WOONSOCKET, R.I. – This is what’s really scary about No. 2 Springfield Cathedral -- only five players on the Panthers roster are seniors.
“Lack” of seniors notwithstanding, the Panthers still mauled perennial Rhode Island Division I state champion Mount St. Charles, 9-2, Saturday night at Adelard Arena.
“Last year we had one (senior),” said Panthers coach Brian Foley. “I think those five seniors (Pete Crinella, Zach Prattson, D.J. Petruzzelli, Bryce Peritz and Matt Cieboter) are all great kids and great leaders. They work really hard in the off-season to get stronger and it’s paying off for us right now.”
Cathedral’s victory improved the team’s record to a gaudy 14-0-2. In the process the Panthers scored three short-handed goals, two power-play goals and three goals off Mount turnovers.
“We’ve got some guys that know what to do with the puck in the offensive end,” said Foley. “They’ve been finishing. We’ve been pretty consistent with that all year. We’ve just got to keep working hard.
“But we’ve been working a lot on special teams in practice and it’s been paying off for us.”
Leonard on a tear: Ironically it was a junior, Johnny Leonard (who’s given a verbal commitment to UMass-Amherst), who led the onslaught by recording a hat trick plus two assists.
Through 16 games, Leonard has 32-20-52 totals.
“He’s an elite goal scorer and he’s having a great year,” said Foley. “He’s playing with two great linemates (Petruzzelli and Cam Peritz). We have a lot of good players on the team that challenge him every day in practice. The team’s working real hard and he’s improving along with the rest of the boys.”
Despite the uncharacteristic nature of this loss for Mount (9-5-2), coach Dave Belisle still was able to take away some positives.
“I think after getting out-played in the second period (Cathedral out-shot Mount 33-15 and out-scored Mount 5-0 in that period) I thought we came back and played a good third at the end,” said Belisle, whose team received two power-play goals from Keith Phaneuf to avoid a shutout. “I thought we played a good first. But if you don’t skate against a team like this … we stood around a lot.
“It’s not like we weren’t trying. We just totally broke down. Our power play gave up three short-handed goals. They’re too skilled to fool around with the puck at the top or be lazy in neutral ice and make lazy passes.
“They’re a skilled team. I thought we did a really nice job in the first but we made two mistakes and it cost us.”
Mount was on a power play when Petruzzelli (two goals and two assists) stole the puck in the neutral zone and poked it to Leonard who skated in on a breakaway and beat starting goalie Ryan Hanaway (12 saves on 15 shots) at 3:54.
Then, at 11:11, Leonard scooped up a loose puck around Mount’s blue line and beat Hanaway 5-hole for a 2-0 lead.
The Panthers added their second short-handed goal at 3:59 of the second. Leonard stole the puck and fed Petruzzelli who snapped home a shot from the bottom of the right circle.
Belisle removed Hanaway in favor of Zach Vanasse at that point but he received minimal support from his teammates since the Panthers scored consecutive power-play goals – by Petruzzelli who buried the rebound of a Crinella shot at 10:07 and Leonard who scored top shelf at 11:16.
After Kyle Kazeroid scored on a wrist shot from just outside the crease at 13:58, Dan Petrick accounted for Cathedral’s third short-handed goal with 30 ticks of the clock let in the middle period.
At the opposite end, Cathedral goalie Keith Petruzzelli, who began the game with a 94.8 save percentage, made 23 saves for the victory.
Learning experience: “I thought Mount St. Charles worked really hard which was great for us,” said Foley. “It was a game where we worked hard for three periods. I didn’t think we came out great in the first period but I thought our work ethic got getter as the game went on. I thought they brought that out of us so I thought we learned a lot tonight.
“We learned how hard you need to work each and every night on every shift. I think Mount’s got a great tradition and a great coach. They always work hard no matter what talent they have. “
Belisle subscribed to the adage that in order to be the best a team must play the best.
“That’s what I told my kids,” he said. “We can take something from this. We can’t make mistakes against good teams. You can’t take foolish penalties.
“I mentioned that before the game. Stay out of the box (because) they’re too skilled. They’re going to make you pay. They’re just as offensive minded short-handed as they are on the power play. Five-on-five it was pretty close. But special teams it wasn’t a contest.”