HYANNIS, Mass. – Matt Foley thinks there’s no better feeling in the road than being in a hostile rink, game placed on the blade of his stick.
“You can’t play in a better atmosphere than on the road,” the Springfield Cathedral senior defenseman and preseason ESPN Boston All-Stater said.
With his shootout goal in Panthers’ first-round game in the Cape Cod Freeze Out against host Barnstable, Foley was able to silence an otherwise rowdy barn.
No. 5 Cathedral, although dropping their first point of the season in a 3-3 tie with the Red Raiders, won the shootout 3-2 on Foley’s game-clincher to advance to Thursday’s tournament championship game against Newburyport.
The shootout goal was Foley’s second of the evening, having knotted the score 2-2 late in the second period.
Barnstable (2-0-2) came back to grab a point from the contest as junior winger Connor Fries netted his second goal of the game at 9:53 of the third period.
The teams skated to a scoreless overtime period before heading to the shootout. Then, Barnstable and Cathedral volleyed goals back and forth through two rounds before Panthers goaltender Adam Mercer (who replaced starter John Liquori in the shootout) made the first and only stop of the shootout session. Foley then ended it with a pretty back-handed finish.
Eighth-grader Cam Peritz had the Panthers (3-0-1) to a 1-0 lead just 2:28 into the game on Artie Potter’s set up from the wing.
Barnstable countered with Fries potting his first of the game, coming on a partial break. Working the left wing boards, Red Raiders leading scorer Max Willman lofted a perfect pass through the neutral zone, settling near the Panthers’ blue line on the tape of Fries’ stick. Fries took care of the rest with a deke and a back-hander past Liquori.
The Red Raiders then took a 2-1 lead just before the first intermission with Christian Holmes banking in a shot from the right-wing boards near the goal line.
Cathedral pulled even on Foley’s goal in the second before netting the go-ahead with Dominic Blad’s wrister at 2:54 of the third, with assists from Johnny Leonard and Jack Williams.
With a talented returning group this season, Barnstable head coach Scott Nickerson has bulked up the Red Raiders’ schedule with some of the state’s top programs.
Considering his team’s performance in their first “Super 8” challenge of the season, Barnstable could be primed to make some noise this postseason.
“They’re a perennial powerhouse as far as I’m concerned,” Nickerson said of Cathedral. “We’ve had good years in the past, but we haven’t had the schedule too often. So we’ve loaded up our schedule and try to get games like this every night. I think it can only make us stronger. I thought it was a very good showing for us.”
Of course, a big part of any Red Raiders run this season will be galvanized by a talented troika on their top line.
Fries and his two-goal game is just the latest cog in Barnstable’s top group to rack up the goals. Willman (2 A) has come out of the gates charging with nine goals scored in the Red Raiders’ last three games. Senior Eric Rogorzenski centers the line and is an adept passer with good vision.
“I think our top line is as good as any line that we’ve seen so far,” Nickerson said. “I think they can control the game. We count on them a lot. But I think in a game like that, my first line matches up very well against everybody, but I thought they had a little bit more depth than us.”
STEPPING INTO THE RUSH
Cathedral’s offense is rooted in its defense, in that the Panthers’ blue-liners (led by Foley and Williams) are comfortable stepping up into the rush and pushing play into their opponents’ zone.
Foley showed off his offensive acumen on his second-period goal. After gloving down a failed clearing attempt at Cathedral’s blue line, Foley coolly batted down the puck and started a slaloming run toward the Red Raiders’ crease. He also showed a strong finish on the backhand from low in the right side faceoff circle.
While natural ability takes care of so much, Foley credits Cathedral’s coaching staff with his development and comfort turning defense into offense.
“We’ve always had great defensive coaches, we have Coach [Mike] Rousseau, who was a great player at Holy Cross and a great coach. There’s Coach Mike Ashe, who played at Clarkson,” Foley said. “Offense has always been in our heads, Jack [Williams] and I, that’s the type of players we are. We’re not big bricks on the D end, we go both ways.”
Panthers head coach Brian Foley has seen a gradual progression through the years leading up to their senior season.
“They’re a big part of our offense, a big part of our team,” Brian Foley said of Matt Foley and Williams. “They’re veterans, they’re seniors and have been around for three years. They recognize when the play’s going up-ice that they can join in and maybe add some offensive opportunities. They’re hungry for points and they’re offensive-minded. I think that just comes through experience.”