WOBURN, Mass. – The game was played on a razor's edge, and in the end it was Austin Prep who sliced enough times to beat Central Catholic, 2-1, and escape O'Brien Rink with a spot in Wednesday's Super 8 semifinals.
For the Cougars, the win was a massive rebound from the 7-4 thumping Central laid on them on Thursday and gives them needed momentum heading into their semifinal tilt with Malden Catholic.
“After the loss, this day couldn't have come soon enough,” Austin Prep coach Louis Finocchario said. “I'm happy it was in the morning; I wish it could have been Friday. We wanted to get back on the ice. Our kids competed tonight. Kept our composure, they were poised.”
Central Catholic broke the tension early. After a manic opening few minutes, Raiders freshman forward Jake Wise (a Boston University commit) showed what the hype's about by flashing into the Austin zone and snapping a wrister into the top corner from the top of the faceoff circle.
Not to be outdone, the Cougars responded the following shift when Kevin Kiley hacked home a rebound off an initial shot from Mike Egan to tie the game 31 seconds later.
Central threw the kitchen sink at Austin, but freshman goalie Dylan Regan would not budge. Regan stopped 23 shots including the final 21.
“We told him as soon as [game two] was over, it was no hesitation, he was going to be back in our net next game,” Finocchario said. “That's the confidence we have in him. He's a poised kid, and he's done a good job for us all year.”
Egan put together a moment of brilliance late in the second period. He took possession of the puck in the neutral zone, took the scenic route to the goal line, drew Central goalie Pat Schena out of position, and dropped a pass over to Eric MacAdams at the top of the crease who buried the easy one to put Austin ahead for good.
“We knew we were playing desperate here; both teams were,” Egan said. “We got the bounces and were able to come out with the win.”
Austin Prep was able to shut down the Raiders in the third. The Cougars held Central to just four shots in the final 15 minutes.
Up next is Austin's third try in three years to take down Malden Catholic in the Super 8.
“We got a lot of guys in here that were in the finals the last two years,” Finocchario said. “We're not going to get rattled by that. We always tell our kids don't get too high, don't get too low; stay at an even keel. We want to be the team that made the least mistakes at the end of the night.”
Sunday’s game was the team's eighth meeting between the two teams since the start of last season.
RAIDER REBUILD: After graduating 12 seniors last year, Central Catholic needed to redefine itself. The Raiders lost three of their first seven games as a young club looked to find its footing.
Central did and finished the season strong with an 11-2-2 record before making it to Super 8.
“We took a couple on the chin early this year,” Central Catholic coach Mike Jankowski said. “A lot of resiliency and character from the guys in the locker room. Good leadership from the guys who've been around and the new guys who have picked right up. It's exciting.”
Wise shined as a freshman and is someone the Raiders can build around in the future.
“It's exciting to watch him, but it's even more of a pleasure to coach him,” Jankowski said. “He made some great plays. When he touches the puck good things happen.”