WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Needham’s Chris Joyce had seen it all before. Earlier in the season, the Rockets had led against top-notch opponents late in the third period, but they had faltered in the final frame to wind up with ties.
“In the past we played BC High and Hingham and we’d blown [the lead] in the last 19 seconds to tie it,” Joyce said after Wednesday night’s game against No. 10 Springfield Cathedral. “And that’s what was going through my head.”
The 13th-ranked Rockets watched a 4-1 lead evaporate in the third period again, but this time escaped Olympia with a 4-3 victory over the Panthers in the opening round of the Springfield Cathedral Tournament.
Similar to the games Joyce recalled, two Cathedral goals made it a one-goal game and with one minute to play, the Panthers had control of the puck on a power play.
With a 6-4 advantage on the ice, the Panthers took their best opportunity and fired a shot in traffic on Needham goaltender Evan MacDonald. The puck banged off the post to MacDonald’s right side and the goalie fell on his back to try to save the puck from slipping in.
“Don’t let this puck in the net, don’t let this puck in the net,” Joyce thought to himself as MacDonald went to the ice. “And thank God it hit the post and never went in.”
As the Cathedral players raised their arms in triumph and argued for a goal, the referees on the ice waved off the equalizer, and Needham avoided yet another tie and advanced to the tournament final against Malden Catholic.
“I was just hoping that we would come up here with a good effort and come away with a win,” Needham head coach Bill Guisti said about the importance of the game. “Whatever team took this game was going to be one step closer to the play-in game.”
Needham (125-5-4) clearly owned the early part of the third period with a wrap-around goal from Tom Coleman 46 seconds in, and a goal from Joyce in front of the net 5 minutes, 37 seconds into the period. But somewhere in the middle of the third, the Panthers found a spark.
While Cathedral (12-8-1) trailed by three goals and was shorthanded, Panthers’ defenseman Sean Kavanaugh played heroically on two breakaway Cathedral goals. Kavanaugh beat out a Needham defenseman for a puck and stopped short of the net to set up Frank Crinella for a score, and then one minute later he tossed the puck off of the boards to evade a defender and eventually beat MacDonald for a goal.
However, the comeback came too little and too late, and Needham picked up an important win in one final push toward a Super Eight berth.
“We’ll take the win, the kids hung on and played tough,” Guisti said. “Overall, I think we played well.”
MALDEN CATHOLIC ROMPS
No. 1 Malden Catholic’s Brendan Collier had a monstrous game, putting up four goals and two assists in the Lancers’ 9-2 victory over Rhode Island's Bishop Hendricken on Wednesday night.
“When they’re moving the puck with that line of [Ryan] Fitzgerald, [Mike] Vecchione and Collier, they’re awful good,” Lancers head coach Chris Serino said of his first line. “I thought our puck movement was really good tonight and we had some big scoring chances early.”
The Lancers (15-2-2) put up four goals both the first and second periods, and limited the Hawks to 17 shots in the game as they cruised to the win in a Super Eight tuneup.
“This is where we want to be,” Serino said. “We want to be playing our best going into the tournament, and I think right now, we’re playing pretty well.”