

“Since we hadn’t practiced together prior to this game it took a little time for all of us to get use to one another on the ice but once we did we started to click,” Wilman said. “For me, it’s an honor to be named the MVP. I never expected to win it especially with (Liam) and a bunch of other guys who deserved it as well.”

Bishop got one back for North but Dennis Medeiros (Catholic Memorial) and Coughlin closed this one out with a late goal each.

D1 South: Xaverian 2, Duxbury 1 (SO)

March, 3, 2013
BOURNE, Mass. -- Xaverian certainly felt that justice was done when the dust settled at Gallo Ice Arena on Saturday afternoon as the 13th-seeded Hawks (9-7-5) scored a first-round MIAA state tournament win over fourth-seeded Duxbury (14-4-5).

Twice during the contest it appeared that Xaverian had scored a goal, only to have it disallowed. The Hawks thought they had scored an insurance marker at the end of the second period, only to have the officials rule that time had expired nanoseconds before the puck crossed the goal line. In overtime, Antonio Marini’s poke at his own rebound evaded Duxbury’s Chris Johnson and looked to be covered up in the net by a defenseman’s hand, and taken out.

Again the call didn’t go their way, and the game remained knotted at 1-1 and headed to a shootout after 57 minutes of hockey.

Hawks head coach Dave Spinale said that his team didn’t get down when the bounces did not go their way and that enduring that adversity paid off in the end. He implored the Hawks to remain focused, and work.

“We felt we had a couple of goals, but the referee explained to me that we didn’t, so we just kept going,” the coach said.

The shootout, like the game, was low-scoring and close. Of the nine skaters to take aim, only Eddie Pratt, of Xaverian, was able to sneak one by. Pratt, the first shooter for his team, temporarily lost the handle on his way to the net, but regained the handle and sniped one by Johnson to the stick side to put his team ahead.

Hawks goalie Matt Michals did the rest. After denying 27 of the 28 shots that Duxbury fired at him during the game, Michals stopped all five Duxbury penalty shooters. Each Dragon made bids to the stick side, low, but Michals flashed the right leg pad and kept all of them from getting past to move his team into the Division I south quarterfinals, where they will meet fifth-seeded Marshfield on Monday night at 7:30 in Bourne.

“Matty’s a junior, a two-year starter, he’s so focused,” Spinale said of his netminder. “He’s been great for us all year, he’s just a true competitor. They could have sent all 20 guys, but he was so dialed in. He wanted this win for these guys.

“His angles were good, he was attacking the puck and playing big.”

The lone mistake that Michals made in the game came in the third period. Xaverian scored early, and clung to that lead most of the way, but Duxbury’s Mike Doyle was able to collect the equalizer at 4:51 of the third as he camped on the far post and tipped home a shot from the right side by Nick Marrocco.

Duxbury, which owned the second period and parts of the third, was lifted by the Doyle score and thought that they were on their way at that point.

“It gave us a second life, we tried to keep things simple,” Duxbury head coach John Blake said. “We knew that the goalie was outstanding, so we thought our best chance was a rebound goal, or deflection, something like that to try to win it. They blocked a lot of shots, they kept us on the outside. I thought they did a nice job with their game plan.”

Xaverian’s lone goal during regulation proved that the difference between scoring and not scoring is often in the details, and it was a little thing that allowed the Hawks to grab the lead. Senior forward John Greeley came up with a failed clearing attempt by the Dragons on the left wing, collected it and spun to the net through the faceoff circle.

As Greeley’s skates split the faceoff dot, he gave a little cross-over deke, more a shrug than a move, but it was just enough to get Johnson to lean to his right a bit.

That move opened up the far post for Greeley, and he used it. The winger rifled one to the top, far corner, beating Johnson to the glove side at 6:41 of the first.

Johnson, and the entire Duxbury team, gave an effort that worthy of advancing into the quarters according to their coach. But, Blake said, at tournament time, it might come down to penalty shots, and that’s just the way that it goes.

“It is [a tough way to lose], but we know the rules and that’s what you sign up for,” Blake said. “I thought our guys left everything on the ice…I think they deserved a better fate, but the puck didn’t bounce our way.”

Going forward, things don’t get any easier for Xaverian. Next up for them is Atlantic Coast League champion Marshfield (17-6-0). The teams met way back in December, in a game where defense was hard to find. Xaverian won that night, 9-7. The Hawks hope for a similar outcome, but expect a much tighter hockey game this time around.

“I think Marshfield’s going to be a real good test. Both teams are playing well. I think it’s going to be a battle,” Spinale said.

Recap: No. 15 AC 1, No. 16 Duxbury 0

February, 21, 2013

FALMOUTH, Mass. -- It took only 26 seconds for Arlington Catholic to find its margin of victory Thursday in its Cape Cod Classic consolation game against Super 8 hopeful Duxbury.

It took a 45-minute defensive effort for the Cougars to claim a 1-0 win.

"We made it difficult to get through the neutral zone and took away the slot," Cougars head coach Dan Shine said. "I think, overall, we played a nice game defensively as a unit."

AC (11-6-4) immediately took to the offensive, scoring just 26 seconds in. Zach Blanch cashed in on the centering feed from Ryan Tierney, with Mark Vercellini credited with the second helper.

"From Mark [Vercellini] chipping it up, to the quick pass [from Tierney], there was no hesitation. It was an unselfish play," Blanch said.

Duxbury (14-3-5) was caught flat-footed for parts of the first and were outshot, 8-2.

However, the Dragons pushed the issue in the second, putting 13 shots on AC goaltender John Richard (20 saves), including some key scoring chances.

"We had our chances in that second period," Duxbury head coach John Blake said. "We hit a post, had a puck trickle through the crease, rebounds were there. For one reason or another, they weren't going to go in tonight."

The Dragons had trouble gaining speed through the neutral zone in the third, with AC clogging up the middle of the ice sheet.

Duxbury was unable to pull netminder Chris Johnson (17 saves) for much of the final minute, after Cougars center Steven Kehoe won an offensive zone faceoff.

"Kehoe, he was unreal," Blanch said. "Okie [Brendon O'Connell] won it do the boards, Kehoe tied it up and I stayed high. It worked out exactly like Coach drew it up."

Duxbury could look back at Thursday's performance as a missed opportunity, with Saturday's Super 8 selection meeting looming.

Yet, Blake said postgame that it was the last thing on the team's mind heading into action.

"It's something we really didn't discuss. We took a one-game-at-a-time approach. That was our mentality. We just wanted to come down here and win our last game of the season."

Recap: No. 3 BC High 3, No. 16 Duxbury 0

February, 17, 2013

FALMOUTH, Mass. -- In a day that could be labeled "Separation Saturday" in MIAA hockey, Duxbury needed to showcase their skills in the Cape Cod Classic despite rattling off an impressive 12-0-2 record since the start of 2013.

Too bad 2012 Super 8 finalist BC High happened to be their first-round opponent.

The No.3 Eagles shut out the Green Dragons for the first time this season in a 3-0 win behind 18 saves from Peter Cronin, along with two power-play goals at the Falmouth Ice Arena in the state’s premier regular season-ending tournament.

The Green Dragons (14-2-4) last lost on Dec. 27 to Norwood, but with playing in the Patriot League on the South Shore, the Super Eight competition committee needs to see some bigger wins in Duxbury’s nonconference play to impress the voters.

In the first of four quarterfinals, BC High scored the first of their two power play goals on the second Duxbury penalty of the game. Right off the opening man-advantage face-off, Ryan Shea shuffled the showdown behind him into the right slot where Tim Larocque cued up the lamp with a one-timer as Shea also provided the perfect screen in front.

“We got some good chances and we made some good saves, but Duxbury worked hard, they are well coached, so we knew we were in for a battle and got everything we thought we would get,” Eagles head coach John Flaherty said.

The Eagles held a slight 21-18 shot advantage in the end, but had a difficult time generating offense in front of the net with Duxbury dominating the physical play and controlling the puck with their forecheck, especially in the second period.

The Eagles failed to record a shot on goal for the first 7:57 of the second stanza but were also able to fend off the deep Duxbury bench. Duxbury head coach John Blake features three tough and scrappy lines, but his team also had trouble in front of the net due to the rangy defense of the Eagles.

“[In the] first period, [Duxbury] only had four shots on net and we had eight so we outshot them in the first but they work hard, skate well, throw three lines over and very good lines,” Flaherty said. “So I’m not sure Duxbury limited us as much as they just worked hard and made us work hard.”

The score remained 1-0 to start the third period and it looked as if Duxbury finally caught a break. BC High’s Sam Topham was called for a cross-checking penalty on a failed Nick Marrocco breakaway to give Duxbury a golden power play chance only 30 seconds into the final period.

But the Dragons' again struggled to set up a solid power play, going 0-4 in the game, and the defense turned the puck over in their own end just as the power play was about to expire. Senior forward Michael Brooks' came in trailing the dumped pass from the neutral zone and stole the puck right off the right post and punched home the Eagles’ second goal between the pads of senior goalie Chris Johnson. The short-hander came with three seconds remaining in the penalty at 1:56 of the third period and was the backbreaker.

"You know going in that you're not going to beat BC High in a slugfest," Blake said. "You've got to bear down defensively and try to get out of it, one-nothing or two-to-one."

Brooks’ hustle goal put the Green Dragons on their heels as Tom Besinger put things away with BC High's second power play goal of the game off an easy pass into the slot from Shea, who also assisted on Larcque’s first-period tally.

“The pressure by Michael Brooks and Ryan McDonough was the difference," Flaherty said. "They are captains, leaders, and do little things well. They are short-handed specialists if you will and the turnover happened and Michael Brooks walked in and put it away.”

Franklin defends home turf in 7v7 win

July, 23, 2012
FRANKLIN, Mass. -- Heading into the final of Sunday’s Under Armour Northeast 7v7 football tournament, host Franklin High had an unsavory memory from last year on its mind.

While the Panthers’ 28-26 win over Hockomock League rival Mansfield doesn’t quite make up for the 27-0 hurting the Hornets put down in November, the Franklin squad came away with a modicum of payback and defending their home turf in the process.

“This is a springboard for us,” Panthers junior quarterback Dan McDermott said.

The Panthers earned a spot in Wednesday’s New England championship at Gillette Stadium with an unconventional approach at quarterback.

This fall, Franklin head coach Brad Sidwell will have a log jam at the position. But, on Sunday, the Panthers used the depth at the position to their advantage, cycling in three quarterbacks to start each series on offense.

Senior Nick Canesi, junior Nick Zucco and McDermott marched the Panthers up and down the field throughout the afternoon. With each first down, touchdown and victory throughout the day, the Panthers could be heard across the complex of fields, spurred on by a healthy contingent of spectators from Franklin.

No matter which signal-caller was taking snaps, the Panthers’ receiving corps of Rob Dellorco, Brandon Eccher, Quinten Harrell, Chris Johnson and Joe Mammola kept the chains moving and the points piling up.

“We knew we could rely on them to make the play when it counted,” Canesi said. “We have confidence in all of them.

While defense might not come to mind in offseason passing tournament, the Panthers claimed the championship thanks to a defensive stand in the final minute against Mansfield. After reaching the end zone in a last-minute comeback bid, the Hornets were shut down by Franklin on a 2-point try as time expired in the final.

One last time, the Franklin sideline exploded, pouring onto the field for the most raucous celebration of the day.

The trio of Franklin quarterbacks were under the tutelage of one of the Panthers’ finest to play the position. Merrimack College sophomore quarterback Nick Colson has spent his summer months in his hometown guiding the Panthers offense through their passing league schedule.

While Colson is well familiar with the Panthers’ spread attack, he also put his imprint on Franklin’s summer offense, going with an upbeat tempo.

“It’s great having him around and learning from him,” Zucco said. “He knows the system and knows what to call. Plus he’s a kid, he’s not that much older than us and able to relate to us.”

Having reached the finals, Franklin and Mansfield advance to the regional finals at Gillette on Wednesday. So it’s possible the familiar Hockomock opponents could meet again. Another kind of rematch that could be in store is a potential meeting between the Hornets and Reading, the winner of Saturday’s East tournament. The Rockets and Mansfield return to Gillette, the site of their epic 2010 Super Bowl matchup.

East finalist St. John’s Prep will also be among the teams at Gillette in addition to “Wild Card” entrants – teams advancing to the quarterfinals that were picked out of a hat. One team confirmed by tournament organizers to be among the field is Essex Junction (Vt.).

Lofton lobs up winning play in D1 South

March, 11, 2011

BOSTON, Mass. -- Why play hard when you can play smart?

With three seconds left in the game, Mansfield’s Michael Lofton was being contested for the potential go ahead point after battling back to break even after being down as many as eight points in the fourth quarter. Instead of scoring point 18, he dumped off to his teammate Chris Johnson, who had scored earlier in the fourth, for the go ahead win, sending the Hornets (24-2) into the Eastern Mass Division 1 finals against St. John’s Prep on Tuesday night.

“Michael’s been our best player all year long,” Mansfield head coach Michael Vaughn said. “But the staple of our team has been our ability to pass the basketball and share. I really think if Michael goes up with that, now it’s a challenged shot, the result might have been a little bit different, but just playing the way we’ve been playing all year, he throws the extra pass to an uncontested (player).”

“It feels good that I know that I have other scorers that can score like CJ,” said Lofton (16 points, 12 rebounds, three steals). “He’s a great scorer. He’s one of those 50/50 winners that can get the ball and score in the paint… He came through for us.”

With 1:50 left in the game, after Lofton got one of his three steals on the day, Jeff Hill made the layup in transition to tie the game at 42.

“The shot clock was running down and I just took it to the hoop, which was open so I took the layup,” said Hill (6 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals)

Luke Westman made the return basket for Newton North (19-7) on as assist by Avi Adler-Cohen to put the Tigers up 44-42. Lofton got an offensive rebound off of a miss on the next possession and tied the game up again, at 44. Playing tenacious defense, the Hornets had the Tigers on their heels, and as Adler-Cohen dove out of bounds near the scorers’ table to keep the wayward ball in play, Lofton intercepted the save, zoomed half the distance of the court to the basket and flushed the ball with :35 left, sending the Mansfield pride soaring behind the same basket that he had just kissed with the ball, putting his team up 46-44.

“I was getting a little tired,” added Lofton. “But the drive to keep me going, keep me on my feet was that this is my senior year, and we had to put it all out there to win this game. Not many people get this opportunity to play at The Garden twice.”

After a Newton North timeout, Tevin Falzon (14 points, 16 rebounds, two blocks) drained another two free throws after being fouled on a rebound to tie the game up at 46. Coming down the court, the Tiger defense was expecting for Lofton to take the last second shot, but he found the rolling Johnson down low who put it in without opposition, putting the Hornets up 48-46 with three seconds left.

“He had great court vision looking for me and finding me under the basket wide open,” said Johsnon. “I’m just glad that I finished it.”

The ensuing inbounds pass was deflected by Johnson (12 points, five rebounds, four steals), sending the ball up in the air and the Mansfield boys into each other’s arms, celebrating their comeback victory, as Newton North held the lead since 4:25 in the second quarter, when a Brian Santana layup pushed the Tigers past the Hornets 18-17.

“I think that’s how our whole team has been made up all year,” added Vaughan of Johnson, who had three steals in the first quarter, but didn’t make another standout defensive stop until the last seconds of the game. “Guys like Johnson who come up with big plays when we need them.”

No. 11 Mansfield stays hot, cools No. 19 Franklin

January, 30, 2011
MANSFIELD, Mass. -- The highly-anticipated matchup between two top-20 teams in this week’s poll went No. 11 Mansfield High’s way, as the Hornets remained red hot with a 71-66 win over No. 19 Franklin Sunday evening at James Albertini Memorial Gym.

The victory was the eighth straight for the Hornets, who had already secured a spot in the MIAA Division I South Sectional Tournament after a 62-34 win over Sharon Friday night.

“Our defense has been the best since I got here,” said Mansfield head coach Michael Vaughn, whose team has yielded an average of just 44 points per game during the win streak. “Early on [this season] you couldn’t have said that. But the team has worked hard and gets rebounds and gets blocked shots when they need to.”

The effort was almost for naught, as the Hornets (12-2, 9-0) had to hold off a rally by the Panthers in the closing minutes, mainly because of some dismal foul shooting. With a chance to put the game away, Mansfield (who shot 19-for-34 from the foul line for the game) instead allowed Franklin to hang around because of a 3-for-10 effort at the line down the stretch.

“I thought we played to not lose instead of to win,” said Vaughn. “You can’t go up by 14 points and then shoot like that at the line down the stretch. I don’t know if we froze there at the end and let them hit a couple of 3’s, but we knew Franklin wouldn’t go away.”

Mansfield was paced by Chris Johnson’s 16 points, but it was senior Michael Lofton who controlled the game, posting a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Terrence O’Mara (11 points), Brian Hershman (10) and Joe Gracia (9) rounded out a balanced scoring attack that saw eight players score at least six points.

“They were mentally exhausted at the end,” Vaughn said. “They executed the game plan and competed out there. Some things didn’t go the way we wanted at the end, and it almost came back to cost us.”

Franklin (11-3, 7-2) lost for the third time in five games. The Panthers did break a two-game losing streak with a pair of wins over Sharon (76-49) and Canton (71-51) earlier this week, but couldn’t crack the Mansfield defense. Kyle Gibson led the way with 21 points, Tyler Kessler added 11 and Tim Garvey contributed 10. The team will have little time to think about the loss, as they face King Philip Tuesday, followed by a rematch with Stoughton Friday night. The Panthers won the first contest in overtime, 79-78, on Dec. 21.

The Hornets remained undefeated in league play with the win, and they haven’t lost since a 53-51 setback to Brockton Jan. 4. But the schedule down the stretch is tough as the team looks to complete an undefeated season in league play, including three road games and contests remaining against the big four – North Attleboro (Tuesday), at King Philip (Friday), Attleboro (Feb. 11) and at Franklin (Feb. 15).

“We have to stay focused at the job at hand and the kids can’t settle,” said Vaughn. “The league title is still on the line, and we have those big four games left. We need to take care of what is in front of us, compete every night and put ourselves in a position to win every night. The job is to get into the tournament, get a home game and see what we can do when we are playing at a high level.”