Boston High School: John Messuri

D1 North: Wilmington 3, Arlington 2 (OT)

March, 5, 2014
BILLERICA, Mass. -- Luke Foley was in the position he is most accustomed to.

The 6-foot-2 forward of the Wilmington Wildcats objective is to hover around the front of the crease in an attempt to screen out an opposing goaltender or, better still, is fortunate enough redirect a shot headed in his direction.

In overtime of Wednesday night's Division 1 North semifinal, the senior captain performed the latter and because of it, the Wilmington lives to play another day. Foley got enough of his stick off a shot by Jim Davey from the right wing circle to slip it in-between the pads of Arlington netminder Mike Schiller at 2:32 of overtime to give the Wildcats a thrilling come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Spy Ponders at Chelmsford Forum.

"That is basically my offense," said Foley. "I looked to be in front of the net and that is where I get most of my goals. I'm lucky [Davey] got the puck through and I was able to get a tip on it and put it in."

The win, Wilmington's 13th straight in the postseason dating back to 2011-2012 season, advances them to Monday night's final against Reading — a 2-0 winner over St. Mary's of Lynn — beginning at 8 p.m. from Tsongas Arena.

"[Winning 13 in a row] is a lot about confidence," Foley said. "We need to continue to be confident in front of our goalie. He is such a huge part of our success. He stops plenty of shots. He doesn't panic and always knows what to do. That rubs off on everyone else."

After winning back-to-back Division 2 state crowns, the move up to Division 1 this season did not faze the third-seeded Wildcats (15-3-7) in the least. Playing in a predominantly Division 1 league (Middlesex) throughout the season has prepared them well for tight contests like this one.

"We've been in a lot of games this season where we've had to come back," Wilmington head coach Steve Scanlon said. "That always pays dividends because the kids know they are capable of coming back. We had some bad patches tonight but the kids kept working and played hard. In the overtime, I told the kids to keep shooting towards the net and good things will happen. There is nothing that can replace the experience of going deep in a tournament. I've got nine kids on this team who have been to the championship at TD Garden twice and it does pay for you later. Although sometimes you do get down, we know we are never out of it."

Trailing 2-0, Wilmington mounted its comeback late in the opening period. Junior winger Steven DeFuria got things started by ripping a shot from the left circle, which eluded Spy Ponders starting goalie Ryan Cote.

As is Arlington's custom throughout the season, head coach John Messuri platoons Cote and Schiller on a regular basis. Cote stopped 14-of-15 shots before giving way to Schiller midway through the second period.

After a wide-open opening frame in which 23 shots were totaled (13 by the Spy Ponders), things settled down abruptly during the middle 15 minutes. Even though Arlington managed to put up 11 shots in the period, none got by Foley. The senior was solid between the pipes making 34 saves.

"Drew is a big-game kid for us," said Scanlon. "He's the most even-keeled athlete I've ever coached."

Early in the third, Wilmington would notch the equalizer after junior Joe Castellano fired a hard shot that Schiller initially grabbed with his catching glove. But the senior couldn't keep it in the mitt as the puck trickled out and over the goal line at 2:31.

For the remainder of the frame, both teams had several quality attempts on net but neither could bag the go-ahead tally which led to a six minute extra period that lasted only a couple of minutes thanks to Luke Foley’s heroics.

The second-seeded Spy Ponders (14-4-5) looked to be in good shape early in this one. Junior forward Jack Kelly, on the power play, guided the puck down the ice, cut between a pair of defenders before sending a shot over Drew Foley's right shoulder at 3:14 of the opening period.

Five minutes later, with Arlington playing short-handed, Kelly stuck it to the Wildcats once again. A turnover inside the Spy Ponders' defensive zone allowed an odd-man rush to ensue. With Seth Coiley working the puck down the left side, the senior waited till the last second before dishing a crossing feed over to Kelly who put it into the back of the net to put his team up by a pair. As it turned out, that would the only offense registered by Arlington for the remainder of the evening as Wilmington began taking away the passing lanes and allowing Drew Foley to do what he does best in goal.

"I thought we played good the whole game," said Messuri. "I don't think we took our foot off the gas pedal. They chipped away but I still thought we controlled most of the play. Our kids played great and their kids played great and somebody has to lose unfortunately. Goalies are the most-important part of a team and tonight their kid stood on his head. Our kids have nothing to be ashamed about. I'm very proud of all of them."

Week 1 hockey tournament notes and picks

February, 28, 2014
Here are some thoughts from the first week or so of the high school hockey tournaments.

This will be the first of four installments I plan to bring you through and at the conclusion of the tournaments. I’ll also be bringing you my weekend picks on some of that week’s most anticipated matchups:

Optimism through disappointment: By this point, you’ve likely seen and formulated a definitive opinion on the controversial “no goal” call during Monday’s Super 8 play-in game between Braintree and Catholic Memorial. While the Wamps have to be letdown by the turn of events earlier this week, Braintree can still embark on a championship quest of a different kind.

The Wamps, now the No. 1 seed in the Division 1 South tournament following their Super 8 exit, open sectional play Saturday against No. 8 seed Falmouth. It’s always interesting to watch how teams who are jettisoned from the Super 8 play-ins are able to readjust after falling short of an ultimate goal.

However, I think there’s hope for both Braintree and Archbishop Williams – which was also dealt a crushing blow in a double-overtime classic in its play-in tilt against Xaverian – and they might just cross paths down the line.

Undoubtedly, the Wamps played their best hockey of the season in its final month. They played their way into the Top 10 with wins over Super 8 No. 6 seed Duxbury and on the final day of the regular season against CM. I liked what I saw from a steady defensive corps, led by Joe Harrington and Kevin Howard, and Nick Anson has been a reliable presence in net.

For the Bishops, I don’t think there are many teams – statewide – that can match their depth and offensive skill of their top six forwards, in addition to Ryan Dunn’s emergence as a legitimate All-State candidate in the late season. Head coach Derackk Curtis characterized Steve Jenner as a “hot and cold” goaltender earlier this year, but in the final weeks of the season, Jenner has become a dependable puck-stopper.

If both teams can refocus quickly, I’d expect them to meet up at Gallo for the D1 South championship game.

A nod to a great: Think about some of the most famous headwear in sports history -- Tom Landry’s legendary fedora, Trot Nixon’s pine tar-stained hat, Craig MacTavish’s noteworthy lack of a bucket and compensation with some serious flow on top -- among those, in local hockey circles, the late Ed Burns' own fedora has to be included.

The Arlington hockey coaching legend died earlier this month and, as a nod to his mentor, Spy Ponders head coach John Messuri sported Burns’ trademark hat behind the bench during their surprising 1-0 win over Catholic Conference power St. John’s Prep. While Messuri paid homage to Burns’ legacy, the Spy Ponders honored it with their performance, playing their tough-minded brand of defensive hockey, buttressed with the unusual in-game tandem goalie rotation of Ryan Cote and Mike Schiller.

It marked a bumper crop of wins for the Middlesex League on Wednesday, which was a combined 5-1. Surprisingly, the one team to lose on the night was two-time defending Division 1 state champion Burlington, which was shut out by St. John’s of Shrewsbury.

Three Stars of the Week:

3. Sam D’Antuono, Jr. F, Dexter – The former Hingham Harborman put his team on his back during the third period of their 3-2 comeback win over Canterbury School in the first round of the NEPSAC Piatelli/Simmons tournament. D’Antuono scored the tying goal, before netting his second with the game-winner, all in the third period.

2. Al Lynch, Sr. G, Framingham – The Flyers’ netminder earned his first career playoff win with a 42-save performance in a 5-2 win over defending Division 1 South champion Marshfield on Wednesday.

1. Joe Marella, Sr. F, Abington – Marella single-handedly put a hurting on Division 3 South No. 1 seed Cape Cod Tech, scoring six goals in the Green Wave’s 7-1 thrashing Wednesday at Gallo.

This weekend’s picks du jour:

(Note: I’ll have full Super 8 breakdown and picks later this weekend.)

D1 North boys: ST. MARY’S over Winchester; MELROSE over Reading; ST. JOHN’S (SHREWSBURY) over Arlington; WILMINGTON over Medford.

D1 South boys: BRAINTREE over Falmouth; FRAMINGHAM over Franklin; ARCHBISHOP WILLIAMS over Norwood; BARNSTABLE over Milton.

D2 North boys: BEVERLY over Danvers; LINCOLN-SUDBURY over Winthrop.

D2 South boys: CANTON over Medway.

D1 girls: READING over Austin Prep.

Bracket-buster upset special: D2 boys – OLIVER AMES over Westwood.