WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Maybe it is time of accepting the fact that not all of the state's best high school hockey talent resides within the I-95 corridor.
Saturday afternoon Bishop Hendricken, a top echelon team from Rhode Island, discovered early and often just how lethal a team the Springfield Cathedral can be. The Hawks offered up little resistance and, in the process, were stomped 5-0 at the Olympia.
"That is a very good hockey team that plays unselfish," said Hawks head coach Jim Creamer, who has guided Hendricken to three state titles since taking over in 2002. "They have a lot of skilled kids. Clearly, we are not going to see a better team than them the rest of the year. I would imagine they are going to have a lot of success the rest of the way."
Leading by a goal after the opening period, Cathedral poured in on in the middle stanza, striking for three goals to put this border battle in the bank.
Junior forward Johnny Leonard scored a pair of goals for the Panthers, who improve to 10-0-2. Sophomore goaltender Keith Petruzzelli was hardly tested, stopping all 14 shots he faced to earn the shutout. Petruzzelli, who will play for Quinnipiac University once his high school career is finished, has allowed a paltry eight goals against 391 scoring opportunities this season.
Leonard, who has accepted a scholarship to play for UMass-Amherst, put Cathedral ahead 1-0 after whipping a hard wrist shot past Matt Kenneally in the closing minute of the first. The Panthers would undoubtedly carry the momentum from that goal into the middle frame. Early in the period, with Hawks' defenseman Matt Rickard sitting in the box for tripping, sophomore defenseman Dan Petrick capitalize on the man-advantage opportunity by sending a laser which eluded Kenneally (who entered with a 1.59 goals-against average) just 1:53 in to increase Cathedral's advantage to two goals.
Not since an overtime victory over BC High in late December in the final of the Pete Frates Classic have the Panthers faced formidable competition before Hendricken came calling.
"I thought this was our most-complete game of the year," Cathedral head coach Brian Foley said. "It was good for us to face a team that good and play as well as we did. All four lines played well, our six defensemen played well as well as our goalie. I think these kids feed off of one another shift after shift. I was really happy with our full-game performance.
“Sometimes it is hard with high school kids to get a consistent performance from start to finish. But today, I thought they did a very good job of that. I could sense over the last three weeks that we were improving. We have come a long way in the past couple of weeks and I felt today confirmed that. Hendricken is a high-quality team so this was a solid win by us."
Cam Peritz, a sophomore, added to the Hawks' misery midway through the final period with a hard wrist shot from the right point, accounting for Cathedral's five goal margin of victory.
Throughout the contest, Bishop Hendricken (9-2-0) had much difficulty maneuvering the puck up ice due to a stellar effort from the Panther defense and the forwards who slid back to create havoc for the Hawks once they moved past the red line.
The Panthers, who since New Year’s Eve have out-scored the opposition 51-4, continued to press the issue on offense. Surprisingly, they were given space to work the puck around inside the offensive zone. Several minutes after Petrick's tally, Cathedral found the back again after Riley Prattson pushed in a rebound off of Kenneally's stick at 12:48 to make it 3-0.
Two minutes later, Leonard notched his second marker. After taking a pass from Peritz off the boards, the forward skated in alone on Kenneally, beating the senior stick side putting the Panthers in front by four goals after 30 minutes.
"The bottom line is we want to win," said Leonard, who leads the club with 24 goals. "You cannot be selfish if you want to win and need to be able to move the puck. That's what we did today and we were able to score goals off of it. There is great chemistry on this team and we know where each other is on the ice at all times.
“Everyone here is shooting for one goal and that is to win the Super 8. To do that, we have to continue to work hard and push each other during practice. When you do that you end up getting results like today."
Peritz would add to Hendricken's misery midway through the final period after scoring on a wrist shot from the right point thus accounting for Cathedral's five goal margin of victory.
"I thought we came out and mostly stayed with them in the third period," Creamer said. "So little things like that mean a lot for us. In our league (Championship-Cimini Division) we won't see anyone of Cathedral's caliber. So for us to stick with it I feel we can take a little successes out of it. Our kids could've easily rolled over, but didn't, so we take some pride in that.”