Boston High School: Fairfield Prep

Hendricken emerges from pack at MSC Face-Off

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
Without question Mount St. Charles, La Salle Academy and Hendricken have fielded the state’s dominant boys’ hockey teams for decades. But for the most part, the only time each is under the same roof at the same time is when they play in the annual Mount St. Charles Holiday Face-Off Tournament at Adelard Arena along with five top teams from five different states.

Rhode IslandNot surprisingly, the fact Hendricken claimed the championship with a 3-0 record may indicate the Hawks could be the team to beat not only for the Division I regular-season championship but also for the tournament title.

In a span of 72 hours last weekend, the Hawks nipped Connecticut’s Fairfield Prep, 4-3; beat division rival La Salle, 6-3; and held off New York’s St. Joseph Collegiate, 4-3.

“It’s good to win a championship,” said Hawks coach Jim Creamer. “It’s never easy to win a championship – one reason being we only play two each season, this tournament at the Mount and then the league tourney. Just to win one is a major accomplishment.”

Tournament MVP Andy Fera scored twice in the finals and was voted to the All-Tournament Team along with fellow Hawks Jamie Armstrong (forward), Matt Kenneally (goalie) and Bryce Dolan (defenseman).

Fera’s second goal gave Hendricken a 4-2 lead and, obviously, proved to be the game-winner.

“He’s our go-to guy … our ‘Mr. Consistent,’” said Creamer. “You get the same thing out of Andrew all the time and that’s the best part about him. To say that fourth goal was big would be an understatement.”

It also would be an understatement to say that beating three quality teams will aid the Hawks in their pursuit of the state championship they last won in 2012.

“We had three good games with some highs and some lows,” said Creamer. “But over the course of those three days, we really did a good job. We got better as a team. We were put in some tough spots but we’re thrilled with (the championship).

“It was a grind to get through this tournament when you have teams like Fairfield, St. Joseph’s, La Salle and Mount. Really, it was a daunting task for our guys.”

Mount implodes: In baseball, batting .333 is excellent.

But in a three-game hockey tournament, batting .333 (i.e. one win and two losses) isn’t anything to brag about especially if you’re Mount St. Charles which has captured a mind-boggling 43 state championships.

The fact Mount was blanked, 4-0, by Fairfield Prep in the third game did little for coach Dave Belisle’s peace of mind.

In fact, Belisle kept the door to the Mount’s locker room closed for a good half-hour while he “addressed” his players about their lackluster performance in the tournament.

“We only played two-and-a-half good periods,” Belisle said of Mount’s loss to Fairfield. “That’s the disappointing part. When you only play two-plus periods against a good team like that, you’re not going to get it done.

“I’ve been preaching it for a long time, that you have to play three full periods of hockey. Even in our division (Division I-Cimini), we’ve only played hard for two periods in the games we’ve won.”

In retrospect, the Jesuits could have won by more than 4-0 if goalie Brian Larence had not made 47 saves.

“I know Brian wouldn’t want me to say he played a good game because we lost 4-0,” said Belisle. “He’d want me to say he didn’t get it done in the third period.

“Overall, we’ve had our fair share of injuries and we’re young. We have eight freshmen on our roster. But this is about giving the effort for 45 minutes – from the opening faceoff until the final buzzer.”

Smooth sailing for Clippers: Cumberland last won the Division II state championship at the end of the 2007-08 season. But Cumberland delivered the proverbial message by upsetting Division I foe Barrington, 3-2, in the opening round of the Burrillville Winter Classic on Monday.

If the Clippers had beaten a Division III team, the victory would have been expected. But to beat a Division I team is a completely different story.

“Barrington plays in the state’s top division,” said Cumberland coach Mark Andreozzi. “For us to skate with Barrington and play well and get the win is definitely a feather in our caps.

“It was good to gain confidence … to know we could go out and play at their level.”

The story within the story was the fact Andreozzi played all three of his goaltenders en route to his team’s upping its overall record to 5-0-0. Leo Lake, Zack Kay and Liam Curren combined for a modest total of eight saves.

“I wanted to play all three because they work hard in practice and really could benefit from the experience of playing against a top team like Barrington,” said Andreozzi. “Granted, it was a non-league game. But it’s just as important as the ones we play in our division (II-North).”

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

Recap: LaSalle Academy (R.I.) 1, Franklin 0

December, 27, 2013
WOONSOCKET, R.I. – As Franklin traveled to play Rhode Island power LaSalle Academy, Thursday, as part of Mount St. Charles’ 18th annual Holiday Faceoff tournament, the Panthers were looking for a bounce-back to a sizeable loss to Malden Catholic (an exclusion game) and a penalty-kill collapse against Lincoln-Sudbury.

But as Franklin was shutout, 1-0, after a 29-save performance from Rams junior goaltender Taylor Walsh at Adelard Arena, the Panthers were left kicking themselves again.

“He won the game, he flat out stole the game from the other team,” Rams head coach Mike Gaffney said. “Many, many of his saves were the kind preventing a certain goal. Sometimes goaltenders, the shot hits them, they’re in the right position. That’s hard enough to do. But he stole it away from them.”

This time, the Panthers (1-3-0) had more than plenty chances of their own on the power play, including a pair of sandwiched 5-on-3 chances to end the second period, but LaSalle (2-2-0) withstood it all.

The Rams tallied the lone goal of the game at 9:08 of the first, as junior forward Joe Manown tapped home a loose puck from the goalmouth, amidst a logjam of traffic in front of senior goaltender Mike Donadio (21 saves).

Still, with eight power-play opportunities to their credit, the Panthers had no one to blame but themselves.

“We have some really nice set-ups, getting into the zone and setting up what we wanted to, but the passes were in the skates, and on the power play, if you want to get a shot, you can’t do that,” Franklin head coach Chris Spillane said. “When we did put it on guys’ sticks, we weren’t ready or we didn’t handle it well.”

The Panthers were advantaged with a string of five straight power plays, elapsing over the final 10-and-a-half minutes of the second. During that span, Franklin was given a 5-on-3 opportunity for 38 seconds, which would carry over into the third. To make matters worse for LaSalle, a cross-checking call was also assessed as time ran out in the second, meaning Franklin would start the third period with piggy-backing power plays.

“That’s scary because they get to set up the opportunity exactly as they want it to out of the break,” Gaffney said.

Yet, the Panthers were able to muster just two shots in more than two minutes of 5-on-3 play.

“We’ve been at it a good month now, but I confessed to our team that we haven’t really done a lot of work on [the penalty kill],” Gaffney said. “But we have the right guys out there, the four defensemen, [Ben] Aldrich, [Nick] Altieri, [Ryan] Kelly and [Matt] Manown. I thought [forward Ryan] Tracy did a terrific job, too, when it was 5-on-3, up top.”

Yet, the Panthers seemed to find their stride midway through the third, as part of a 10-shot assault on Walsh in the period.

But Franklin was subject to a little more self-sabotage, as the Panthers got themselves into penalty trouble and a 5-on-3 situation, which LaSalle held in the latter stretches of the third.

“We finally had some serious momentum and then we give up the 5-on-3 and it gets taken away,” Spillane said. “It was all mental mistakes. They were all behind the play, not one of them needed to happen.”

Franklin must bounce back quickly as it prepares to face reigning Connecticut state champion Fairfield Prep tomorrow (2 p.m.) in the second round, while LaSalle hopes to keep the momentum rolling against RIIL rival Bishop Hendricken (6 p.m.)

Previewing the Mt. St. Charles Holiday Face-off

December, 17, 2013
With snow hampering some of the early schedule across the region’s ponds, let’s take a look at one of the premier holiday tournaments coming soon.

Per tournament director Larry O’Donnell, here’s a look at another loaded 8-team field at this year’s Mount St. Charles (R.I.) Holiday Face-off Tournament. Some of the best programs in the Ocean State, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania will be on hand for what should be a highlight to the New England high school hockey calendar.

This year’s entrants:
Mount St. Charles
Franklin (Mass.) High School
Bishop Hendricken (R.I.)
La Salle Academy (R.I.)
Bishop Guertin (N.H.)
Fairfield Prep (Conn.)
St. Joseph’s (N.Y.)
La Salle College (Penn.)

First-round schedule:
(Games scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 26)
Fairfield Prep vs Bishop Hendricken High School, 2 p.m.
Bishop Guertin vs LaSalle College, 4 p.m.
LaSalle Academy vs Franklin, 6 p.m.
Mount St. Charles Academy vs St. Joseph's, 8 p.m.

Second round games (Friday, Dec. 27):
Matchups and face-off times, TBA

Championship and consolation games (Saturday, Dec. 27):
Matchups and face-off times, TBA

Tournament notes: Mounties head coach Bill Belisle enters the RIIL season with more than 900 career wins and 31 state championships. … Fairfield Prep head coach Matt Sather has accumulated more than 230 career wins in 14 seasons at the helm. … Matt Barnaby, son of the former Buffalo Sabre of the same name, plays for St. Joe’s of Buffalo. Also, there’s another Sabres connection, as St. Joe’s head coach Richard Crozier is the son of former Sabres coach Joe Crozier. … La Salle Academy (R.I.) coach Mike Gaffney served under New Jersey Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello while at Providence College. … Guertin head coach Gary Bishop was on the staff of former UMass-Lowell coach Billy Reilly.

Super 8 tournament projection (Version 2.0)

February, 22, 2013
As advertised, here’s our final Super 8 hockey tournament 10-team projection ahead of Saturday morning's selection committee meeting.

Of course, we’d like to hear your input, and feel free to give us your 10-team field below in the Comments field or via Twitter (@espnbostonhs).

1. St. John’s Prep (17-2-1)

Seeding in Version 1.0 Projection: 2

Goal Differential: +63

Why they’re in this spot: Last time out, we slotted the Eagles behind No. 1 Springfield Cathedral. While the teams skated to a 1-1 tie last Saturday, Prep vastly outshot the Panthers, who needed a late third-period goal to come away with a point. Emerging from a 2-1 loss against Central Catholic on Dec. 26, the Catholic Conference champions have been a complete, balanced team deserving of the top billing.

2. Springfield Cathedral (16-1-4)

Seeding in Version 1.0 Projection: 1

Goal Differential: +69

Why they’re in this spot: The Panthers were ticketed for the top spot until the last week of the season. Is there a cause for concern that they dropped three of an available six points during the last week of the season? Well, it’s not time to hit the panic button, but perhaps they’ve lost some momentum. Or, perhaps not having to play to the burden of entering the tournament with an unbeaten record will help them in the long run.

3. Austin Prep (13-1-6)

Seeding in Version 1.0 Projection: 7

Goal Differential: +42

Why they’re in this spot: No team did more to bolster their resume in the season’s final week than the Cougars. AP claimed wins over fellow Super 8 hopefuls Hingham and BC High before walloping Falmouth 9-0 in the Cape Cod Classic championship game – a truly impressive display. The fact that they failed to claim the Catholic Central Large title cannot hurt them at this juncture.

4. BC High (13-3-3)

Seeding in Version 1.0 Projection: 3

Goal Differential: +28

Why they’re in this spot: Truth be told, the Eagles’ loss to AP on the Cape may have cost them the No. 3 seed. What’s more surprising was the manner in which BC High lost that tilt. A typically sound defensive squad was found running around some in the third period. They’ll be sure to tighten up for the playoffs, as they’ve been among the statewide leaders in GAA all year.

5. Reading (16-1-5)

Seeding in Version 1.0 Projection: 4

Goal Differential: +55

Why they’re in this spot: The Rockets move down a spot from the last projection, on an account of AP’s RPI boost from the Cape Cod Classic. That could actually help Reading in the fact that they played potential first-round opponent BC High during the regular season. While the Eagles skated away with a 2-0 victory in the teams’ Dec. 29 meeting, the fact that Rockets skated with them and have a familiarity with BC High’s style of play could improve their prospects at getting through in a three-game series.

6. Catholic Memorial (12-6-2)

Seeding in Version 1.0 Projection: 9

Goal Differential: +40

Why they’re in this spot: The Knights had a mid-season dry spell, but closed with authority with a trifecta of wins over Super 8 Watch List teams in the final week against Braintree, Central Catholic and Xaverian, improving their RPI standing and moving them out of the dreaded win-or-go-home play-in round. Most impressive of all was the Knights’ 4-3 win over Connecticut powerhouse Fairfield Prep in Bridgeport. It might not look as familiar to the committee voters as the aforementioned opponents, but it should be considered A-No. 1 of their marquee wins on the season.

(Play-in seeds, determined by team records):

7. Archbishop Williams (12-4-4)

Seeding in Version 1.0 Projection: 5

Goal Differential: +44

Why they’re in this spot: The Bishops move down into the play-in group on the heels of a performance on Cape Cod that wasn’t what they wanted, only to be deemed by a win over Hingham on the final day of their season – a must have. Archies still shows some lacking in the marquee win department (Chelmsford?), but are propelled by their CCL title and a gut-check win over the Harbormen on the most important day of the year.

8. Central Catholic (13-5-3)

Seeding in Version 1.0 Projection: 8

Goal Differential: +35

Why they’re in this spot: I believe the Raiders are free and clear as the DCL/MVC Division 1 champions. Count their emphatic wins over runner-up Chelmsford as their raison d'Ítre. Still, the committee will have to get over a troubling lack of goal-scoring in the last week, when they scored just two goals in three games, as well as being shut out in back-to-back season-ending losses to rival Andover and Catholic Memorial.

9. Hingham (13-7-2)

Seeding in Version 1.0 Projection: 6

Goal Differential: +40

Why they’re in this spot: Let’s kick off this pick with a preamble.

I’m a devotee of the Showtime drama “Dexter”. For those of you who need an introduction, the main fulcrum on which the story of protagonist Dexter Morgan – a forensics examiner for Miami Metro homicide who is himself a serial killer – works is something he describes as his “Code.” To that notion, I’m going to go ahead and break my own “Code” while making this final bold selection for the Super 8 field. There is nothing that should lead me to pick the Harbormen ahead of their South Shore rivals from Duxbury. The Dragons hold advantages in all the key categories: record, RPI, goal differential and, perhaps most importantly, the marquee win category. Hingham’s stunning lack of a true marquee win against a Super 8-ready team is implausible. Meanwhile, Duxbury can point to an early win against Xaverian. But in truth, the teams are quite even; we witnessed as much in the Cape Cod Classic when the teams played to a 1-1 tie (in the eyes of the MIAA), although the Dragons claimed a victory in the shootout (for tournament purposes only).

So why Hingham? Well, like many of the passion plays told through the eyes of Dexter’s extreme form of Code of Hammurabi justice, I’m going with instinct, or what you might call gut feeling (for those who believe in such things). I’m ignoring what is logical and going with what I’ve witnessed. In not so many words, Hingham should be in. This pick isn’t who could be here, or who will be here – again, I’m breaking my self-imposed code. Perhaps I’m playing into history. After all, the Hingham hockey name carries weight, as does Duxbury for that matter. I think we’ve seen in recent years who the ghost of Super 8 Past can influence things at the table (Needham last year, anyone?). And so I’m breaking my code. I think that Saturday’s tournament selection meeting will play out with a Hingham vs. Duxbury quandary as its focal point – a la last year’s Marshfield vs. St. John’s (Shrewsbury) predicament.

The question now remains whether the selection committee will break its own “code.”

10. Malden Catholic (11-6-3)

Seeding in Version 1.0 Projection: 10

Goal Differential: +20

Why they’re in this spot: A tenth-seed in title only. You can make the case for the Lancers to move into the Top 6 after handing Springfield Cathedral its only loss of the season in their season finale. My take is coming from the perspective that a team’s entire resume should be considered. Also, points in the Catholic Conference should count for something, with Catholic Memorial finishing third in the league standings; I’m going to go with the Lancers as the final representative from the MIAA’s toughest hockey league. Of the teams that precede them in the play-in games, they’re the only shoo-in. Added benefit for hockey watcher’s everywhere: how about a Prep vs. MC first-round matchup in a three-game series? Not too shabby.

Super 8 tournament projection (Version 1.0)

February, 15, 2013
As advertised, here’s our initial Super 8 hockey tournament, 10-team projection.

We still have a pivotal week ahead for the teams looking to qualify, including some must-see holiday week tournaments, so there could be plenty of movement on this list.

We’ll have Version 2.0 to you next Friday, following the completion of the remaining games of note and before Saturday’s Super 8 selection committee meetings.

Of course, we’d like to hear your input, and feel free to give us your 10-team field below in the Comments field or via Twitter (@espnbostonhs).

1. Springfield Cathedral (15-0-3)

Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking: 1

Why they’re in: No matter what happens this weekend and at their host holiday tournament next week, carrying an undefeated record into final week of the season and playing a schedule that includes nearly all the teams that will be mentioned in this piece there’s no question about the Panthers’ resume. The question is where they’ll end up and it most assuredly will be in the top six.

Why they’re in this spot: For now, they hold the poll position as the lone Super 8 Watch List team without a loss to date. But Saturday’s test against No. 2 St. John’s Prep will open the debate.

2. St. John’s Prep (15-2-0)

Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking: 2

Why they’re in: The Eagles captured their first Catholic Conference championship since 1994, going 7-1-0 in the state’s elite league, so they’re a shoo-in. They are perhaps the state’s deepest team from the goal out.

Why they’re in this spot: Prep has been perhaps the state’s most consistent team and enters Saturday’s pivotal matchup at Cathedral with a 10-game winning streak in tow. The No. 1 spot is in sight.

3. BC High (11-2-3)

Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking: 3

Why they’re in: The Catholic Conference runners-up led the state in RPI ranking in terms of strength of schedule with their only losses of the season coming against the two aforementioned teams.

Why they’re in this spot: Again, there’s nobody ahead of them that hasn’t beat them and there’s nobody behind them they haven’t beat.

4. Reading (14-1-5)

Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking: 4

Why they’re in: The Rockets claimed the Middlesex Liberty (Large) Division title, compiling one of the state’s best goals scored to goals allowed ratio (77-25). While Reading’s strength of schedule might not compare to some of the parochial schools making this list, as the top team in the state’s best public school conference, that’s reason enough for automatic entry into The 8.

Why they’re in this spot: The Rockets skated with No. 3 BC High (a 2-0 loss at UMass-Boston) in a competitive December game. That’s why they should be right there with them in seeding. However, they do have some unfinished business with a Middlesex League matchup against fellow Watch List team Wilmington.

5. Archbishop Williams (11-2-4)

Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking: 9

Why they’re in: The Bishops earned the Catholic Central Large championship with Wednesday’s 4-4 tie against Austin Prep, their first outright league title since 1997. While Archies (7-0-3 in CCL) claimed the title over AP (6-0-4) by just one point, laying claim to the title all but assures the Bishops a seat at the Super 8 table.

Why they’re in this spot: The Bishops have just one “quality win” over a fellow Super 8 watch list opponent (Barnstable on Jan. 9), so putting them much higher than here would be a stretch. However, Archies will have at least one shot at another Watch List-er at the Cape Cod Classic this week. A victory in such a game should all but do it for the Bishops.

6. Hingham (12-5-1)

Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking: 6

Why they’re in: Because we couldn’t feasibly have Super 8 tournament without the Harbormen, right? On this week’s podcast (LISTEN HERE), Bruce Lerch and I discussed Hingham’s troubling lack of a marquee win to date. I think the Harbormen will emerge with at least one of those in the upcoming Cape Cod Classic. But, even still, going it alone, playing as an independent, Hingham takes on all the best the state (and other states) have to offer. They’re in; it’s just a matter of where.

Why they’re in this spot: Again, the lack of a marquee win prohibits them from moving much higher than here (at least for now), but again, I’d like to see at least one quality win from the Harbormen in the final week to feel safe about this pick.

(Play-in seeds, determined by team records):

7. Austin Prep (10-1-6)

Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking: 5

Why they’re in: A 2-2 tie against Matignon last week cost the Cougars a share of the CCL title, and it could cost them a top-six spot. I still believe the Cougars will carry a second CCL selection into the tournament. After all, it would be mighty hard to shut out a team with one loss on the season. Yet again, I’d group AP in with the teams that would be greatly advantaged by a win in Falmouth in the final week because they’re just a tad shy (to date) in the marquee win category.

8. Central Catholic (13-3-3)

Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking: 10

Why they’re in: The DCL/MVC champions (11-0-0 in league play) will almost assuredly be the conference’s lone representative, having swept the season series from fellow Watch List-er and league rival Chelmsford. While it happened at the beginning of the season, the Raiders hold one of the more impressive wins on their resume of all Super 8-considered teams – a 2-1 victory over St. John’s Prep in December. Still, there will be many sets of eyes on Central’s Monday matinee matchup with Catholic Memorial at Walter Brown.

9. Catholic Memorial (8-6-2)

Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking: 7

Why they’re in: Once again, the Knights find themselves near the end of their schedule and haven’t yet clinched a postseason tournament berth. I think that will occur early next week, but CM would be woe to head into Friday’s Catholic Conference finale with Xaverian having not done so. Again, as it has been in the last two seasons when the Knights have failed to qualify, if they qualify, they’re in. Yet, CM would do well to run the table in its remaining four games against fellow Watch List-ers Braintree, Central Catholic and Xaverian, in addition to Connecticut power Fairfield Prep.

10. Malden Catholic (8-6-3)

Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking: 8

Why they’re in: As in CM’s circumstance, if the Lancers qualify, they’re in. The two-time defending Super 8 champions have been hovering around .500 for most of the season and fighting for their playoff lives. Last week’s emphatic 4-0 win over Central Catholic was a huge shot in the arm. But again, the Lancers are looking at winning out (remaining schedule: Mount St. Charles, St. Mary’s of Lynn, and Springfield Cathedral/ Needham at Cathedral tournament) as their best chance at making it in. Just imagine the disgust of a potential No. 1 seed that could be staring at an opening-round, three-game series against this group. No thanks.

Recap: No. 3 BC High 4, No. 8 CM 3

February, 3, 2013

BOSTON -- BC High senior captain Tom Besinger was quick to return the No. 18 jersey that he borrowed from teammate Aidan Foley after Saturday's Catholic Conference clash with rival Catholic Memorial. Foley just better hope that Besinger left a few goals in thats sweater for him.

Besinger scored the first and last goals of the game, the latter capping a stirring, three-goal, third period comeback that lifted the third-ranked Eagles to a 4-3 victory over the eighth-ranked Knights in the 13th Annual Ed Wright Memorial Hockey Classic at Walter Brown Arena.

"I gave it right back to him. I'll say I forgot my shirt at home," joked Besinger afterward.

[+] EnlargeTom Besinger
Scott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comOn the 50th anniversary of the BC High-Catholic Memorial rivalry, alumni Jack Parker (CM) and Jerry York (BC High) were on hand to award the game MVP award to Eagles center Tom Besinger.
Besinger was named Most Valuable Player of the game and was presented the trophy by Boston College coach Jerry York (BC High Class of 1963) and Boston University coach Jack Parker (Catholic Memorial Class of 1963). Both were first-line players in the initial game between the two programs in 1962, and they were joined by other members of those squads as well as past Wright Cup MVP winners to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of hockey between the two schools.

What the BC High (10-2-2, 5-1-2 Catholic Conference) captain did not leave at home were his leadership skills and playmaking abilities. Besinger scored the game's first goal at 3:29 of the second period, banging home a one-timer off a feed from Connor Noonan.

Despite giving up the early score, Catholic Memorial (8-6-2, 2-5-0) was in command of the game for the first two frames, piling up 34 shots and getting three straight goals from Liam Coughlin, Beau Starrett and Jack O'Hear to take a 3-1 lead into the third.

BC High head coach John Flaherty knew his team needed a spark and said it was Besinger who provided it, first in the locker room between periods, and then out on the ice in the third.

"Tommy Besinger is a player, he's a competitor. He works hard and I think he took it personal that we were getting outworked the first two periods," Flaherty said. "He was the most vocal in the locker room after the first two periods so I knew he'd be ready for the third. He has the ability to take it to another level and he did that tonight. He raised his game to another level and he put a few away, which we needed. Leadership we needed, and he provided it."

The Eagles responded with their best period of the night and the comeback started when defenseman Sam Topham sniped a shot from the left wing circle at 7:54. Just under two minutes later, a bad CM giveaway at the Eagles blue line led to a breakaway for Patrick Kramer, who raced in alone and shifted to his backhand to tie the game at 3-3.

Then, with 3:42 remaining, Besinger got the game-winner after a strong forecheck resulted in him getting the puck down low and tucked in a wraparound bid.

"We came out real slow in the first and second," Besinger admitted. "We weren't doing what we normally do - chipping pucks low, getting behind their D and trying to get pucks to the net. Come the third period we just knew we had to get a lot of shots on net, keep them low for rebounds and we just had to put them home."

With the excitement of the comeback, it can't be forgotten that Eagles goalie Peter Cronin not only gave his team a chance to get back in the game, but also helped the comeback stand up.

The Knights peppered the BC High net with and endless array of shots, 79 total according to CM coach Bill Hanson, with 43 of them getting to Cronin. Some of the senior captain's best work came in the third, when shortly after Kramer tied the game, Cronin (40 saves) stared down a point-blank slapper from Mike Stathopoulous on the left wing dot.

Not long after Besinger notched the go-ahead goal, Cronin stoned Coughlin on another point-blank blast, then turned aside shots on both a 2-on-1 bid as well as a 3-on-1.

"What cannot get lost in this whole thing was Peter Cronin in the third period," Flaherty stated emphatically. "He made save after save after save. I would argue that, they earned their bounces, but they got three very good bounces on those goals. Some goalies would get flustered, some goalies would want to hide in the net and Peter didn't. He attacked, he made the saves. In the third period alone he had three or four point blank shots. Liam Coughlin is probably one of the most dangerous kids in the state and Peter had a point blank stop on him a couple times."

Added Knights coach Bill Hanson, "We put 79 shots out there tonight, [43] on net. [Cronin] played out of his head. We had chances. We had a three-on-one, we had a two-on-one but we just didn't capitalize."

Normally, the Catholic Memorial roster is full of experienced players, bit this group yields just six seniors among its numbers and a number of freshmen are contributing, notably goalie Brandon Collett (23 saves), who has been terrific throughout his rookie season.

Hanson has watched his young team go through several stages and while they remain two points of shy of returning to the postseason after a two-year hiatus with four games left (against Xaverian, Braintree, Central Catholic and Fairfield Prep) he hopes that if his team does qualify, they will have developed into a group that gives others reason to shudder.

"We've had the breakdowns and that first goal was a breakdown," Hanson admitted. "But that's what happens with young teams and we just haven't been able to overcome that. As I said to them, I put the season into three five-game increments. The first five games, we're averaging over five goals a game. Games six through ten, over four. And from 11 through 15 the other other night, we have eight goals and gave up 16. So we have to win by shutouts and we're 0-3-2."

"Tonight we scored enough against a real good goalie to win," Hanson continued. "We had the lead, we're a good third period team but again, they got some fortunate plays. I don't know what their coaches will say but if I was on the other side of the ledger I'd say we escaped with our lives out there tonight."

He added, "I want to make the tournament and when the seedings come out, I don't care where we are. I want everybody to say, 'The one team we don't want to play is Catholic Memorial.'"

New England Roundup: Connecticut

January, 30, 2013
The Fairfield Prep ice hockey team has had some impressive starts in Matt Sather's 14 seasons as the program's head coach, but nothing that can match what the Jesuits have accomplished at the start of the current season.

ConnecticutFairfield Prep improved its record to 11-0-0 and remained the only unbeaten team in the state when it beat New Jersey power Don Bosco Prep, 4-2, Thursday at the Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport. Don Bosco entered the game as the No. 2-ranked team in New Jersey.

It was a 2-2 game after two periods, but Fairfield Prep senior forward Tim Edmonds scored the go-ahead goal at 4:28 of the third. The Jesuits doubled their lead on a Kenny Kochiss goal.

Fairfield Prep held Don Bosco to three shots on goal in the final period.

“This is a huge win for us,” Edmonds told MSG Varsity after the game. “Don Bosco's a great team. We were able to come out flying, and now we've got our confidence boosted. Coach [Sather] said this is a landmark day for us. I think we proved we can beat anyone we play if we play our game.”

Juniors Matt McKinney and Matt Wickman also scored for Fairfield Prep, which received 15 saves from Matt Beck.

Don Bosco (10-5-0) was playing without Robby Marsanico and Dylan Healy, two top-line forwards who were injured. Marsanico and Healy had 49 points in Don Bosco's first 14 games.

“I think they're a little better than that offensively,” Sather said. “But that's as fast a team as we've played all year. And I thought they were more physical than anyone we played this year. That was the most physical game we've played in, and I was pretty happy with the way our guys stood up to that.

Twenty Connecticut high schools entered last week looking for a varsity football coach. That number was reduced by one Friday, when Bacon Academy hired Erik Larka.

Larka, a 35-year-old West Haven resident, was one of seven applicants brought back for a second interview. He spent four years as the freshman head coach and a varsity assistant at Law High School – his alma mater – but then left the coaching world until last season, when he was an assistant coach at Western Connecticut State.

Bacon had to find a head coach last summer, after Duane Maranda left to become the head coach at New London. The school selected Brian Enrique – an assistant under Maranda – but reopened the position after Enrique guided the Bobcats to a 2-8 record last season.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference is exploring the possibility of moving the state's championship football games from the University of Connecticut's Rentschler Field, which has hosted the title games for the last four years.

Poor attendance and below-expected revenue were the reasons cited for the possible move.

Rentschler Field can seat 40,000, but the largest crowd for the four championship games last year was the 4,576 that watched the Class LL championship game between Xavier and Norwich Free Academy on a Friday night. The following day a combined 5,189 showed up for the Class S, Class M and Class L championship games.

Central Connecticut State's Arute Field is reportedly being considered as a possibility for this year's title games. Arute Field has a seating capacity of 5,800 and has a turf playing surface. Rentschler Field has a natural grass surface.

The CIAC fined Harding High School $500 and forced the school's boys basketball team to forfeit two games for using an academically ineligible player.

The player participated in five games, but Harding lost three of those five contests. The team forfeited victories over New Canaan and Fairfield Warde.

East Lyme senior Allison Stoddard collected the 1,000th point of her high school career during a 55-16 victory over Killingly on Jan. 19. … Capital Prep remained No. 1 in the Hartford Courant's girls' basketball rankings despite a 66-64 loss to Bishop Ford – one of the top teams in New York City – last week. Sophomore forward Kiah Gillespie scored 26 points for Capital Prep in the loss. … Junior Tyshon Rogers, a 6-foot-3 forward on the Crosby boys' basketball team, scored 64 points in victories over Wolcott and Seymour last week. Rogers entered the week as the state's leading scorer (30.5 ppg.).

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and has been covering high school sports throughout New England since 1992.

New England Roundup: Connecticut

January, 11, 2013
When the game was over, Notre Dame High School boys' basketball coach Gary Palladino had earned another victory – and it was a memorable one.

ConnecticutLast Friday's 66-60 triumph over Berlin was Palladino's 400th win as Notre Dame's head coach.

Berlin erased a 16-point halftime deficit and tied the game midway through the fourth quarter, but Notre Dame made 12 of its 14 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter. The victory improved Palladino's record at Notre Dame to 400-294.

“This isn’t really about me,” Palladino said. “You don’t get to 400 wins at one school without great support from our administration, tremendous assistant coaches, and talented players who work hard and sacrifice for the betterment of our team and program. I have been blessed here at Notre Dame and share this honor with all those that came through the program.”

Earlier this year Palladino announced that this would be his final season as the Green Knights head coach.

Palladino began his career at Notre Dame in 1982. He has guided the Green Knights to 21 winning seasons, and 24 of his teams have qualified for the CIAC state tournament

Palladino has 524 career wins during his high school coaching career, which includes stops at East Hartford High School (7-13) and St. Paul's High School (55-18). He was also 62-69 at the head coach at the University of Hartford.

The inaugural Hall of Fame Classic, a high school football all-star game featuring players from Connecticut, will be played June 29, at Rentschler Field (4:30 p.m.).

The game replaces the Governor's Cup – an all-star game between Connecticut and Rhode Island – and the all-star game between Fairfield and New Haven counties. Connecticut won 11 of the 14 meetings with Rhode Island in the Governor's Cup.

The coaches and players for each team will be announced Saturday at the Walter Camp Breakfast of Champions in East Haven.

An unbeaten record entering Saturday's contest against Fairfield Prep masked the fact that the Notre Dame boys' hockey team hadn't played well in the first period this season, and it was a slow start that cost the Green Knights in a 3-1 loss to the Jesuits.

Fairfield Prep scored three first-period goals and received 33 saves from Mike Beck in a matchup that featured the top two teams in the Hartford Courant's state rankings.

Matt Wikman, Connor Henry and Dean Lockery scored for Fairfield Prep. Darren Capobianco scored Notre Dame's goal at 12:38 of the second period.

“Today we didn't get off the bus,” Notre Dame coach Bill Gerosa told the New Haven Register. “Actually, it was the eighth game this season we didn't get off the bus in the first period. We've played well in our second and third periods, but we keep struggling in the first.”

Fairfield Prep improved its record to 7-0 and was elevated to No. 1 following the victory. Notre Dame, last year's Division I champion, fell to 7-1 and slipped to No. 2.

The teams will meet again on Feb. 16.

Highlighting some top recent performances in boys and girls basketball:

" Weaver's Alyssa Stewart scored 24 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in a 53-31 victory over Wethersfield.

" Simsbury's E.J. Crawford scored 18 points in a 60-51 victory over Newington, and then poured in 20 – including the game-winning shot with six seconds to play – in a 70-69 triumph over Hall.

" Cromwell's Alexa Riley tossed in a game-high 15 points in a 53-50 triumph over Bacon Academy that ended Bacon Academy's 43-game home winning streak.

"Southington's Stephanie O'Keefe scored all of her 15 points on 3-pointers during a 48-41 victory overtime victory against Northwest Catholic.

"Tolland's Taylor Fortin averaged 37.5 points in victories over RHAM and Rockville.

Norwich Free Academy's Elisa Formiglio became the first female to play in a Connecticut football state championship game when Xavier defeated NFA 48-14 to win the Class LL championship last month.

Formiglio, a senior who didn't play football until last season, made both of her point-after kicks in the loss. She made 61 of 71 PAT attempts during the season. She also made one of her three field goal attempts – a 24-yard kick – and completed the season as her team's No. 3 scorer.

The inaugural Pioneer Valley Girls Winter Classic – the state's first outdoor girls hockey tournament -- was held Jan. 1 at the Simsbury Farms open-air rink.

The event featured four teams: Simsbury, Hall-Conard, Springfield (Mass.) Cathedral and East Catholic-Glastonbury-South Windsor. Simsbury defeated Hall-Conard 3-2 in the title game, and Springfield Cathedral won the consolation game.

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader, and has been covering high school sports throughout New England since 1992.

Latest FAB 50 boys' lax poll is out

May, 16, 2012
It was very much status quo for the two New England boys' lacrosse entrants in the latest ESPNHS FAB 50 poll.

Both Darien (Conn.) and Duxbury shifted down a spot or two in the last week, despite holding serve in their games last week. Darien moved from No. 11 to 13, while Duxbury checked in at No. 19.

Fairfield Prep (Conn.), which made its debut at No. 23 last week, moved out of the poll while falling to 11-3.
Duxbury boys' lacrosse moved back into the top 20 range of the latest ESPNHS FAB 50 national poll.

The Dragons moved up five spots following their riveting last-minute win over New York power Niskayuna on Saturday to land at No. 18 this week.

Also representing New England this week was Darien, Conn., which hopped up four spots to No. 11 in the latest poll, as well as Fairfield Prep (Conn.). The Jesuits knocked off last week's national No. 1 Chaminade to make their debut at No. 23. Fairfield's lone loss of the season came against No. 33 Delbarton (N.J.).

New England Roundup: Connecticut

March, 22, 2012
Recappping last weekend's CIAC state championship games in boys and girls basketball:

ConnecticutCLASS LL BOYS: Top-seeded St. Joseph used an 18-0 run in the second half to knock off second-seeded Hillhouse 62-54.

St. Joseph (27-1) received a game-high 26 points from James Jennings, and 18 from Timajh Parker. Parker made 14 of his 15 free throw attempts.

St. Joseph didn't make a field goal in the second quarter, and Hillhouse (24-2) led by 13 in the third. It was the 11th state title for St. Joseph coach Vito Montelli, who has won a state-record 880 games (all at St. Joseph). Montelli guided St. Joseph to victory over Fairfield Prep in last year's Class LL championship game.

CLASS LL GIRLS: A Jessica Lynch layup with 21 seconds to play gave ninth-seeded Newtown the lead for good in its 44-42 triumph over 10-seeded Mercy.

Mercy (21-6) overcame a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to take a 42-41 lead with 29 seconds to play, but Lynch's basket came on the ensuing possession. Riley Wurtz tossed in a team-high 18 points for Newtown (22-4).

Mercy has lost the Class LL championship game in each of the last three seasons.

CLASS L BOYS: Treyvon Moore scored a game-high 25 points to help second-seeded Career, Magnet defeat top-seeded Northwest Catholic 51-49.

The victory handed Career Magnet (27-2) the program's first state title.

Northwest Catholic (23-4) missed 17 of its 20 field goal attempts in the first half and trailed 29-13 entering the third. Kuran Iverson scored 20 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked four shots in the loss.

CLASS L GIRLS: A strong finish handed third-seeded Bacon Academy a 38-34 victory over top-seeded E.O. Smith.

Bacon (22-3) closed the game with a 12-0 run. E.O. Smith (25-2) failed to score in the final 5:49 and made one field goal in the fourth quarter.

Taylor McLaughlin led Bacon Academy with 13 points.

CLASS M BOYS: Senior Nolan Long, a 6-foot-9 center, scored 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as second-seeded Waterford collected the program's first state championship by beating fourth-seeded Watertown 71-57.

Senior guard Geary McLeon added 18 points, seven assists and five steals for the Lancers (25-2). It was the fourth loss for Watertown (24-4).

CLASS M GIRLS: Guard Fifi Walcott scored 16 points as top-seeded Weaver won its first state championship with a 55-47 triumph over second-seeded Tolland.

The Beavers (25-2) set a school record for victories en route to the title.

Kristin Schatzlein, Connecticut's Gatorade Player of the Year, scored a game-high 32 points in the loss. Tolland (24-4) committed 32 turnovers.

CLASS S BOYS: Vitor Melo collected 14 points and 13 rebounds to help top-seeded Immaculate defeat third-seeded Capital Prep 67-53.

Capital Prep (23-4) entered the game averaging 85.9 points per game, but was held to its lowest point total of the season. Immaculate (26-1) outrebounded Capital Prep, 49-30.

CLASS S GIRLS: Three players scored in double figures for top-seeded Coginchaug, which won its first state championship by beating second-seeded Capital Prep 58-48.

Lauren Esposito scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Coginchaug (25-2). Audrey Biesak scored 11 and Jessica Solomon added 10 for Coginchaug.

DeJane James tossed in 19 for Capital Prep (23-4).


Billy Vizzo scored three goals as second-seeded Notre Dame-West Haven (20-3-1) defeated fourth-seeded Glastonbury (20-5-0) 5-0 in the Division I championship game.

It was the only time Glastonbury has been shut out this season.

In last weekend's other championship games, fifth-seeded Trumbull scored five third-period goals during a 5-3 triumph over seventh-seeded Branford in the Division II championship game; and Drew O'Leary made 18 saves to help top-seeded Newington/Berlin beat third-seeded Northwest Catholic 2-1 in the Division III championship game.

Sophomore Brendan Strobel scored twice for Trumbull (17-9-0). His second goal gave Trumbull a 4-3 lead with 1:35 to play.

Brandon Ralph and Brendon Richard scored in Newington/Berlin's victory.

Roger Brown is a freelance writer who has been reporting on high school sports in New England since 1992.

New England Roundup: Connecticut

March, 12, 2012
Tolland High School's Kristin Schatzlein was named Connecticut's top girls high school basketball player last week. She's hoping to make even bigger news this weekend.

ConnecticutThree days after Schatzlein became the first Tolland player to be selected as Connecticut's Gatorade Player of the Year, second-seeded Tolland advanced to the Class M championship game by defeating third-seeded Ellington 60-38 in Friday's Class M semifinals.

Tolland (22-2) will meet top-seeded Weaver (23-1) for the title. Weaver advanced with a 48-39 victory over fifth-seeded Cromwell.

“Schatzlein never gets rattled on the floor and always wants the ball when the game is on the line," Bloomfield coach Dan Matthews said. "She shoots the ball extremely well from beyond the arc, but she also handles the ball well."

Schatzlein scored 15 points in the semifinal win against Ellington. She entered that game averaging 20.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 5.5 steals and 2.1 blocks per game. The Eagles had lost in the semifinals in each of the past two years.

The Gatorade Player of the Year Award recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court.

Schatzlein has signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at Fairfield next season.

Recent winners of the Gatorade Player of the Year Award include Katie Mahoney (2010-11, Bacon Academy), Kastine Evans (2009-10, Norwich Free Academy), Symone Roberts (2008-09, New Britain), Heather Buck (2007-08 and 2006-07, Stonington), Shamika Jackson (2003-04, East Catholic), and Amanda Pape (2002-03, Trinity Catholic).

It's probably safe to say the Hamden boys' hockey team has seen enough of Fairfield Prep forward David White.

White scored eight goals in three victories over Hamden this season. Two of those goals came during Saturday's 2-0 victory over eighth-seeded Hamden in the Division I quarterfinals.

Top-seeded Fairfield Prep (19-3-0) will face fourth-seeded Glastonbury (18-4-0) in Wednesday's Division I semifinals. No. 2 Notre Dame-West Haven (18-3-1) will meet No. 6 West Haven (15-7-0) in the other semifinal.

The Division II semifinals will be played Monday, and the Division III semifinals will be held Tuesday.

Division II: No. 1 Guilford (12-7-2) vs No. 5 Trumbull (13-9-0); No. 7 Branford (13-9-0) vs. No. 3 North Branford (13-8-1).

Division III: No. 1 Newington-Berlin (19-2-0) vs. No. 4 NFA-St. Bernard-Bacon (12-9-0) vs. No. 3 Northwest Catholic (17-4-0).

Five Connecticut wrestlers won individual titles at the 48th New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships held March 3 in Providence, R.I.

Sean Marinan, who helped Xavier win the 2012 State Open championship, prevailed at the 220-pound weight class. Marinan defeated Masuk's Eric Tucker to win the title.

Marinan will join the University of Connecticut football program as a preferred walk-on next season.

Middletown's Devon Carrillo (182), Newington's Chris Chorzepa (170), Hand's Will Crisco (120) and Westhill's Pascal Medor (106) also won New England titles in their respective weight class.

Timberlane (Plaistow, N.H.) won the team title. Hand-Madison was the runner-up.

Hillhouse junior Precious Holmes didn't disappoint her followers at the 25th New England Indoor Track Championship earlier this month.

Holmes set meet records by prevailing in the 300-meter run (:38.22 seconds) and the 600 (1:30.79). Her time in the 600 also established a New England record.

In addition, Holmes ran a leg on Hillhouse's 4x400 relay team, which finished first in 3:56.84. Johnesse Peterson, Jayvona McDaniel and Lanja Carr were the other members of the 4x400 team.

Roger Brown publishes the New Hampshire Football Report. He has been covering high school sports in New England since 1992.

Recap: No. 5 Central Cath. 1, No. 8 CM 1

February, 20, 2012

BOSTON -- One team's savior proved to be the other team's fatal heartbreaker.

Both No. 5 Central Catholic and No. 8 Catholic Memorial had a lot on the line when the two teams hooked for a Monday matinee at Walter Brown Arena. The Raiders were looking to get back on track after a 3-0 loss to Andover on Saturday, hoping to keep themselves in the hunt for a Super 8 invitation while getting the on-ice product back in shape with things still undecided atop the MVC/DCL Div. 1 standings.

For Catholic Memorial, the math was simple - win your last two games, or miss the postseason for a second consecutive year.

Central goaltender Kyle Williams shined on this day, stopping 30 shots and weathering a third-period penalty shot attempt by CM's Liam Coughlin to help the Raiders hold on for a 1-1 tie.

"They took it to us in spurts, we were able to sustain and Kyle's back," Central head coach Mike Jankowski said. "We had some inconsistencies all year, we fought through things all year. Even the first goal tonight, that's something [Kyle] always gets. For him, the back half of that, he closes the door. If he plays like that and has our back like that, good things are going to happen for us."

The Raiders kept in mind last year's loss to the Knights and made adjustments that helped Williams a great deal, most importantly coming from a defense that worked tirelessly to at least keep the shooting lanes clear so the senior could get good looks on what was coming at him.

Midway through the third period, Williams made the save of the day, getting his blocker up in time to deflect a shot from CM's Kevin Bletzer. Minutes later, he made another stop of a hard wrist shot by Jared Beckwith and got a piece of a tip in front by Thomas Stanton.

The netminder's most important play however, was one that didn't hit the stat sheet as a save. The Knights were awarded a penalty shot with 3:46 remaining in the game, and CM coach Bill Hanson sent out talented forward Liam Coughlin. The junior walked in on Williams, then made a late shift to his backhand. Rather than sit back in shock, Williams simply followed his man and slid over to the far post, forcing Coughlin to take the puck lower then he likely intended and his shot ended up in the side of the Raiders net.

"No pressure, I just went and tried stopping it. I got lucky he missed the net," Williams explained with a touch of modesty.

Then, when asked if he was surprised by Coughlin's move, Williams responded, "Yeah, I guess. He could do anything. I'm just there to stop it."

Clearly the game did not come down to that one play, although it was certainly a highlight moment. Before a question could be asked about the penalty shot, Hanson quickly spoke up for his player:

"I know the question is going to be asked about the penalty he the guy you want having it? Yeah, he is. There is no one who feels worse about what he's going through right now than I do or his teammates do. It's a tough way to lose."

Mike Kelleher opened the scoring for Central Catholic, banging home a rebound at 13:38 of the opening frame, with assists going to Steven Merrick and Lloyd Hayes. Catholic Memorial tied it in the second as the Knights forced a miscue in their own end and Aaron Marcel went most of the way down the ice for a wrister at 5:38.

Similar to last season, the Knights found themselves entering the final week of the regular season needing points just reach the 20 needed to become eligible for postseason play. This year, they needed to beat Central, and follow that up by knocking off an excellent Fairfield Prep team from Connecticut. The tie left them short of their goal.

Were it not for the stellar outing by Williams, the Knights might have scored four goals, maybe even more given the intensity and hunger they displayed on the ice. Take this game out of the mix and there are several others the Knights will look back on as lost opportunities for points - in particular, ties with Malden Catholic and BC High in games they were leading in the third period, and a loss to St. John's Prep with just six seconds remaining.

Ultimately, however, it was the inability to score enough goals that did them in. According to Hanson, the Knights have scored 39 goals while allowing 40 through 18 games, yet still found themselves with a chance to win two games and become tournament-eligible.

"The last four games we've only scored four goals," Hanson lamented. "That's been the story of our season. We played extremely well tonight against a very good hockey team. The system we had in there worked to a tee. You hold a team like that to one goal, and with the opportunities we had, you should win the hockey game."

While CM needed the win to keep its postseason hopes alive, the Raiders were in need of points as well as a return to the form that reeled off an 11-game unbeaten stretch (8-0-3) prior to Saturday's loss to Andover.

While improving its resume for Super 8 consideration is certainly in the thought process, Central is still fighting to win a league title, something that is at the forefront of the team's minds right now.

Wednesday, Central hosts an Acton-Boxborough team that hasn't lost in its last six games and has wins over Billerica, Andover and a Super 8 watch-list team in Westford Academy. The Raiders hold a one-point edge in the standings over both Andover and Westford, with the Grey Ghosts taking on Billerica on Wednesday as well.

When asked if his team was thinking about the possibilities of the Super 8 just yet, Jankowski responded, "Not even close. We're so grateful today to be able to contend and now we're really looking to Wednesday. We have to bring everything because A-B's playing so well. We're just going to try and buckle it up and get ready for Wednesday."

Recap: No. 3 St. John's Prep 4, No. 6 CM 3

February, 11, 2012

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- It was a sequence that will probably haunt the dreams of Catholic Memorial and its fans, but will probably bring a smile to anyone wearing the blue and white of St. John’s Prep.

Mark Azarian came away with some late-game heroics to notch the winner with six seconds remaining to spring the Prep (11-5-1) to a 4-3 victory over the Knights Saturday in a matchup between Catholic Conference rivals at Ristuccia Memorial Arena.

Azarian will be the one with the game-winning goal always attached to his name, but the play wouldn’t have been made without the hustle, and patience, of Andrew Brandano.

Brandano got his body in front of a shot at the blue line, and raced out into the open ice down the right side. He got down to the right circle and had Azarian trailing on the play with a Knights defenseman in position in between the two.

Brandano looked to hesitate with the puck, but he was just debating on shooting it with only seconds to go until he saw his linemmate come into play in good scoring position. The junior forward guided the puck right to the tape of Azarian to grab two points, and keep a point away from the Knights in the process, with six seconds remaining in the game.

“The first thing on my mind was to block the shot,” Brandano said. “I noticed the 2-on-1 right away. I saw Mark from the beginning and was going to pass it, but he was behind the defenseman so I held onto it and waited until it opened up. … I just threw it at his stick and it went in.”

Brandano said he thought about shooting the puck at first with Shane Starrett in position, but he changed his mind when a passing lane opened.

“It was wicked long and it felt like it took forever,” he said. “But it was worth it.”

The Eagles’ defense prides themselves on being in position and blocking shots in their own end, and that was the first thing that Kristian Hanson noticed about the big play.

“What made that play was the block,” Hanson said. “He blocked the shot in an absolutely critical point of the game he sacrificed the body. It created the 2-on-1 and Mark just did his job by going to the far post. [Brandano] was very patient with the puck on that.... Obviously it’s a big win for us.”

Sam Kurker has become a force for the Eagles’ top-line against Catholic Conference foes, and he made a name for himself again with three goals to help fuel the Prep.

This was the second hat-trick for Kurker against Catholic Memorial this season, and he’s consistently wracked up multiple point games against familiar foes in the league.

“In the conference he’s scored two or three goals in virtually every conference game that we played,” Hanson said. “It says a lot about him as a player.”

Kurker got the Prep on the board in the first period on the first shot of the game, and he also tied things up at 3 on the power play with a slapper from the left point with 2:53 left in the game.

The road to the playoffs just got a little bit rockier for the Knights.

The Knights need six points in their last four games to be postseason eligible. Their last four games area against Rhode Island foes Bishop Hendricken and La Salle Academy, Connecticut's Fairfield Prep, in addition to No. 7 Central Catholic.

Catholic Memorial has been on the door step of crucial wins this past week, but coughed up one-goal leads in the third period in each of the last three contests.

Jesuit Shootout broadcast live stream

January, 27, 2012
Fifth-ranked BC High hockey is among four teams participating in this weekend's Jesuit Shootout being held at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

The Eagles, along with Fairfield Prep (Conn.), Canisius Prep (N.Y.) and St. Peter's Prep (N.J.), will play two games at the tournament, with all the action called by the host Marauders Radio Network.

You can catch the calls here.

BC High will face off against Fairfield Prep at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, with the winner advancing to tomorrow's championship game and loser playing in a consolation game.