Boston High School: Johnny Leonard

The United States Hockey League (USHL) hosted the first phase of its two-day draft proceedings on Monday.

Here's a list of players with New England ties who were selected Monday, listed by overall selection:

14. Jake Ryczek (Ludlow, Mass.), D, Selects Hockey Academy - Sioux City.

23. Jamie Armstrong (Warwick, R.I.), LW, Neponset Valley - Muskegon.

38. Luke McInnis (Hingham, Mass.), D, Hingham - Youngstown.

54. Johnny Leonard (Amherst, Mass.), F, Springfield Cathedral - Green Bay.

59. John DeRoche (Lynnfield, Mass.), F, Boston Junior Bruins - Cedar Rapids.

63. Liam Murphy (Killingsworth, Conn.), F, Avon Old Farms - Waterloo.

81. Michael Fahie (Pembroke, Mass.), F, Noble & Greenough - Youngstown.

83. Logan Drevitch (Middleborough, Mass.), F, Boston Bandits - Des Moines.

90. R.J. Murphy (Needham, Mass.), LW, St. Sebastian's - Dubuque.

91. Mike Young (Medford, Mass.), D, Rivers - Cedar Rapids.

98. Monte Graham (Hanover, Mass.), F, Thayer Academy - Tri-City.

Super 8 semifinals notes and picks

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
Before the puck drops on tonight’s Super 8 semifinals matchups at Tsongas Center (6 and 8 p.m.), here’s a smattering of note from the tournament along with picks:

Panthers’ prowess: Springfield Cathedral flexed its offensive muscle in its close-out victory over Duxbury a week ago, scoring three goals on the power play in a 6-3 final.

The key to the Panthers’ near perfection on the man-advantage in the tournament is both in its scheme and its personnel.

Let’s start with the scheme. Brian Foley has implemented an umbrella-style power play – meaning there’s a single “blue-liner” -- in the case of Cathedral, that’s talented freshman defenseman Dan Petrick – who plays in the middle of the ice sheet. The pivot men are two players who play along the half-wing boards and have the choice of making passes into the slot, back to the point man, or across the sheet to the other wing.

Lastly, in Foley’s unit, there are two forwards who are positioned in the slot, stacked on top of each other. The low man is tasked with setting the screen on the goaltender and creating traffic, while looking for rebounds and low-slot opportunities if the half-wings decide to move play down below the dots. The high-slot forward can either slide down on point shots, or look for deflection attempts, while providing the main outlet for half-wing passes.

What really makes Cathedral’s unit hum, however, is that the Panthers have the perfect personnel to run the umbrella.

In the Super 8, the responsibility of playing the half-wings have gone to UMass-Amherst commit Johnny Leonard and brother tandem Riley and Zac Prattson. Meanwhile, the Panthers have a pair of true “power forwards” in Quinnipiac recruit D.J. Petruzzelli (the low man) and Holy Cross commit Peter Crinella (high slot).

“We can really run any kind of power play and it’s going to be effective with the way they move the puck,” Cathedral head coach Brian Foley said of his unit last Thursday.

To beat three-time defending Super 8 champion Malden Catholic in the teams’ semi-final tilt, the Panthers will have to have a vibrant power play once again.

However, there is recent precedent, as Cathedral knocked off MC, 5-2, in the championship game of its host February vacation tournament.

“It was a great game in our tournament,” Foley said, “but it’s a whole new ballgame. They’re the three-time champs, they’re the team to beat as far as I’m concerned.”

Get back: While finishing off its first-round series sweep of Central Catholic, Austin Prep was able to lull the Raiders to sleep in the third period of a 4-1 win.

Although the Raiders finished the game with 20 shots on goal, only six came in the final period, when AP constructed a virtual brick wall along its blue line.

Throughout their Game 2 win, and in particular the third period, the Cougars showed a killer’s instinct on defense, with their defense standing up to meet whatever Central could create on the rush through a sticky neutral zone.

“We did a nice job of holding the neutral zone and staying back, not falling back,” AP head coach Louis Finocchiaro said after last week’s win. “That’s what we’ve talked about, we don’t down want to sit on [a lead], they’re going to have to take chances and try to stretch the zone. You just have to make sure you stay back.”

Keeping a third man high to eliminate their opponents’ transition game, the Cougars forwards – to a man – were tremendous during their best-of-three series in snuffing out Central’s D-men from stepping up in the play and creating on the rush, with a robust backcheck.

Everything else was left to Elijah Harris was played with ease, as the junior goaltender has been on point throughout.

Now, the key for AP is replicating that performance against top seed BC High, which beat the Cougars, 6-2, during the final week of the season.

“They like to stretch it through center zone also,” Finocchiaro said of the Eagles, “so doing a good job with that here in the third period, and holding on to the lead, and playing with confidence, I think is important.”

Picks: Now, for the moment you’ve been waiting for, here are my Super 8 semi-final picks.
BC HIGH 3, Austin Prep 1 – Pat Kramer’s return could be the difference here.
MALDEN CATHOLIC 5, Springfield Cathedral 4 – Did you really think I’d pick against the three-time defending champions? That being said, this one sure is going to be entertaining.

Super 8: No. 3 Cathedral 6, No. 6 Duxbury 3

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6

LOWELL, Mass. -- Springfield Cathedral's recent track record in the Super 8 tournament has been nothing to write home about.

Two years ago, the Panthers lost all three of their games in the state's most-renowned high school hockey event. Last year, Malden Catholic bounced them with back-to-back victories.

Cathedral was back for yet another try again this year and hoping for a different scenario.

Already holding a 1-0 edge over Duxbury in this best 2-out-of-3 opening round format, the Panthers had an opportunity to exorcise some of the demons of previous seasons in Thursday night's second meeting at Tsongas Arena. Refusing to leave anything up to chance, Cathedral struck early and often as it built a five goal lead before settling for a 6-3 triumph.

"To have that early lead was huge for us," Panthers head coach Brian Foley said. "Duxbury is a great team. I was really impressed with them and they are well-coached. They gave us a heck of a series and made us battle for everything."

The third-seeded Panthers (17-2-5) move on to the semifinal round against Malden Catholic beginning Wednesday night here at a time to be determined. The Lancers, the No. 2 seed, are 18-4 after knocking out Catholic Memorial in its opening-round tilt Wednesday night. Back on Feb. 20, Cathedral defeated MC 5-2 in the championship game of its own tournament.

"It is the first time in school history that we are advancing into the semifinals," said junior Pete Crinella, who scored a pair of goals (Nos. 30 & 31) and also added an assist. "Last year's loss really crushed us because we had a bunch of seniors. This year we only have one senior [goaltender John Liquori] so it's nice to get him to the final four of this tournament."

The Panthers, who defeated the Dragons in Sunday's first meeting 4-1, raced out to a 2-0 lead after the opening 15 minutes of Thursday night's contest. Cathedral began the scoring by forcing a Dragons turnover inside their own zone. That led to the first of two Johnny Leonard goals coming at 2:16. Later in the frame, Crinella bagged his first on the power play after D.J. Petruzzelli won the face off in the left circle and pushed the puck over to the center/forward who one-timed a shot past Duxbury goaltender Tucker Kelly.

The sixth-seeded Dragons (16-4-3) tried to hang with the more-talented Panthers as best they could. But Cathedral's offensive firepower from all three of its lines won out and proved too much for them to handle. In addition, the chances on net the Dragons did have were snuffed out by Leonard, who finished with 21 saves, holding Duxbury scoreless over the first two periods.

Cathedral jumped out to a three goal cushion just 1:35 into the middle period. Leonard snatched an errant pass inside the Duxbury zone, skated in on Kelly and beat the senior with a quick wrist shot. With his two tallies, Leonard, a UMass-Amherst commit, now has 29 for the season. Two minutes later, with the Dragons again playing short-handed, freshman Riley Prattson put his name on the scoring sheet after wiring a shot from the left wing circle under the cross bar to make it 4-0.

"Duxbury is a good team and were coming in with a lot of confidence," Crinella said. "They're were desperate and those are the hardest teams to beat. We tried to crush their spirits early and were able to get off to a good start and keep it rolling."

Cathedral's offensive assault wasn't finished. With less than two minutes remaining in the period, another Dragons penalty led to another score for the Panthers.

This time, it was freshman Dan Petrick getting into the act. The winger, standing inside the left circle, fired a shot over Kelly's right shoulder and into the back of the net to send Cathedral into the second intermission in-control leading 5-0.

"I thought we moved the puck pretty well on our power play chances tonight," Foley said. "We had some nice opportunities and some good finishes. I think we still need to do a better job inside our own end moving the puck a little cleaner on the five-on-five. But any way you mix up our top six forwards we are going to have two lines that can score. We've also been getting great production from our third line as well. Our forwards are playing very good but I think our defense has improved a lot throughout the year. We also have gotten some great goaltending from John and Keith [Petruzzelli]."

The third period, for the Panthers, did not follow the same script as the previous two. Cathedral appeared somewhat listless to start the period, not showing the same kind of offensive aggressiveness witnessed during the first two frames. Duxbury took notice of this as well, and in the process, made a mild comeback bid to show for it. Goals from Tyler Powers and Matt Saia early in the frame had them trailing by three goals with still plenty of time remaining.

But Crinella, who is bound for Holy Cross, dashed Duxbury's comeback hopes with a breakaway before beating Kelly (19 saves) with a hard wrist shot at 9:23 to put Cathedral back in front by four goals. Matt Hammel, a sophomore, added a score late for the Dragons but by then their solid season was done.

"Springfield tonight showed what they can do when clicking on all cylinders," said Duxbury head coach John Blake. "When they're clicking on all cylinders they are a dangerous team. We gave them some power play and you can't do that against a team with that kind of ability and power they have. Our guys didn't quit and took us on a great ride. The puck bounced our way a lot this season but tonight it didn't bounce our way. The kids played a good third period and finished the year off the way the way it should've been finished off."

Super 8: No. 3 Cathedral 4, No. 6 Duxbury 1

March, 2, 2014
Mar 2

BOSTON – Springfield Cathedral has had trouble getting over the hump in the first game the past few Super 8 tournaments, but the Panthers had no such problem this year.

The Panthers defeated Duxbury, 4-1, in the first game of the best-of-three series on Sunday afternoon at the TD Garden. It was a closer game than the final score would indicate with two late goals skewing the appearance.

“There are always so many nerves in game one of this tournament,” said Cathedral head coach Brian Foley. “We got a game one win and that’s something we’ve been searching for the last couple years. We’re happy with the result.”

“We played a great game as a team. We came out hard in the beginning,” said junior forward Zac Prattson.

Brotherly connection: Springfield Cathedral has three pairs of brothers on its team and one of those pairs came up with the first two Panthers goals.

Zac Prattson, the older of the two Prattson brothers, scored the game’s first goal on a shorthanded bid at the 2:36 mark of the opening period. Holy Cross commit Peter Crinella broke up a pass in the neutral zone and led Prattson who took a step inside the blue line before taking a slap shot on goal that found the five-hole.

“I was busting down the side and saw a shot opportunity. I just threw it on net and slipped it five-hole,” said Zac Prattson.

After Duxbury had tied the score in the second period, younger brother Riley helped Cathedral regain the lead for good. Just after a power play had expired, Riley Prattson found himself alone on the right side. UMass recruit John Leonard sauced the puck over a Duxbury defender’s stick to Prattson who took a step in before raising the puck past Duxbury goaltender Tucker Kelly.

“[Riley] always steps up to the challenge. He played really well today,” Zac Prattson said of his brother’s play.

“They’re great,” Foley said. “Zac got the first goal for us, which was huge. He’s a captain and a leader. He’s more of a lunch pale, blue-collar type guy where his brother Riley is more of a skill guy. I was happy to see them both score.”

The other two sets of brothers are Bryce and Cam Peritz and D.J. and Keith Petruzzelli.

Goaltending controversy: Springfield Cathedral has the luxury of having two very good goaltenders. Freshman and Quinnipiac commit Keith Petruzzelli got the nod in goal Sunday. He made several very nice stops, including a flurry in the second period where he stuck his toe out for a nice kick save.

“Keith was 5-0 as a starter coming into today,” said Foley of his freshman. “He’s now 6-0 on his young career. He stepped up today and played really well for us.”

“Game two is up in the air. I can’t tell you that one yet,” said Foley when asked who his game two starter would be. “[Senior] John Liquori is a great goalie and they both had a great week of practice. You talk about competition. To see how they competed this week was really good.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnny [Liquori] takes game two,” added Foley.

Power forward: Crinella, a junior captain, might not be the fastest player on the ice, but his physical presence along with his heavy shot make him one of the most dangerous players with the puck in high school hockey.

His third period tally put the game out of reach when he once again used his body to fend off a Duxbury defender after having received a home run pass from defenseman Matt Cieboter.

He shot the puck high and wide on a power play attempt in the second period after he was left alone in the slot, but it was the type of play that shows his ability to make space and create havoc for the opposition.

Youth is served: Springfield Cathedral is without a doubt the youngest team in the tournament. Foley’s team dresses just one senior and he doesn’t play when Petruzzelli occupies the crease.

The starting lineup consisted of four freshmen and two juniors, and many more young players, including eighth grader Devon Tongue, see significant ice time.

“You never know how your kids are going to come out,” Foley said. “I thought we played a little nervous early on, but as the game moved along we had some good moments.

“We talked about being here before and not accomplishing our goal. That was a big thing before the game. We just wanted to play a solid hockey game and block out where we are.”

Dragons see some positives: Despite losing 4-1, Duxbury head coach John Blake felt there were several positives to take away from Sunday’s Super 8 opener.

“I think our guys have a sense of confidence that we can play with these guys going into Thursday now,” Blake said. “We were in the game late, but we’ll need to get it going right away.”

The Dragons might have needed a period to get their legs under them and let the magnitude of the game sink in, but a whole different team took the ice for the second stanza.

“I thought the first period, whether it was nerves a little bit, we were off as a team,” said Duxbury head coach John Blake.

Dragons senior forward Matt Saia scored his ninth goal of the season just 48 seconds into the second period on a nice individual effort. He stole the puck away from a Cathedral defender and beat him off the boards before roofing a shot over Petruzzelli’s blocker.

Duxbury will need to be focused right from the get-go and concentrate on some of the minor details of the game in order to be more successful in game two.

“I think it’s got to be a full 45-minute effort on Thursday. We’ve got to play mistake free hockey in order to beat Springfield. We made a few mistakes and they made us pay,” said Duxbury head coach John Blake.

The two teams will meet again in the second game of the best-of-three series on Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Tsongas Center on the campus of UMass-Lowell.

Super 8 tournament primer and picks

March, 2, 2014
Mar 2
There are less than 24 hours remaining before the puck drops on the Super 8 tournament Sunday at TD Garden.

So we’re taking this opportunity to break down the final eight. We’re taking a look at the head-to-head breakdowns for each series first-round, best-of-three series, along with predictions:

Series: No. 1 BC High (14-2-4) vs. No. 8 Xaverian (12-3-6)

Players to watch: BC High – F Steve DeForge, F Patrick Kramer, F Jake Lemanski, D Billy Roche, D Ryan Shea, D Sam Topham, D Trevor Davis, G Brandon Payzant; Xaverian – F Jon Beniers, F Andrew Durkin, F Antonio Marini, F Connor McCarthy, F Tim Sweeney, D Ricky Smith, G Aidan Murphy.

Previous meetings: 2-2 tie, Jan. 4; BC High, 5-1, Jan. 22.

The skinny: The top-seed Eagles take on their Catholic Conference rival Hawks, who endured a double-overtime classic against Archbishop Williams to slide in as the No. 8 seed. Xaverian will have to take a page from the playbook of Duxbury – which handed BC High a loss in its season finale at the Buddy Ferreira Classic – playing a tight-checking game through the neutral zone to stick with the Eagles’ slick transition game. Murphy has shown flashes of brilliance in his freshman campaign and the Hawks will have to rely on him and a big series from All-State hopeful Marini if they want to keep up with BC High.

X-factor: Payzant. The Eagles’ sophomore netminder has performed admirably in his first season taking the reigns from All-Stater Peter Cronin. But until a goaltender sees his first rubber in the playoffs, the book is still out.

Prediction: BC High in two.

Series: No. 2 Malden Catholic (16-4-0) vs. No. 7 Catholic Memorial (10-7-4)

Players to watch: MC – F Matt Filipe, F Ara Nazarian, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Jake Witkowski, D John McLean, D Nick Rolli, G Alex Reissis; CM – F Aaron Clancy, F Anthony Panaggio, F Mike Stathopoulos, D Frank Cosolito, D Tim Weinstein, G Brandon Collett.

Previous meetings: CM, 3-2, Jan. 25; MC, 11-0, Feb. 14.

The skinny: Once again the Lancers went on a February run, going 7-1-0 in February, despite a loss to Cathedral in the teams’ season finale at the Panthers vacation week tournament. Meanwhile, on the flip side, the Knights back their way into the tournament, having been blanked in the final month of the season, as CM didn’t win a game until Monday’s play-in game victory over Braintree in a one-goal game. However, as one-sided the matchup between Catholic Conference rivals might seem, CM does have the blueprint on how to take down MC, evidenced in the Knights’ 3-2 win in the teams’ first meeting at Walter Brown. In that game, CM was able to harass the Lancers breakout with an aggressive forecheck. In order to skate with MC, the Knights will have to repeat that performance or risk having their first-round series resemble more of the teams’ second meeting.

X-factor: Filipe. The Northeastern commit has provided a strong presence throughout the season on the Lancers’ second unit. While teams have a difficult enough time contending with MC’s vaunted top line, with Filipe and the second unit rolling, the Lancers’ attack is that much more difficult to match up with, defensively.

Prediction: MC in two.

Series: No. 3 Springfield Cathedral (15-2-5) vs. No. 6 Duxbury (16-2-3)

Players to watch: Cathedral – F Peter Crinella, F Johnny Leonard, F D.J. Petruzzelli, F Riley Prattson, D Dan Petrick, G John Liquori, G Keith Petruzzelli; Duxbury – F Nick Marrocco, F Matt Murphy, F Shayne O’Brien, F Trevor O’Brien, F Matt Saia, D Shawn Errasti, D Tyler Powers, G Tucker Kelly.

Previous meetings: N/A.

The skinny: In perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the first round, the high-flying Panthers offensive juggernaut squares off against a sound, defensive-minded squad from Duxbury. Cathedral enters the tournament ranked among the statewide leaders in just about every statistical category and host two of the top scorers in the state in Crinella (28-26-54) and D.J. Petruzzelli (21-32-53). Meanwhile, the Dragons played their best hockey down the stretch, beating BC High in the Buddy Ferreira Classic final to punch their Super 8 ticket. John Blake’s group excels with countering the team’s speed through the neutral zone, so the Panthers could be in for some tough sledding.

X-factor: Crinella. A contender for the Mr. Hockey award this season, the Holy Cross commit is capable of taking games over – something to be said on a roster full of Division 1 commits. This could be his coming out party on a statewide scope.

Prediction: Cathedral in three.

Series: No. 4 Austin Prep (13-4-4) vs. No. 5 Central Catholic (16-3-3)

Players to watch: AP – F Bobo Carpenter, F Eric MacAdams, F Jake McKennelley, D Andrew Cross, D J.J. Layton, G Elijah Harris; Central – F Zach Cote, F Richie Greenberg, F Lloyd Hayes, F Alex Lester, F Eric Robbins, F Corey Webber, D Conrad Jepson, D Cam Smith, G Colin Soucy.

Previous meetings: Central, 4-1, Jan. 1; AP, 3-2, Feb. 3.

The skinny: In a rarity with non-league opponents, the teams faced off twice during the regular season and, somewhat predictably, split the series. The teams are near carbon copies of each with a mix of top-flight offensive skill, depth and quality goaltending. AP, a Super 8 finalist last year, is a bit of an unknown commodity this season, as the Cougars lost multitudes of man games to injury through the year. In fact, AP didn’t even practice with its full fold of players until February, so we likely haven’t seen the Cougars’ attack at its fullest potential. Meanwhile, the Raiders can consistently roll three lines, with little drop off from the first to the third. So this one will be about as close as you can find.

X-factor: The goaltending. Both Harris and Soucy made names for themselves at last year’s Super 8. Regarded as two of the top goaltenders in the state, both offenses will be hard-pressed to find room to shoot.

Prediction: AP in three.

Recap: No. 6 Cathedral 5, No. 1 MC 2

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Before the opening face off, you could see it in their eyes.

There was no look of concern or intimidation on the faces of Springfield Cathedral Panthers. None. Zero.

Going up against the hockey behemoth otherwise known as Malden Catholic in the championship game of its own tournament, No. 6 Cathedral entered with a strong feeling of determination and the belief that it belonged among the state’s elite programs.

On Thursday night, both were put on display repeatedly as the Panthers were sparked by three second-period goals en route to a convincing 5-2 victory over the top-ranked Lancers in front of a packed house at the Olympia Ice Center in the regular-season finale for both teams.

The contest could very well be a preview for a later meeting between the state powers in the upcoming Super 8 tournament.

"This is the best possible way to end our regular season," said Cathedral head coach Brian Foley, his team likely to move up in the Super 8 seedings. "It's a real confidence boost heading into the (Super 8) tournament. Our team this season is probably the strongest team we've had entering the postseason tournament. Our overall skill level is higher than in years past."

After surrendering a late first period goal to MC senior forward Tyler Sifferlen, the remainder of this tilt belonged to the Panthers (15-2-5). Looking for a way to even up this contest quickly, center Peter Crinella answered Cathedral's hopes after taking a drop pass from freshman Dan Petrick and firing a missile past Alex Reissis just 34 seconds into the middle frame to knot things at 1-1.

Cathedral was doing a solid job on the defensive side by taking the Lancers forwards off their projected paths and pushing them into the boards. This, in turn, allowed the forwards to create space inside the MC zone. Johnny Leonard put the Panthers ahead at 6:06 of the period. Taking a centering pass from Riley Prattson, the sophomore waited patiently for Reissis to commit downward before firing a shot over the junior's right shoulder.

Three minutes later, D.J. Petruzzelli, a junior, flew down the right side, cut through a pair of defensemen and lifted a shot past Reissis (14 saves), sending Cathedral into the second intermission on top 3-1.

"This is a game we always look forward to from the first day of the season," said Leonard, a UMass-Amherst commit. "We wanted to make a statement that we do belong with Malden Catholic. We have such a great program here and great coaches. We pushed each other all year for games like this one and the Super 8 moving forward. We are still a very young team (one senior) but I feel we've got something pretty special going on here this year. Hopefully we can take momentum of this win into the Super 8 and do something there."

Over the course of the first 30 minutes, MC was given several clean looks at the net. But the Lancers failed to capitalize on those opportunities due in large part to the strong, physical play of the Panthers defense along with the steady play between the pipes by goaltender Keith Petruzzelli. The freshman played brilliantly, stopping 26 of 28 attempts, including a 12 shot barrage in the closing period. In spite of the loss, it still should have no bearing on MC (16-4) being the consensus No. 1 seed going into the Super 8 once the pairings are announced on Saturday.

"I really liked the fact that we got punched in the face tonight," MC head coach John McLean said. "When you win games 11-0, 9-0 and 7-1 as we've done recently, the kids kind of get this mental thing where they can just show up and its automatically going to happen. Tonight was a good learning experience for us. We understand there are teams that can play with us and that's a good thing.

"Cathedral is a well-coached team and can really compete at a high level. Every time we play them it's always a good, tough game. We had a ton of chances tonight but I thought we tried to get a little to fancy with the puck. I thought Cathedral got in our face and didn't respect us. That's OK because why should they?"

Last year, the Lancers came into Cathedral Tournament a team in search of a direction.

After its two-game sweep in the event, there were many who believe that was the spring board MC needed in moving forward and capturing its third consecutive Super 8 crown. Now the Panthers are adhering to a similar premise hoping this triumph will catapult them through the tournament.

"Hopefully a game like this will have us come out stronger in the next game we play and not feel a team out," Foley said. "The last couple of years in the Super 8 we were just kind of feeling our way around. Enough of that now. It is time for us to take the game to our opponent. Hopefully this win will help prepare us mentally to do that."

Realizing MC was too good not to go down without a fight. Cathedral's objective entering the final period was to try and add to its total early on. The Panthers caught a huge break after Matt Filipe and John McLean were sent to the penalty box in succession, giving Cathedral a 5-on-3 advantage for 52 seconds. The Panthers didn't need all of that time to convert however. Leonard, standing just to the right of Reissis, found Crinella wide-open in the slot and the junior finished the play accordingly by slapping a one-timer past Reissis at 2:08 and push Cathedral's advantage to three goals.

With just over five minutes remaining, the Lancers were leaving everything out on the ice. They started becoming more-efficient at moving the puck through center ice while attacking the Cathedral zone at will. The Panthers, meanwhile, were just hoping to get through these last few minutes as they continuously tried to dump the puck away from their zone anyway they could. One time they couldn't. Defenseman Nick Rolli, standing inside the left circle, fired a point-blank laser past Petruzzelli at 9:05, narrowing the deficit to 4-2.

But time was not of the essence for the Lancers on this night. With Reissis pulled for the extra man, Leonard capped off this monumental evening by scoring an empty net goal from nearly the full-length of the ice in the final minute.

Recap: No. 6 Cathedral 9, Needham 0

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – High school hockey fans got their wish for a clash between Super 8 favorites in the championship game of Thursday’s Springfield Cathedral High School Tournament.

After Malden Catholic made quick work of St. Mary’s in the first semifinal, the host Panthers easily dispatched of Needham in the second semifinal, 9-0.

Cathedral scored four times in the first and five more times in the second period to allow the coach to rest some of his superstars in the third period.

“The kids worked hard and skated hard tonight. We had a game like yesterday [2-2 tie versus Bridgewater-Raynham] then today we put up nine,” Panthers head coach Brian Foley said. “We have the ability to score goals, but you never know when it’s coming.”

Defenseman Bryce Peritz had a big night on the score sheet, including the opening goal of the game and three assists. The big junior defenseman tipped in a long point shot from Quinnipiac commit D.J. Petruzzelli just 1:46 into the game to start the scoring onslaught.

“Bryce is a big kid. He’s a junior, one of our older kids. He’s been a leader for us defensively,” said Foley, the bench boss of a team with just one senior. “He’s improved dramatically, just mentally, playing the game a lot simpler. He’s been blocking a lot of shots and playing tough in front of the goal for us. He’s been very effective the last two weeks, especially.”

Holy Cross recruit Peter Crinella extended the lead to 2-0 at the 7:04 mark of the opening period. He roofed a wrist shot into the top corner of the net as he streaked down the left side.

Freshman Riley Prattson scored his first of three goals on the night as he circled from behind the net. He beat Needham goaltender Mike McHale above his glove with a laser of a wrist shot.

UMass-Amherst commit John Leonard connected for a goal on a nice setup from Prattson and Petruzzelli at the 12:18 mark of the opening period to give the Panthers a 4-0 advantage heading to the first intermission.

Cathedral scored five more times in the second period, including shorthanded goals by Dan Petrick and Prattson on the same penalty kill. The shorthanded goal gave Prattson a hat trick after he had already picked up the first tally of the period.

Leonard and eighth grader Devon Tongue also found the back of the net in the middle frame.

Foley’s team is a very young group, as evidenced by the goal scorers in the second period, with all in eighth, ninth and 10th grades.

“At this point in the season, no one is still a rookie,” said Foley of his younger players. “They’re playing older than their years. They’re really getting comfortable.

“Devon Tongue, especially, he’s really come onto the scene. Devon has made steady progress the whole season. He’s playing really, really well for us right now.”

Foley chose to rest senior John Liquori for the second half of the game, giving sophomore Owen Mastroianni a chance to see some ice time to close out the second period. Freshman sensation and Quinnipiac recruit Keith Petruzzelli came in for the third period.

Springfield Cathedral has tied Austin Prep and BC High already this season, but the Panthers see Thursday’s clash against three-time defending champion Malden Catholic as a pivotal contest in the team’s quest for a high seed in the Super 8.

“Every game is an important game,” Foley said. “It’s the last game of the regular season. It’s our tournament that we haven’t won in years. Malden Catholic is a great opponent. We’re going to be real excited to play [Thursday] night and give it our all.”

“We’re just trying to focus on playing Malden Catholic.,” Liquori said. “It’s a huge game to determine our seeding for the Super 8. We really don’t want to play a play-in game.”

Needham will face St. Mary’s in the consolation game tomorrow, a contest with a lot riding on it for both clubs. Needham needs a win to qualify for the state tournament, while the Spartans are still making a push to be included in the Super 8.

Recap: No. 6 Cathedral 10, No. 8 Prep 2

February, 15, 2014
Feb 15
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- This one was way too easy.

Following Springfield Cathedral's 10-2 dismantling of St. John's Prep Saturday at Ristuccia Memorial Arena, two things were learned. First and foremost, the sixth-ranked Panthers, a lock for Super 8 berth, have to be considered a legitimate threat for the state's most-esteemed high school hockey title. Secondly, whatever thread of hope the eight-rated Eagles had in securing an invite to the Super 8, are history. In fact, for a team on the verge of missing the postseason completely, this was hardly a performance to write home about.

Junior center Peter Crinella scored four goals and Devan Tongue, an eighth-grader, contributed three to lead Cathedral (13-2-4).

Leading by a goal after one period, the Panthers found the back of the net four times in the middle frame to run away with it.

"St. John's is obviously in desperation mode for a playoff," said Cathedral head coach Brian Foley. "They’re big and physical and came out hard. Coming out for the second period we hoped our speed and skill would take over as the game wore on. We've got some guys who can put some pucks into the net. The three lines we've settled in on just keep getting better and better. I think we are starting to gel at the right time."

The Panthers led 2-1 heading into the first intermission, as Crinella's power play redirect score at 12:58, as it turned out, put them ahead to stay.

Cathedral gained control during the middle period. Crinella bagged another at 6:27 with a short side wrist shot past freshman goaltender Zach Laramie. Two minutes later, Tongue got into the act after taking a clean pass from Johnny Leonard and finishing it off with a nifty back hand goal stick side, making it 4-1. Only 13 seconds later, D.J. Petruzzelli added to the Panthers' lead after sniping a 25-foot blast, thus extending the margin to four goals.

"St. John's is a very good team," Foley said. "As far as I'm concerned they're still a Super 8 caliber team. They can compete with anybody so coming into this game, this was big for us. Overall, I thought we got a complete team effort from everybody today."

At 10:12, freshman Dan Petrick managed to strip the puck away from new goaltender Brian Conry's catching glove and slip it into the net, giving the Panthers a commanding 6-1 advantage after 30 minutes.

Cathedral's offensive onslaught continued into the third period. An odd-man rush with Petrick and Tongue was finished with Tongue slipping a shot into the back of the net at 5:56. The Panthers weren't through. Petruzzelli, standing just outside the Prep goal crease, added his second tally, pushing the puck past Conry's reach. Less than a minute later, Crinella, conceivably the best player in the state, recorded his fourth marker on the afternoon after burying a hard wrist shot that Conry never saw. Tongue attained his first hat trick as a Panther moments later after stealing a pass inside the Eagles defensive zone and rifling a shot past Conry (3 saves), making it a 10-1 contest before Prep senior Zach Pearce managed a score in the game's final minute.

"We started moving the puck, especially in that second period and were getting some good shots on net," Tongue said. "For me, I just tried to get pucks on the net as best I could and fortunately some were able to bounce through. Our team chemistry is a lot better than at the start of the year. It is really showing and hopefully that will get us to the Super 8."

At the outset, Crinella (team-high 24 goals) wasted no time in getting the Panthers on the board. Just 2:02 in, the Holy Cross commit ripped a shot from just outside the left circle that sailed past Laramie.

Despite recent victories over Austin Prep and Arlington Catholic, Prep still had its back firmly are against the wall in its quest for a postseason bid. Late in the first, the Eagles (7-9-2) stormed back. Nick Latham, as part of a 2-on-1 break with Mark Etherington, beat freshman goalie Keith Petruzzelli (20 saves) to tie things at 1-1.

However, just moments following the score, Prep was whistled for a questionable too many men on the ice infraction. As a result, it would lead to Crinella's go-ahead score late in the frame.

"(The officials) really had no explanation for that call," said puzzled Eagles head coach Kristian Hanson, whose club sits four points out of securing a Division 1 North playoff spot, and must now win its final two contests in order to qualify. "Our captain was out on the ice asking one of the referees regarding the circles and the other ref turns and calls us for too many men on the ice. I don't understand it.

"Was it the difference in this game? Probably not. But it certainly changed the complexion at that time because we had just scored to tie it. Obviously we got a little rattled after that and so did my goalie. We tried to compete today but we just weren't getting it. It was a bad match up for us. Now it is up to us to step up and play a better game on Wednesday (versus Winchester) and on Friday (versus Wakefield) to get into the playoffs. Hypothetically the tournament has already started for us starting this week."

Recap: No. 3 Austin Prep 3, No. 7 Cathedral 3

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
TEWKSBURY, Mass. -- During this past week, Austin Prep has been living life on the edge. If you think that is something the Cougars are rejoicing in, think again.

For the second time in as many games, No. 3 Austin Prep needed to crawl out from under the weight of a two-goal deficit, this time salvaging a 3-3 tie against No. 7 Springfield Cathedral Tuesday night at Breakaway Ice Center.

On Saturday night, the Cougars were held scoreless during the first 30 minutes before storming back with three third period goals to slip by Arlington Catholic. Austin Prep head coach Louis Finocchiaro realizes his club is playing with fire right now, and falling behind early, especially come playoff time, is something that needs to be fixed rather quickly.

"It's going to catch up to us eventually and we all know that," said Finocchiaro, his team standing at 8-2-3. "Obviously I'm proud of the kids and the character they've showed in that we don't quit.

“But we cannot keep spotting teams two-goal leads like this. It's something that we need to keep on talking about and we have to learn to fight through it fast. We know how to play coming from behind but I want us to learn how to play with a lead."

Austin Prep trailed by a pair until late in the second period. That is when junior forward Bobo Carpenter, at 11:14, beat Panther goaltender John Liquori (18 saves) with a quick wrist shot to get the Cougars on the board.

"Our motto is to keep on working hard all the time," Carpenter said. "That's the only thing we can control so that is what we want to work off of every game. Coming back like this shows how great a team we can be when we want to be. Our next goal in what all of us believe is we need to come ready to play in the first period and keep it going from there."

But just 1:12 into the final frame, sophomore Johnny Leonard netted his second goal of the evening after blistering down the left lane and beating Cougar goalie Elijah Harris glove side, giving the Panthers back their two-goal margin. Leonard's two goals now gives him 18 on the season and ties him with Peter Crinella for the team lead.

But as they did against Arlington Catholic three days earlier, Austin Prep never showed panic. The Cougars stuck with their method of cycling the puck inside the Cathedral zone and putting as many shots possible on Liquori. With nearly a full period remaining, Austin Prep's objective was to create traffic in front of the senior netminder in the hopes of picking up a loose rebound.

The strategy came to fruition after Liquori could not snag a shot with his catching glove. As the puck rolled out to the crease, Dan O'Toole pushed it into the net at 5:20 to make it a 3-2 contest.

Although the Panthers got caught puck watching, they too, kept constant pressure inside the Cougar zone. But Harris was able to turn aside all 10 shots he faced in the frame to keep his team in it.

Only a minute after O'Toole's score, Cougar center Cam Russo forced a takeaway just inside the Austin Prep blue line. The junior then found Ryan McDonough open in the lane and delivered a perfect lead pass. McDonough did the rest, beating Liquori with a backhander to deadlock this tilt.

"There were some coverage breakdowns in the defensive zone," Cathedral head coach Brian Foley said. "We've got to do a better job on the defensive side of the puck. We played good and didn't make a ton of mistakes but when we did they capitalized. All we can do now is keep working. I like this team and the way they are working. I think we'll continue to get better and I think we'll be a very good team by the end of February."

Cathedral (10-2-3) grabbed the opening period lead after Devan Tongue put in his own rebound from the short side at 4:15. The score stayed that way until the early moments of the second. With Austin Prep's J.J. Layton in the box for cross checking, the Panthers' line of Leonard, Zac Prattson and Cam Peritz played tic-tac-toe with the puck in front of Harris (27 stops), before Leonard finished it off by roofing a shot over Harris' glove, extending the lead to 3-1.

"Springfield is a very good team,'' Finocchiaro said. "They are very patient with the puck and never seem to panic. They were much-better defensively than I first thought as well."

Following Leonard's second tally, Cathedral's offense went stone cold silent from that point. Much of that had to do with the Cougar's tight defense and the play of Harris. While this was taking place, the Cougars finally decided to awaken their offense, enough so, to grab a point in this one.

"It all begins in the net and Elijah made some very nice saves for us tonight at crucial times," Finocchiaro said. "We knew Springfield is an explosive team with some very quick forwards so credit Elijah [Harris] in how he played them."

Recap: No. 8 Cathedral 6, Mt. St. Charles 2

January, 19, 2014
Jan 19
WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- If somehow Springfield Cathedral can find a way to bottle up its performance during the first two periods of Saturday's matinee match-up against Mount St. Charles Academy, then the Panthers could punch their ticket for a trip to the Super 8 tournament in March.

No. 8 Cathedral put on a virtual clinic for most of the opening 30 minutes of this tilt, building a 5-goal lead before settling for a 6-2 victory at the Olympia Ice Center.

"I think we're playing pretty good right now," said Panthers head coach Brian Foley, after his team improved to 9-2-1. "Mount is a very good team and came out with a lot of energy at the beginning. They out-shot us 6-0 to start the game before we kind of got it together. It was nice to have a 5-0 lead after two periods.

“Our kids are doing a good job finishing opportunities. Overall, we played a pretty-solid game today."

Cathedral did a lot of the little things right in this one. They won many of the small battles up and down the ice and took control of the larger ones as well. They were able to imposed an aggressive style by pressuring the Mounties defense into making countless ill-advised passes up the ice to their forwards. Once MSC was able to clear its own blue line, they ran into a bevy of trouble as the Panthers were waiting for them at mid-ice and beyond, forcing them off of their projected paths towards the net.

Although the Mounties were able to send 10 shots in goaltender Keith Petruzzelli's direction during the opening frame, most came from the perimeter. Petruzzelli, a freshman, got the nod over senior John Liquori, who surrendered three goals in a loss to Central Catholic on Wednesday.

The move may have surprised some people, considering the strength of MSC's offense. However, Foley was quick dismissed any notions of a goaltender controversy brewing.

"This is Keith's second start of the year," Foley said. "We have two very good goalies which I consider to be a luxury. We are going to keep playing both of them and try to find the right combination. For a coach, it really is a luxury knowing you have two goalies that you are completely comfortable with."

Keith Petruzzelli, along with his brother D.J., has already given a verbal commitment to play for Quinnipiac University once their high school careers are over.

D.J. Petruzzelli was equally instrumental in this victory, recording a natural hat trick.

The Mounties (9-5), who played just 18 hours earlier, beating Coventry and then having to endure a two-hour bus ride here, showed no signs of fatigue at the start. They dictated the offensive tempo from the opening face off and move the puck around the Cathedral zone with relative ease for the first four minutes. But Petruzzelli (26 saves) was able to survive the early onslaught before Cathedral started to find its legs.

Following the MSC flurry, the Panthers, sticking with their effective on-the-mark passing and speed skills, began to find gaps within the Mounties defense. They were able to create space in the neutral zone and continue to keep distance once inside Mountie territory. At 8:57 of the opening period, Cathedral capitalized on its efforts. Johnny Leonard, a sophomore, sent a cross-ice feed from the right circle over to Cam Peritz. The freshman was able to get a step ahead of the defense and flipped a shot past Brian Larence for a 1-0 lead.

Larence has been a valuable commodity in MSC's arsenal. The senior had posted three shutouts in his last four games coming in. On this day however, he wasn't as fortunate, stopping 23 of 29 shots.

"We gave up way to many odd-man rushes today," said Mounties assistant head coach David Belisle. "It seemed like it was happening on nearly every shift. I think we were over-anxious at times. Our concentration, especially in the second period, was awful."

Despite the change in momentum that Cathedral enjoyed over the final 10 minutes of the first period, putting up 13 shots, it appeared as though MSC would only be down by a goal heading into the first intermission.

But with just 3 seconds remaining, Leonard was left unattended on the short side of the net and beat Larence with a hard wrist shot under his catching glove, giving his team a two-goal lead.

"We were kind of scrambling around during the second half of the first period," Belisle said. "Giving up that goal late got [them] in their game and got us way off of our game."

The Panthers carried their opening period resurgence into the middle frame. In spite playing a man down, it didn't seem to matter. Leonard chalked up his second goal (No. 14 this season) at 6:45 by finishing off a 2-on-1 break, firing a shot just under Larence's glove to make it 3-0.

Four minutes later, it was D.J. Petruzzelli's time to shine. Another turnover resulted in a hard rush down ice for Cathedral's top line. Forward Peter Crinella started things before handing the puck over to Leonard, who then found Petruzzelli in front of the crease. The junior finished off the drive by stuffing a shot between Larence's leg pads for a four-goal advantage.

Petruzzelli was not finished. With under a minute remaining in the period, another odd-man rush by the Panthers set the stage for his second goal and a 5-0 lead.

"I think we had a top-to-bottom team effort today," said D.J. Petruzzelli. "All of our lines jumped in and played well. Keith played really well in net and I think we just kept pouring it on. All in all it was a good team effort."

MSC opened the final period with a concentrated effort of shoring up its patented 1-2-2 zone in the hopes of slowing down the Panthers. For the most part, it seemed to work as Cathedral was now finding things a bit more difficult in its attempts to work the puck inside the Mounties' zone. In turn, that finally opened things up for MSC's offense. Within a span of 20 seconds, the Mounties found the back of the net twice on goals by Devin Votta (team-high 13) and Patrick Holmes, cutting the deficit to 5-2.

But the hole MSC dug for itself was too deep to crawl out of. With less than two minutes to go, Petruzelli notched his third tally after ripping a shot from the right point, which sailed past Larence, putting an end to any comeback hopes by the Mounties.

"The good thing we can take out of this moving forward is we can't win many games against good teams like this by giving up that many odd-man rushes," Belilse said. "I think we'll be alright. We try to play our best hockey in February and that is the hope again for us this year."

Recap: No. 5 Central 5, No. 8 Cathedral 3

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16

LAWRENCE, Mass. – Central Catholic senior forward Lloyd Hayes emerged from the room, hobbled but no worse for the wear. With a large ice pack strapped around his right shoulder, the Raiders’ veteran has been in these kinds of spots before.

No. 5 Central played a nearly flawless game through a period-and-a-half, only to watch a three-goal lead evaporate midway through the third period against No. 8 Springfield Cathedral.

That’s when Mr. Reliable came through again.

Not even a bad wing could prevent Hayes from netting the game-winning goal with less than two minutes to play, before adding a second with an empty-netter, while leading the Raiders to 5-3 win in a duel of Super 8 hopefuls at Valley Forum.

“How he carries himself is a true testament to how we came back and it’s fitting that he got that goal,” Central head coach Mike Jankowski said of Hayes. “We could have created a little distance early on, but we couldn’t finish. But that’s a great team we let come back. They made some plays, capitalized on the power play and got us on our heels a little bit.”

[+] EnlargeCathedral Hockey
Scott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comCathedral erased a 3-goal deficit behind the first career hat trick from freshman winger Riley Prattson before Central Catholic pulled away for a 5-3 win.
In a matchup of two of the state’s best top lines, Cathedral freshman Riley Prattson shone brightest.

Playing alongside the state’s top two scorers entering action – in Division 1 commits Peter Crinella and D.J. Petruzzelli – Prattson almost single-handedly pulled the Panthers out of a 3-0 hole, scoring three straight goals for his first career hat trick.

Cathedral (8-2-1) controlled early play, however, Central (8-1-1) took a 2-0 lead to the room at the first intermission. Eric Robbins buried Richie Greenberg’s feed for Central’s first goal at 5:26, before Alex Lester was the beneficiary of some precision passing from David Sheehan and Corey Webber with 2:05 remaining.

The Raiders extended the lead to three in the second period, when Christian Thompson snuck down the wing and put one short-side with assists from Cam Smith and Zack Cote at 2:29.

It was at that time Panthers head coach Brian Foley made a goaltending change, lifting starter John Liquori for freshman Keith Petruzzelli.

“You’re just trying to change the momentum,” Foley said. “It’s not that John was to blame for any of the goals, but I think Keith came in and did a good job.”

The move seemed to lift Cathedral, as the Panthers struck for their first of two power-play goals on the evening with 8:27 remaining in the second.

The onslaught from Prattson continued into the third period. He scored his second at 5:46 with an assist from Crinella, before striking again on the man-advantage with 7:23 to play. Crinella picked up his second point of the game with the assist.

“We had Zack [Prattson] there originally,” Foley said of his top line, “but we then put Riley there because we wanted Zack’s size on the second line. The three of those guys, Peter, D.J. and Riley, every night someone else is scoring the goals. And then, Johnny Leonard, Cam Peritz and Zack are scoring goals. Then, our third line recently started scoring goals.”

But even when it appeared Cathedral had momentum squarely on its side, Central came with the counterpunch – that being Hayes.

“We’re the type of team that we just keep at it and keep pushing,” Hayes added.

Hayes did just that, intercepting a Panthers’ clearing attempt out of their own end and pushing it past Keith Petruzzelli with 1:54 to play. He then added the empty-netter with 38 seconds remaining.

Cracking the code: Both teams can play an aggressive style at times, and with a Cathedral forward frequently hanging high on the Raiders’ blue line, pressure was constantly being applied on Central’s defensive corps.

Of course, with a returning All-State goaltender in Colin Soucy (30 saves) returning, that pressure has been somewhat alleviated this season, but Central did well to shut out Cathedral’s second and third lines in a deep and talented forward crop.

“We lost [Nick] Gorski and [Derek] Vaillancourt from last year, but we had a lot of kids that worked hard in the offseason and we’re working well together,” Soucy said of Central blue-liners. “Our shots on goal against is actually down from last year, surprisingly. I thought I was going to see more shots, but everyone’s doing their job.”

Yet, even if the opposition is able to circumnavigate the Raiders’ defense, there’s also the matter of beating the netminder.

“Colin’s a good goalie and I thought he played great,” Foley said. “We weren’t scoring on the first shot, so we needed to create second and third chances, but he did a good job all game of controlling the puck and not giving us those chances. But the kids kept working hard and they were rewarded with a couple power play goals.”

The road ahead: While neither coach was looking too far down the road, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the two teams meet at some point in the Super 8 tournament.

In a moment of candor, following his team’s dramatic win, Jankowski assessed where his group is at, both in the season and in the greater picture of building Central’s program to that of a statewide power.

“We’ve enjoyed playing that darkhorse, it’s been our baby,” he said. “But now I think it’s finally time where we’ve had these guys like Lloyd [Hayes], [Zack] Cote, [Alex] Lester, [Conrad Jepson] and Colin [Soucy], and now it’s time that they’re main guys. They’ve proven that they deserve the attention and the limelight and the accolades that comes with being a top team.”

Recap: No. 8 Springfield Cathedral 9, No. 19 Barnstable 3

December, 29, 2013
HYANNIS, Mass. – The Panthers may be a young team, but the message they sent this weekend should have any team that crosses their path a little worried.

Barnstable coach Scott Nickerson might have summed up Saturday night’s game against No. 8 Springfield Cathedral the best.

“We were outmanned, they just did everything well. They’ve got some of the best players I’ve seen in the last 10 years.”

The Panthers followed up Friday night’s six-goal game by hanging nine goals on their second ranked opponent in as many games to capture the Cape Cod Freeze Out championship.

[+] EnlargePeter Crinella
Phil Garceau for ESPNBoston.comSpringfield Cathedral winger Peter Crinella was one of three Panthers with multigoal games in a rout of No. 19 Barnstable at the Cape Cod Freeze Out.
Sophomore Johnny Leonard paced the offense with a hat trick and D.J. Petruzzelli chipped in with two goals and a pair of assists in the win. Both players were named to the all-tournament team.

Leonard scored two of his goals in the first period as the Panthers took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission. Leonard scored his first of the night was he got behind the Red Raiders blue liners and was fed a perfectly timed pass Matt Cieboter. All alone on the breakaway, Leonard made a quick move to beat Kevin Huska and gave Cathedral the lead just 69 seconds into the game.

Freshman Riley Prattson added a goal midway through the first and Leonard was set up for a power play goal from Perruzzelli in the closing minutes of the period to put the finishing touch on an all-Panther first period.

“Always when you can score early and get a lead you’re always better off. It’s a tough game and playing from behind is hard,” said Cathedral coach Brian Foley.

Barnstable was at risk of being run out of their own building, but 20 seconds into the second period Cam Curtin got a hold of the puck and took it up the left side and rifled a shot past John Liquori.

Peter Crinella and Pertuzzelli scored a minute and a part from each other to give the Panthers a 5-1 lead and Crinella goal with 25 seconds put the visitors up 6-2, but the pesky Red Raiders refused to go away. Cody Pasic got two goals in the final five minutes, including one with seven seconds on the clock giving the Red Raiders a shred of hope to cling onto as they skated back to their locker room for the second break.

“We played a better second period, tying them 3-3 in the period and we go into the locker room trailing, 6-3,” said Nickerson. “If we don’t give up the goal at the end it’s 5-3, and I think it’s a different story.”

But Springfield Cathedral put an end to any thought of a Barnstable comeback, scoring two quick goals to open the third. Leonard scored his hat trick goal with 3:05 on the clock to end the high scoring affair.

“At the end of the second they took the momentum away so it was important to come out in the third and score the three goals to win the game,” said Foley. “I thought the next goal in the third was going to be huge. If they made it 6-4 we are on our heels.”

No inexperience here: Cathedral is skating one of the youngest teams in the state. The only senior on their team is their goaltender, John Liquori. The Panthers have five juniors in first-liners Crinella and Petruzzelli, second line right winger Zach Prattson and their second defensive pairing of Cieboter and Bryce Peritz.

That leaves 15 skaters and two goalies between eighth grade and sophomores. But don’t let that fool you. They need be considered amongst the most explosive teams in the state. Six goals against No. 22 Braintree and nine goals against No. 19 Barnstable with Kevin Huska in net.

“We are really young so obviously its work in process,” said Foley of his team so far. “Its nice we’re scoring a lot more goals than we have in the past, but we are allowing more goals than we had in the past so we need to work on team defense but we are making strides and improving.”

With such a young team, the hot question on everyone’s mind is how they will react come tournament time in February. While the season is still young, Foley isn’t worried about that quiet yet, “Its very strange but credit to those kids. They are a talented group of kids and as long as they keep working and improving, age won’t be an issue as the season goes on.”

A learning experience: Nickerson didn’t sugar coat his loss after the game and gave credit where credit was due.

“We reacted slow. At this point in the season I don’t think we could beat them one out of 20 times but down the road, who knows. It’s a good learning experience.”

Barnstable had gotten off to a solid start this season, but Saturday’s game should be a wake up call to the Red Raiders. If they want to be the best they have to beat the best and Cathedral reminded them just how far they are.

But the season is still early on and there are things that the Raiders did well that can be built upon. How they reacted when they were down after the first period is a good starting point.

“We attempted to make a game out of it but at this point in the season we aren’t ready for that type of competition,” said Nickerson. “Its good for us, it shows us where we stand and where we need to be but also a reminder that we aren’t a super eight team.”

Power-play dominance: The Red Raiders were sent to the penalty box four times and the Panthers did their best to make them pay for every mistake that made.

Four penalties translated into three power play goals for the Panthers.

Barnstable needed to play a perfect game when they were at ever strength to win the game, never mind when they were outmanned on the ice.

Recap: No. 8 Cathedral 6, No. 22 Braintree 0

December, 28, 2013
HYANNIS, Mass. – Less than a week removed from a tough loss to Archbishop Williams, Springfield Cathedral showed they still belong amongst the elite.

The No. 8 Panthers turned in a complete game effort in the 6-0 win, dominating 22nd-ranked Braintree in the opening round of the Cape Cod Freeze Out.

The path doesn’t get any easier as Cathedral gets their third ranked opponent in as many games when they play No. 19 Barnstable Saturday evening in the championship game.

“The kids were pretty upset after losing the game on Saturday and I had a feeling they would be really hungry today and they came out strong and played well for three periods,” Cathedral coach Brian Foley said of his team following the game.

Cathedral jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from D.J. Petruzzelli and Cam Peritz but it wasn’t until the second period that the Panthers found out everything was going to go their way.

Less than four minutes into the period, Cathedral went on the penalty kill and withstood a brief attack from the Wamps.

The Panthers then countered and set up offense in the attacking zone, and 3:44 into the period Cam Griffin put his team up 3-0 when he ripped a shot from the point and tallied a goal for the shorthanded column.

Riley Prattson added a goal with 4:19 in the second and Johnny Leonard put home a beautifully set up puck from Prattson on a power play with 55 seconds left in the period as the Panthers skated back to their locker room with a 5-0 lead.

“No excuses we just didn’t answer the bell,” said Braintree coach Dave Fasano. “We were coming off a big win against St. Mary’s and right from the get go we were flat. We made too many mistakes against a good team. And when you make mistakes they are going to capitalize and they did.”

Peter Crinella added to his team-high 12 points with an unassisted goal a little over a minute into the third period when he beat new goalie David McDonough high to his glove side.

Dual-threat: Cathedral went into the game with Braintree with the game plan of letting both of their goalies play for half the game. Senior John Liquori got the start and Keith Petruzzelli took over with 6:59 left in the second period.

The result? A combined shutout between the two. While a strong Panther fore-check neutralized any sort of Braintree attack, the two made the saves when they needed to.

“They’re both good goalies and we try to find a way to get them both in,” said Foley. “We decided before the game to split them and see how that works and it worked well today so we might roll with that for a bit.”

Looking ahead: For Braintree, they’ll get things started with a game against Newburyport at 3 p.m. Friday night’s game is something that would like to forget about quickly. Luckily for Wamps, they don’t have a lot of time to dwell on this loss as get thrown right back into the fire.

Newburyport is also coming off a 6-0 shutout loss but Braintree will be looking to prove that they still belong in the Top 25 rankings.

“I thought we battled hard in the third period but the game was in hand at that point,” said Fassano. “We need to go home, get rested and be ready to take the ice tomorrow. We can’t have our heads down sulking and I think we’ll answer the bell tomorrow.”

As for Cathedral, they will have their hands full with the Red Raiders. The Barnstable forwards can score and their goaltending situation is concrete.

“Hopefully, we can put together another complete game. It’s going to be a tough opponent,” said Foley.

Hockey teams kick off season at Regan Summitt

December, 9, 2013
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- It is never easy replacing a legend, but that is the task which has been handed down to first-year St. John's (Shrewsbury) coach Mike Mead.

Mead's Pioneers, along with many of the state's other top-echelon programs, took part in Sunday's Fifth Annual Garrett Regan Hockey Summit at New England Sports Center. The event is named after the former 26-year Hingham High coach and Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Hall of Fame inductee who passed away in June 2008.

Mead, who was appointed to the position last September, takes over for Brian Murphy, who stood behind the St. John's bench for 29 seasons, posting an overall record of 392-217-63, including a pair of Division 1 state titles (1999, 2004) and a handful of Super 8 appearances.

Mead is no stranger to St. John's. He served as an assistant under Murphy for 16 years, leaving in 2007 to spend more time with his family. He is also head of the Math Department at the school.

"Brian is a great friend and was a great mentor," said Mead. "He kind of broke me in. When this opportunity happened I jumped at it. My kids are little older now so everything sort fell into the right place at the right time for me."

Mead exudes the fact that the Pioneers have a plethora of depth, including a freshman team with 25 members. "We have a lot of kids who came back and tried out," he said. "We have good numbers and good depth. I don't really know the kids yet so with our tryouts I did things by grade. I didn't do it with returning players. We did juniors and seniors one day and freshman and sophomores the next. What I have seen so far I have been pleasantly surprised."

St. John's will, again, be paced by senior defensemen Bryan Nelson (23 points last season), Connor McCann, senior forward Kevin Butler and senior goaltender Mario Pizzeri.

Mead is also counting on senior forward Chris Adams and junior forward Dan Barlock to make their presence felt.

"We'll try to be aggressive on the forecheck and having two men on the puck," Mead said. "The biggest thing for us will be on offense. I feel we are a strong defensive team. I'm going to need some of our seniors to put the puck into the net."

Lancers quest for four: Malden Catholic began its quest for a fourth consecutive Super 8 crown, taking on Springfield Cathedral, another Super 8 qualifier from a year ago.

The Lancers controlled the opening frame, building a 4-1 lead before the Panthers rallied for three unanswered tallies to earn a 4-4 tie in the 2-period scrimmage.

By most people's observations, MC is the prohibitive favorite to claim another Super 8 crown again this season.

Despite the losses of two of their most prolific players (Casey Fitzgerald and Mike Iovanna, who combined for 56 points a year ago), there is still plenty of talent to carry the Lancers again this season. Junior forward Ara Nazarian (26 goals, 24 assists) leads the way. Senior forward Tyler Sifferlen, junior forward Austin Goldstein, sophomore forwards Matt Filipe and Jake Witkowski along with defensemen John McLean, Nick Rolli are solid. As of now, Alex Reissis appears to be the front-runner between the pipes replacing departed Connor Maloney.

"We lost some major contributors but we have a good bunch of younger kids who have come in that should fill those spots fine," MC head coach John McLean said. "The issue is you cannot replace a Casey Fitzgerald (who joined the United States National Team Development Program). He was a special player but the guys that are going to play need to step up.

“As far as our expectations I just worry about the next game. We don't think about the Super 8. Right now we're rolling everyone and everyone is getting to play. When we work we're good and when we don't want to work then we're just average. All that matters is winning the last game of the year. Last year was a long learning curve for us. Hopefully our leaders this year will step it up and take us to the Garden again. We have a lot of good, young strong players. It's just a matter of them gaining the confidence to play at this level."

Against Springfield Cathedral, Sifferlen netted a pair of goals, with Goldstein and Rolli accounting for one apiece.

"I think we have a good group of young core guys on this team," said Nazarian, a UNH commit. "We have good leadership from our older guys. It's a good mix of young and older guys. I think things are looking good so far. There is one goal here and that's to win the whole thing. That is our mindset. We won last year so we know every team we play is going to give us their best so we need to give it our best every game. This is a whole new season so we're just focusing on winning it again and not look back on last year."

Raiders on the rebound: Having reached the third round of last year's Super 8 before falling to St. John's Prep, Central Catholic remains hopeful for another stab at the big dance. Raiders head coach Mike Jankowski is a main reason as to why this program has emerged as a driving force statewide.

With Central everything begins from the net outward. Senior goaltender Colin Soucy, arguably the best high school netminder in the state, will be relied on heavily to get the Raiders back into Super 8 contention.

"We've had a lot of success of late," Jankowski said. "The culture has changed here and we are getting kids coming back from juniors and prep schools and believing in this program and high school. We want kids to enjoy their high school experience here. The schedule we play keeps is very competitive and it keeps our kids engaged and maintains them playing at a high-level. There's nothing like high school hockey in terms of the relationships and friendships the kids build. It's an awesome brotherhood that all teams should experience."

For years, Central often flew under the radar, constantly being overshadowed by other programs. But due to their recent success, that is no longer the case. Jankowski wishes it was not like that but when you win consistently, you now have a target on your back.

"Now, instead of coming in as a dark horse which we like to ride, there is a new expectation level which has been set here but I think we're ready for it," he said. "Colin is back and what he did for us, especially at the end of last year, was remarkable. For the kids to have that confidence in him at his position just gives us that added advantage. The goalie position where it makes a difference in a team's won-loss record. Colin is just a great example of being a great character kid."

Panthers on the prowl: With the loss of two key contributors last year, Springfield Cathedral will be looking to its youthfulness to help them make a return visit to the Super 8. Gone are defenseman Matt Foley and forwards Artie Potter and Dominic Blad. But who returns should play a key role in the Panthers postseason hopes. It all starts with goalie John Liquori. The team's lone senior, Liquori played himself into a top-level talent a year ago. Forwards Peter Crinella (a Holy Cross commit), Johnny Leonard, D.J. Petruzzelli, Cole Foster, Zac Prattson and Riley Prattson will give Cathedral the ammo it needs on offense.

Defense will be a work in progress, but Bryce Peritz, Jordan Tetreault and Cam Griffin return.

Also make note on freshman goaltender Keith Petruzzelli over the next couple of years.

"We've got babies but they're all good," Panthers coach Brian Foley said. "Our first two lines are going to score goals. We had a great first week of practice and you noticed how much they improved in just one week. It'll be fun over time to see how these guys mature this year. I think this will be our most-offensive team that we've had ever. All of those kids did a lot of work on their strength and speed during the off-season. I also think our defense and goaltending will be outstanding as well."

BC High movin’ on: With the loss of all-everything goaltender Peter Cronin, all is not lost at BC High. Brandon Payzant, a sophomore, was Cronin's understudy a year ago and by the looks of things, he appears to be a quick learner after playing solid between the pipes today against St. Mary's of Lynn.

"Brandon was with us last year as a freshman," Eagles coach John Flaherty said. "Obviously he had a great kid to watch and learn from. Peter was great working with Brandon so he now has a year of experience under his belt in practice and being around these guys. Now he is able to get some game experience. He's a good athlete and someone who will be able to step in and carry the load for us. We are also carrying eight defense (spearheaded by Sam Topham) where we hope to find the right combinations in order to keep the puck out of our zone."

On offense, BC High will count on Patrick Kramer (25 points), Steve DeForge, Chris LaLiberte, Tim Larocque, Jake Lemanski and Connor Noonan to work the puck into opposing team's defensive zones.

"We have a lot of experience back," Flaherty added. "It is just now we need guys to play bigger roles for us. Overall we are returning seven defensemen, 11 forwards and one goaltender and most of them have been around for a few years and it is our hope this is the year they blossom."

Hawks a sleeper?: Don't rule out Xaverian as a potential candidate to do some big things this season. Reaching the Division 1 South quarterfinals last season, the Hawks should be a better unit this year in spite of the departures of Eddie Pratt (17 goals last year) and defenseman Mike Brennan. They are led by forwards Antonio Marini (35 points last year), Tim Sweeney (24 points) and Jake Farrell (14). Defensively, Rick Smith and Ryan Walsh will be keys in shutting down opposing offenses.

Shot in the arm for SMH: After spending last season at Brewster Academy, St. Mary's of Lynn head coach Mark Lee was overjoyed learning that goalie Bailey MacBurnie was returning for his senior year.

Two years ago, as a sophomore, MacBurnie secured a 1.38 goals-against-average in helping the Spartans earn a No. 2 seeding in the Super 8 Tournament. With him back in the crease, expect St. Mary's to make another solid postseason run.

"Bailey can certainly be a difference maker for us," Lee said. "I think with this team we are putting a lot of kids in a position to allow them to gain great experience because overall we are a young team. I think we'll get better as the season goes."

With another year under their respective belts, you can look for forwards Jordan Manthorne and Jon Powers, the only two players to reach double digits in scoring last season, to lead to carry this club offensively.

Burlington moves on from repeat: Defending back-to-back Division 1 state champion Burlington will count on its defense to help the Red Devils in their quest for a third state title.

"So far I'm happy with our progress even though it has only been a couple of days," said Burlington head coach and recently-inducted Mass. State Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Conceison. "We have a strong defense and some forward that are young so it will be a work in progress to get our offense going. This is kind of a similar team to last year in that our offense started to come together at the end of the year. It's going to take a while for our offense to gel. We lost some firepower on offense last year (losing C.J. Grinnell and Joe Bernardi) but our defense is back."

The Red Devils also lost goalie Derek DeCastro to graduation and hope to fill the void with senior Mike Guleserian.

The Hall calls: Longtime Hudson head coach Mike Nanartowich will be inducted into the Mass. State Coaches Hall of Fame in May, along with Murphy, Waltham head coach John Maguire and Stoughton front man Dan Mark. Two years removed from his Division 3 state championship triumph over Medway, Nanartowich, now in his 24th season, regards Shrewsbury as the favorite in Central Mass. this year.

The Colonials return a front line of Dan and Jack Quinlivan along with David Belbin. Last season the trio combined to score 125 points. However, never never rule out the possibility for the Hawks at making a serious charge by season's end.

"You still have to go out and show up for every single game," Nanartowich said. "Right now you have to give the edge to Shrewsbury because of the people that they are returning as well as Wachusett and its depth. But at this point, I just think Belbin and the Quinlivan brothers can be the most-dominant line in all of Central Mass. this year. How you take care of their speed and skill requires a lot of game planning. As for us, we will still go out and play everyone straight up like we always do."

In regards to going into the Hall of Fame, Nanartowich remains humble over the selection. He passes the credit over to the players and coaches he has worked with over the years as the reason for the honor.

"I'm going in with a bunch of great guys and guys who have won at a good level," he said. "For me, all that hard work of watching tape, going to various rinks to scout and those commitments you make in the off-season with your team has paid off in winning a state championship and now it has paid off in terms of being recognized by your peers."

Hawks longtime assistant coach Mike Correa added that the honor bestowed on Nanartowich is certainly well-deserved.

"There is probably no one who does more for his players or works harder at preparing kids, not only for the game but life lessons as well, than him," Correa said. "Winning the 2012 state championship is not the reason why he should be in the hall. It is all the dedication he has brought to all the kids who have played in this program over the years which stands out to me."

Preseason Super 8 hockey projection

December, 2, 2013
With Monday marking the beginning of MIAA hockey practices across the state, it's as good a time as any to take an initial stab at projecting this year's Super 8 tournament field. So here goes nothing, kicking off the #RoadToTheGarden:

(By the way, look for our full preseason boys' and girls' Top 25 polls, along with All-State teams, starting next Monday.)

1. Austin Prep

Last year’s record: 16-2-6

Last year’s final ranking: 3

Key returners: F Bobo Carpenter, D Andrew Cross, G Elijah Harris, D J.J. Layton, F Eric MacAdams.

Why they’re here: Feeling was that the Cougars were about a year away from contending heading into last season and, low and behold, AP was just a goal or two away from capturing last year’s Super 8 title at the Garden. A young and talented nucleus returns largely intact this season, so the expectation is even higher. The goal will be to interrupt Malden Catholic’s designs on a four-peat.

2. Malden Catholic

Last year’s record: 16-6-3

Last year’s final ranking: 1

Key returners: F Matt Filipe, F Austin Goldstein, D John McLean, F Ara Nazarian, D Nick Rolli, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Jake Witkowski.

Why they’re here: As a three-time defending champion, it’s again the Lancers’ derby to lose. There are questions entering this season, as they’ll again be breaking in a new goaltender and Casey Fitzgerald moved on to the United State National Team Development Program. However, with returning ESPN Boston Mr. Hockey award winner Ara Nazarian (a UNH commit) returning, anything’s possible with this group.

3. Springfield Cathedral

Last year’s record: 16-3-4

Last year’s final ranking: 7

Key returners: F Peter Crinella, G John Liquori, F Johnny Leonard, F D.J. Petruzzelli.

Why they’re here: The Panthers might have the best forward depth of any returning squad, but there are some serious voids to be filled on the blue line, with All-Staters Matt Foley and Jack Williams lost to graduation. However, for whatever Cathedral might lack in experience on defense, three-year starting netminder John Liquori should mask.

4. Central Catholic

Last year’s record: 15-7-3

Last year’s final ranking: 6

Key returners: F Zack Cote, F Lloyd Hayes, D Alex Lester, G Colin Soucy.

Why they’re here: Arguably, there was no bigger breakout star in last year’s Super 8 tournament than Colin Soucy. The then-junior goaltender backboned the Raiders in a hard-fought, three-game series against St. John’s Prep, nearly earning the upset against the top-seeded Eagles. Head coach Mike Jankowski’s teams are always defensively responsible and well-organized through the neutral zone, thus they are perennial staple to the tournament.

5. BC High

Last year’s record: 15-5-3

Last year’s final ranking: 5

Key returners: F Steve DeForge, F Pat Kramer, F Tim Larocque, F Jake Lemanski, D Ryan Shea, D Sam Topham.

Why they’re here: Of course, there’s the question of how will take Peter Cronin’s place in between the pipes, but the Eagles are deep on returning talent. Sophomore defenseman Ryan Shea has generated a good amount of Division 1 college interest in just one year at Morrissey Blvd. Meanwhile, junior Pat Kramer was among the Eagles’ top scorers last year. If the transition in net is smooth, they’re likely the second Catholic Conference team in.

6. Winchester

Last year’s record: 16-6-3

Last year’s final ranking: 11

Key returners: F Brendan Greene, G James Offner, F Nolan Redler.

Why they’re here: The Sachems were a couple bounces and a shootout away from a Division 1 state title appearance last season, going down in a narrow defeat to eventual champion and Middlesex League rival Burlington. This year, Winchester could assume the poll position in the state’s premiere public school division. The aforementioned Red Devils and last year’s Super 8 entrant, Reading, both graduated significant portions of last year’s roster, so the time is now for the Sachems to make their run.

7. Archbishop Williams

Last year’s record: 13-6-4

Last year’s final ranking: 15

Key returners: D Matt Clifford, F Ryan Dunn, F Mike Jessman, F Nick Menzel, F Mike Sorrenti

Why they’re here: After an albeit brief appearance at last year’s Super 8 tournament – getting trounced by MC in a play-in game – the Bishops should remain a top team in the Catholic Central, which is often a two-bid league at the Super 8 table, with 13 seniors on the roster. They could be the team to push AP in league play, and if everything holds true, they’ll be in the picture come tournament time.

8. St. John’s (Shrewsbury)

Last year’s record: 7-11-4

Last year’s final ranking: N/A

Key returners: D Bryan Nelson, G Mario Pizzeri.

Why they’re here: Hey, what would a preseason picks segment be without a dark horse? Last year was a bumpy season at best for the Pioneers, but after a one-year absence from the Super 8 (and tournament play for that matter), St. John’s could be dangerous behind first-year head coach Mike Mead. The Pioneers are built from the net out, with Mario Pizzeri in goal – a holdover and standout in St. John’s Super 8 appearance two years ago.