- Scott Barboza, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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REVERE, Mass. -- History was not lost on Kristian Hanson.
In 1991, Hanson was a member of St. John’s Prep’s hockey team which played in the first-ever Super Eight tournament. That year, and for the next three years of Hanson’s high school career, Catholic Conference rival Catholic Memorial skated away with the title.
Friday afternoon at Cronin Memorial Skating Rink, behind Prep’s bench, Hanson had the opportunity to do what had never been done before: prohibit the Knights from reaching the Super Eight field.
Lifted by a two-goal performance by junior forward Sam Kurker and a two-point game from freshman Shane Eiserman, the second-ranked Eagles did the unthinkable, ending CM’s season on the last day of the regular season with a 3-1 win.
“They [the players] were aware of the ramifications,” Hanson said. “And bottom line is that we didn’t want to face them in the Super Eight. We had the chance to knock them out of the Super Eight today and not have to play them next week.
“Do you want to face a Coach Bill Hanson team in the Super Eight? Not really.”
Needing two points to qualify for the postseason tournament, the ninth-ranked Knights (8-10-2) sweated it out to the last day of the regular season. After dropping a 2-1 decision at Connecticut power Fairfield Prep on Wednesday, CM entered Friday’s game — a rescheduled makeup from a snow date — posed with a do-or-die test.
Despite taking the first lead of the game on Thomas Stanton’s second-period goal, the Knights were held off the board by a tightening defense and were unable to catch the Eagles as seconds clicked down in the third period. The result was CM missing out on postseason play for the first time in 26 years.
“We went into the third period in 18 of 20 games either up, tied or down by one against the tough competition we played,” Knights head coach Bill Hanson said. “The sad part about it is that tomorrow morning when they make the Super Eight pairings, and the teams that make the tournament, or the teams that were in contention, we beat most of the them.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing at all.”
In the end, for CM, it all came down to offense and the ability to consistently find the back of the net.
It looked as though the Knights had found some puck luck in the second period, however, when Stanton cashed in for a 1-0 CM lead. The junior center played a puck to the slot from behind the goal line. But the directed pass caught a glance of netminder David Letarte’s pad and deflected into the net.
However, Prep (14-5-1) answered, striking for two goals in the final two-plus minutes of the period.
Eiserman was on the finishing end of some pretty transition play, knocking home a laser-guided pass from captain Colin Blackwell with 2:14 to play in the period. Defenseman Nick Pandelena also added an assist on the play.
Eiserman helped set up Kurker’s goal with 31 seconds remaining in the second. The freshman winger dug the puck out of the corner and fed Kurker in the slot before finishing on the backhand.
CM went to the room resolved to dig themselves out of a hole.
“We just wanted to force the issue in their end,” Bill Hanson said. “We wanted to use the forecheck, be stronger on the puck.”
The Knights had several marvelous opportunities to notch the equalizer in the third, including a power play in the first minute. CM placed four shots on goal during the man-advantage only to see Letarte (24 saves) kick them out, or, in other instances, have Scott Derrickson come to Letarte’s aid.
“That would have given them momentum,” Letarte said, “[Scott] Derrickson was out there and saved my butt on one of them.”
Derrickson served as goalie by proxy during one skirmish in the front of the Eagles’ net, bailing out Letarte by making a stop in front of an gaping net.
It would be as close as CM would get. Despite lobbing 12 shots on goal during the third period, the Knights were all but done in when Kurker slid home an empty-netter with 54 seconds remaining.
“Last year, we went one and one with them,” Kurker said. “It was nice to take both games this year and knock them out of the tournament.”
That doesn’t mean the Eagles’ path ended there. They are likely to be among the top of the Super Eight seedings when they are announced Saturday morning.
“Now, we just have to move on to all the other great teams we’ll have to play,” Derrickson said.