- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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WOBURN, Mass. -- St. John’s Prep and Woburn provided one of the many highlights to last year’s Super 8 tournament with a riveting overtime battle.
The Eagles got the better of that one, edging the Tanners 4-3, en route to their Super 8 final appearance.
Wednesday night’s matchup between the two squads didn’t disappoint either, but the No. 5 Tanners emerged with a more favorable result this time around, sweating out a 3-2 win over No. 2 Prep at O’Brien Rink.
Senior winger Danny Holland collected the game-winning goal midway through the third period, breaking a 2-2 deadlock.
“My wingman Johnny Dirienzo, he made a great pass coming across,” Holland said the goal. “I made a tip around one of the defensemen, I beat him to the corner, came out and just took a shot on net.”
Down the stretch, the Tanners defense held with senior captain Jake Secatore logging Chara-like minutes and sophomore goaltender Jeremy Flibotte making the saves.
Otherwise, the matchup was about as even as can be with the teams hitting the dressing room tied 1-1 at the first intermission and 2-2 after two.
Prep (3-1-0) claimed an early advantage with sophomore center Tyler Bird collecting his third goal on the young season. Woburn (2-1-1) tied the game just a minute later with John Concannon burying a wrister set up by talented freshmen siblings Nicholas and Christian Baldino.
The teams’ stars took over the action in the second, with two Hockey East commits trading goals.
UMass-Lowell commit Casey Shea broke his goalless skid with his first tally of the season. The Tanners senior captain skated circles around two Prep defensemen before beating goaltender David Letarte five-hole with a backhander.
With 12:31 remaining in the second, Prep star Sam Kurker left his imprint on the game. The rugged forward and BU-commit broke off the left wing boards, muscling off a Woburn defenseman before cutting to the slot and letting of a wicked wrister, beating Flibotte stick-side.
“We told ours wings to watch him coming off the wall in the second period,” Tanner head coach Jim Duran said of defending Kurker, who tallied his eighth goal of the season. “He was just too strong sometimes when he was coming off the half wall. He just fought through our checks.”
Woburn’s adjustments were evident in the game’s final minutes. The Tanners did good work to keep the Eagles to the outside and keeping sightlines clear for Flibotte.
“I don’t think we generated enough quality scoring chances,” Prep head coach Kristian Hanson said. “We had some shots from the perimeter, but we weren’t able to get to the net, try to get a rebound goal. I didn’t see that and I would’ve liked to.”
SEE YA LATER?
It’s not a stretch to say that the Super 8 squads from last season could find themselves in the same situation come the end of the season. But plenty has changed for Prep, which lost two-thirds of its top line from a year ago.
“It’s such a new group that, right now, it’s game by game,” Hanson said. “We have a lot players stepping into new roles.”
The constants for Prep are Kurker, Letarte and fellow senior captain and defenseman Nick Pandalena. Pandalena, who is committed to playing for BC’s golf team next season, is a big, physical blue-liner who’s not afraid of contact. With an improved skating game, Pandalena will be the crucial cog to an otherwise green blue line.
However, he wasn’t the only ESPN Boston preseason All-State defenseman on the ice. That honor also goes to Secatore, who proved his value in the third period. After a slow start to the game, the Tanner captain hardly left the ice during the final seven minutes of the contest, as Prep set up shop in the offensive zone and increased the forecheck.
Secatore’s effort is old hat to his teammates though.
“Jake Secatore, he’s just unbelievable,” Holland summed it up.
“He’s a great leader,” Duran added about Secatore, who played strong as a pairing with senior Adam Tanner. “He doesn’t say much, but he just works so hard in practice … He’s so strong, he skates so well. I just don’t think he realizes how good he can be.”