- Scott Barboza, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BILLERICA, Mass. – Before taking the ice in Arlington Catholic’s Division 1 North hockey first-round playoff game against Catholic Central rival Austin Prep, Cougars goaltender John Michael Busa told head coach Dan Shine that they would only need one goal.
“He told me, don’t worry about it,” Shine said.
Busa truly did have everything in control, making 31 saves in the 11th seed’s 3-0 win Wednesday night at Chelmsford Forum.
Senior captain Dan Graham took care of the rest with a three-point game, including two goals.
“It’s Austin Prep, so we know each game’s a battle,” Busa said. “We knew we had to play good defense all game and we couldn’t take any shifts off.”
Sixth-seeded Austin Prep outshot Arlington Catholic, 12-9, in the first period and got the better of the scoring opportunities.
However, the AC defense, led by Busa, was up to task, killing off two AP power play chances in the first. AP (10-7-4) was held to just one shot combined on those man-advantages.
Although AP again had the higher quality chances in the second, AC (9-5-8) got on the board first. As time expired on an AC power play, senior captain streaked across the blue line, first deking an AP defender out his skates before putting another move on Cougars netminder Nick Luise in close. Graham finished on the backhand to give AC the lead on the unassisted goal with 2:17 remaining in the second.
“They have a tendency to chip it into the middle of the rink,” Shine said about Graham’s goal, “so I told them if they stay in the middle, they could end up with some chances.”
Busa continued to shine during the second, providing several high quality saves. He robbed AP defenseman Michael Guiliano, flashing the pad with a left toe save on a one-timer blast from the point. Busa later robbed Ryan Quinn on a short-handed breakaway.
“He’s showing who he really is,” Shine said about Busa. “He’s been terrific for us the last couple of weeks and tonight, he was playing at a whole different level. He was focused, he was attacking the puck.”
Graham added his second of the game 6:46 into the third period, knocking home a rebound from the doorstep off Timothy Conroy’s shot.
Jon Byrne added the empty-netter with 25.8 seconds remaining with Graham picking up his third point of the game on the assist. Graham was checked on the play while dumping the puck toward goal at center ice and took an inadvertent stick to the chin. He left the rink with a bloodied jersey and bandaged, but no worse for the wear.
It’s all been part of the story for AC, which has been shorthanded of late and is playing without one of its top scorers, Shaun Teeven, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
“With Shaun out, that hurts,” Graham said. “He was a big part of what we did on the ice. But we’ve got a great bunch of young kids who got experience throughout the year. So they’ve definitely stepped up.”
AC advances to play Billerica in the quarterfinals.
AP head coach Louis Finocchiaro, while disappointed, took positives from his team’s season, which included an appearance on the Super Eight Watch List.
“We outshot them and we did that often this season, but we just weren’t a goal-scoring team,” Finocchiaro said. “I thought we had effort tonight, but 14 out of our 19 players are first-year varsity players. I thought for the most part this season, we did better than I anticipated. We played pretty well toward the end of the season, but we just needed to be more consistent.”