Boston High School: Peter Cronin

Super 8: No. 1 BC High 4, No. 8 Xaverian 0

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6

LOWELL, Mass. -- BC High had that killer instinct that all good teams have as it scored three times in a span of just over three minutes late in the first period, en route to a 4-0 win over Xaverian on Wednesday night at the Tsongas Center.

The Eagles swept the Hawks in the best-of-three series and will advance to next Wednesday’s Super 8 semifinals, where they will face the winner of Austin Prep and Central Catholic.

“We’re very excited to be moving on to the semifinals. We’re very happy with the outcome and to be moving on,” said BC High head coach John Flaherty.

It will be third trip to the Super 8 semifinals in four seasons for the Eagles.

“It’s an honor,” said Flaherty when asked about the significance of the accomplishment. “It’s a credit to the guys in that locker room. The leadership that we have and their ability to speak to experience to what it takes at this time of the season is invaluable.”

Eagles jump-start: BC High’s game plan was simple in hopes of avoiding a similar start to Sunday, which saw Xaverian take a 1-0 lead to the locker room after the first period.

“We knew we had to get pucks to the net, and we got some bounces,” Flaherty said. “A few turnovers bounced right onto guys’ sticks and into the back of the net.”

BC High junior Connor Noonan started the onslaught at the 10:20 mark of the first period when he cut in towards Xaverian goaltender Aidan Murphy before chipping the puck high and beating the freshman goaltender to the near post.

“That goal was a real nice one, it got us going,” said Flaherty.

Two of the Eagles senior leaders started a beautiful passing sequence to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead at the 12:58 mark. Defenseman Sam Topham gave a pass to Steve DeForge who quickly slid it across to junior Jake Lemanski for the finish into a wide-open net.

Just 42 seconds later a turnover led to another BC High strike and a 3-0 lead heading to the first intermission. Noonan forced the turnover and quickly got the puck to Aidan Foley who went five-hole for the score.

“We earned our chances, but we got some good bounces and we capitalized on them,” said Flaherty.

“We were playing OK in the first period, but then got off our game and panicked a little,” Xaverian head coach Dave Spinale said. “When [BC High] smells an opportunity, they cash in.”

Shutout man: In his first year as the starter for the Eagles, Brandon Payzant earned his seventh shutout of the season on Wednesday night. The sophomore stopped all 28 shots he faced to shut the door on Xaverian.

“Brandon Payzant was the best player on the ice tonight,” Flaherty said. “He kept his end of the bargain by not giving up any. When we had breakdowns, Brandon stood tall and made the saves he’s capable of making.”

He added, “We relied too much on him for my liking, but he did a great job. That’s what Brandon is capable of doing. We know that and we’re comfortable with that.”

The past two games were Payzant’s introduction to playoff hockey.

“You need your goalie to be tested in order for him to build his confidence. He played in two big stages and he played very well at both,” said Flaherty.

Payzant learned from one of the best last season. As a freshman, he sat behind senior Peter Cronin, who now plays junior hockey with the South Shore Kings in the USPHL.

“He was a great mentor to me last year, he taught me a lot,” said Payzant of the Bowdoin recruit.

“I felt pretty good coming into these quarterfinal games. I had a lot of confidence,” he added.

Topham’s blue line: Topham, a co-captain and senior defenseman, has been an integral part of the leadership core that has sparked BC High’s success this season.

He scored the only goal of the final two periods when he used his hands to find the back of the net when the puck came right to him in the slot.

“Sam Topham sees the ice really well and skates well,” said Flaherty. “When he’s using his feet, he’s putting himself in position to be an impact player on the offensive side of the puck.”

Topham isn’t just an offensive defenseman. He’s also been one of the better shutdown defenders in high school hockey this season.

“His skates are great enough that he can defend,” Flahety said. “He calmed the play down, he settled pucks down and he made good decisions. He made some real good passes coming out of the zone.”

Topham credits assistant coach and defensive guru Bob Roche with his team’s attention to detail and discipline in the defensive zone.

“Roche is a really nit-picky coach,” Topham said. “He keeps us on our toes and makes sure we fix our mistakes. We got a little too cute in the second period, but he just told us to keep it simple and to get it up on the glass and out of the zone.”

Xaverian still proud: Although Spinale was certainly disappointed with his team’s end to the season, the coach took some pride in hanging with the top team in the state for much of the series.

“We talked about it in the locker room after the game,” Spinale said. “For 42 minutes we were pretty tough and competitive. We didn’t quit down 4-0. I thought we had some good chances. I didn’t feel like the ice was tilted.”

Spinale was particularly proud of his senior class that brought the program back to the Super 8 for the first time since 2010.

“Our senior class had a four-win season as sophomores, but they stuck together,” Spinale said. “They put the program back on the map. They got us back into this tournament which was one of their goals.”

He added, “I’m really proud of them and thrilled that they enjoyed it.”

BC High's Cronin to attend Bowdoin

December, 15, 2013
Former two-time ESPN Boston All-State hockey team goaltender Peter Cronin of BC High has been accepted into Bowdoin College and will join the Polar Bears next season.

After starting for three seasons at BC High, Cronin is currently playing with the South Shore Kings of the United States Premier Hockey League.

Last season with the Eagles, Cronin finished in the top five among Division 1 netminders in both goals against average (1.40) and save percentage (94.6) while starting all 23 games.

"I couldn't be happier to have the opportunity to attend a school like Bowdoin and help contribute to its winning hockey tradition over the next four years," Cronin wrote. "It is an honor to have the privilege of playing for a coach as accomplished as Coach [Terry] Meagher.

"I want to thank coach [John] Flaherty and Coach [Bob] Roche for always believing in me and giving me the chance to become the best goalie I could. They and all my teammates have given me some of the greatest memories a hockey player could ever ask for."

Our MIAA boys' hockey All-State Team

March, 28, 2013
All-StateF - Liam Coughlin, Sr., Catholic Memorial
Finished third among all Division 1 players in scoring, while leading the Knights back to the Super 8 for the first time since 2009-10. The South Boston native put up 28-20-48 totals, tied for first among Catholic Conference scorers this season.

All-StateF - Ara Nazarian, Soph., Malden Catholic
ESPN Boston’s Mr. Hockey award winner this season, Nazarian had 26-22-48 totals for the regular season, along with nine goals and five assists during the Super 8 tournament for the three-time defending champions. The Boxford resident and center is the first underclassman to win the Mr. Hockey award.

All-StateF – Brian Pinho, Sr., St. John’s Prep
The Providence College commit led the Eagles to a No. 1 seed in this year’s Super 8 tournament. The North Andover resident compiled 12-24-36 totals this season and, in January, was ranked No. 117 among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings.

All-StateD – Casey Fitzgerald, Soph., Malden Catholic
The North Reading resident earned his second Super 8 title with the Lancers, playing on all defensive units and is one of two players making a second-straight appearance on our All-State team. The Boston College commit had 5-17-22 totals on the season and recently was accepted in the United States National Team Development Program’s U-17 team.

All-StateD – Matt Foley, Sr., Springfield Cathedral
The two-way blue-liner finished third on the Panthers in scoring with 10-16-26 totals this year while leading them to another Super 8 apperance. A Longmeadow resident, the captain is deciding among prep schools for next year, as well as offers to play in college.

All-StateG – Peter Cronin, Sr., BC High
The only repeating First-Team All-Stater this year, Cronin finished in the top five among Division 1 netminders in both goals against average (1.40) and save percentage (94.6) while starting all 23 of the Eagles’ games. He is currently considering colleges among playing opportunities at the prep school and junior levels.

All-StateF – Tom Besinger, Jr., BC High
The Eagles’ top center and captain was force to reckon with in the circle, in addition to leading the Eagles with 35 points (10 goals and a team-best 25 assists).
All-StateF – Cam Owens, Sr., Wilmington
Finished his high school career with back-to-back Division 2 state championships. Owens racked up 30 points, playing alongside All-State honorable mention Brendan McDonough. Owens is currently weighing prep and junior options for next year.
All-StateF – Nolan Vesey, Sr., Austin Prep
The senior captain led the Cougars back to the Super 8 for the first time since the 2009-10 season and all the way to a finals appearance at the Garden. Vesey led AP in goals (18) and points (31) while kicking in 13 assists.
All-StateD – Nick Gorski, Sr., Central Catholic
A player who head coach Mike Jankowski repeatedly called his “most improved player” since freshman year, the Raiders captain played on all units, leading Central to another Super 8 appearance.
All-StateD – Jack Williams, Sr. Springfield Cathedral
A major component to perhaps the state’s best blue-line core, Williams did a little bit of everything for the Panthers, including playing forward on power-play units. The Suffield, Conn. resident tallied four goals and 19 assists for 23 points. He is currently weighing his playing options for next season.

All-StateG – Colin Soucy, Jr., Central Catholic
The break-out star of this year’s Super 8 tournament, Soucy nearly delivered the Raiders to a quarterfinal-round upset of No. 1 seed St. John’s Prep in his first year as Central’s starting netminder.

Best of the Rest – Honorable Mention
Tyler Bird, Jr., St. John’s Prep
Tommy Bishop, Sr., Chelmsford
Matt Brazel, Jr., Hingham
Brian Brooks, Jr., Canton
Mike Carbone, Sr., Marshfield
Bobo Carpenter, Soph., Austin Prep
A.J. Couto, Sr., Danvers
Ben Cox, Sr., Medfield
Peter Crinella, Soph., Springfield Cathedral
Cam Curley, Sr., Franklin
Sam D’Antuono, Jr., Hingham
Jordan Dow, Sr., Lincoln-Sudbury
Josh Edwards, Sr., Blue Hills
Brendan Greene, Jr., Winchester
C.J. Grinnell, Sr., Burlington
Marc Happy, Jr., Wachusett
Lloyd Hayes, Jr., Central Catholic
Kevin Hock, Frosh., Catholic Memorial
Mike Iovanna, Sr., Malden Catholic
Andrew Irving, Sr., Beverly
Connor Irving, Jr., Beverly
Ryan Jones, Sr., Coyle-Cassidy
Jack Kilty, Sr., Medway
Pat Kramer, Soph., BC High
Tom Koopman, Jr., Marblehead
Matt Kustra, Sr., Natick
Brendan McDounough, Jr., Wilmington
Anthony Lespasio, Sr., Bedford
Jack O’Hear, Sr., Catholic Memorial
Derek Petti, Sr., Tewksbury
Eddie Pratt, Sr., Xaverian
Nolan Redler, Jr., Winchester
Tyler Sifferlen, Jr., Malden Catholic
Mike Sorenti, Jr., Archbishop Williams
Sean Spohr, Sr., Westfield
Max Turcotte, Sr., Holliston
Max Willman, Sr., Barnstable

Matt Burchill, Sr., Marshfield
Derek Butler, Jr., Natick
John Carlson, Jr., Hingham
Adam Crowley, Jr., Burlington
Nick Edwards, Jr., Blue Hills
Sean Heelan, Sr., Catholic Memorial
Kurt Leavitt, Sr., Canton
Bryan Nelson, Soph., St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Nick Rolli, Jr., Malden Catholic
Ryan Shea, Frosh, BC High
Sam Topham, Sr., BC High

Tim Birarelli, Soph., Beverly
Alex Buckley, Sr., Newburyport
Brandon Collett, Frosh., Catholic Memorial
Jordan Davis, Sr., Norwood
Derek DeCastro, Sr., Burlington
Drew Foley, Jr., Wilmington
Nolan Greene, Jr., North Quincy
Elijah Harris, Soph., Austin Prep
John Liquori, Jr., Springfield Cathedral
Al Lynch, Jr., Framingham
Evan Morelli, Sr., Reading
James Offner, Soph., Winchester
Nick Russo, Sr., Waltham
Jimmy Tierney, Soph., Oliver Ames

Some parting thoughts on the hockey season

March, 25, 2013
Flanked by a swarm of reporters, Sean Murphy’s eyes darted about as he searched for the words to say. The Burlington senior forward was never the center of attention during his high school career, so he didn’t have much experience in such a setting. He scored two goals at the TD Garden last week as the Red Devils’ repeated as Division 1 state champions. It was his first time playing at the Garden, having watched last year’s final unfold from the perspective of a fan. This was the first year Murphy made Burlington’s varsity hockey squad.

As Murphy responded to questions, teammates and members of the Red Devils’ coaching staff ribbed him. Their good-natured jabs caused Murphy periodically to break down and smile while he tried to maintain focus on the interview. They all knew the circumstances surrounding Murphy’s accomplishment. He’d done from off the team outright to hero.

During freshman year, Burlington didn’t host a freshman team. Murphy failed to make the junior varsity squad, so he went a year without playing for his high school. In sophomore year, Murphy earned a spot on the J.V. team, but it was the Red Devils’ lower team (the J.V. had been split into two teams). The next year, he moved up to the higher J.V. team, as many of his classmates won their first state crown. Finally, as a senior, Murphy made the varsity team.

He only scored one goal during the regular season, but Murphy broke out in the tournament, scoring five goals in the postseason, including two in the championship game.

When Murphy attracted the attention in the postgame following the Red Devils’ 4-2 victory over Marshfield on Sunday, Burlington head coach Bob Conceison watched a few paces away. He beamed and was eager to tell of Murphy’s story of stick-to-itiveness.

“That’s the kind of story that makes high school hockey great,” Conceison said.

As Malden Catholic won its third straight Super 8 championship, it would seem as though the Lancers simply picked up where they left off. But anybody who watched the defending champions’ season unfold would tell you this most recent run was anything but a sure thing.

In many years, this year’s MC model was uncharacteristic from the previous. Yes, the Lancers still had more top-end talent than anyone, with three Division 1 college recruits (and counting). But this was in broad strokes a young team and, more so, one that lacked experience in a Super 8 environment. Building on the contributions of talented senior leaders (Mike Vecchione in 2011 and Brendan Collier in ’12) in the last two years, the Lancers had to learn to do it on their own this year.

Helping to bridge the gap was senior captain Mike Iovanna, one of a handful of seniors on MC’s roster this year. Iovanna is self-described as someone who leads by example. The soft-spoken UMass commit has been a key cog in the Lancers’ run all along, but took on a greater role this year, inheriting the “C” on his sweater.

“You know what the expectations are,” Iovanna said of taking on the role of captain. “Knowing what Mike [Vecchione] and Brendan [Collier] meant in the room, I was able to learn from them.

“But I also know that I’m a different person from them. I’m a pretty quiet guy, but I knew I could set an example for the younger players as they had done for me.”

Iovanna combined with junior left wing Tyler Sifferlen and sophomore center Ara Nazarian to tally nearly half (113) of MC’s points on the season (245) on its top line. Aside from creating the Lancers’ scoring punch, Iovanna also contributed intangibles on MC’s top penalty killing forward unit beside Nazarian — who changed the face of the tournament with his four short-handed goals.

But aside from the first line, the Lancers relied on a new wave for contributions.

“They have their own identity, but it’s a new core,” Lancers head coach John McLean said. “It’s young, very talented players, with [Austin] Goldstein, [Matt] Filipe, [Jake] Witkowski and [Will] Lawrence on D, I thought John [McLean III] played well.”

Nothing was handed to this MC group; it was earned. Sitting a 5-6-3 as the calendar was about to flip to February, the Lancers had to learn on the fly.

“Right around Central Catholic, that was a big win for us and the kid’s became a team,” McLean said. “We went out to Springfield and, for whatever reason, Springfield always worked for us. We went on a roll.

Of course, none of that reflects the emotional component that followed MC hockey this year. Former head coach and athletic director Chris Serino succumbed after a long fight with cancer shortly before the season began.

His imprint remained in MC’s three-peat.

“It’s still Chris’s team a little bit,” McLean said.

Here’s a look at some recent updates in where some of the state’s top players are headed next year:
  • One of our favorite players to watch during the last couple of years was Burlington forward C.J. Grinnell. Grinnell led the Red Devils again in scoring (13-19-32) and is considering prep and junior options for next year, with Connecticut’s Canterbury School as a leading candidate. Just a thought that some college coach out there is going to get one heck of a player in a couple years.
  • Springfield Cathedral wasn’t able to get over the MC hump in the Super 8, but will more than likely have several of its graduating players skating on past this year. First-line winger Dominic Blad is heading to South Kent while defenseman Matt Foley is weighing options between Phillips Exeter, Choate Rosemary Hall and Berkshire School, along with college choices for the following year. All-State-caliber defenseman Jack Williams and center Artie Potter are also exploring options for next year.
  • The Woburn girls’ hockey program had perhaps the greatest collection of talent in the state this year. Case and point were made last week as two of the Tanners’ top skaters announced their college plans. Forward Kayla Smith gave her commitment to Salve Regina while defenseman Cassandra Connolly will be headed to the University of New England.
We’ll be handing out our awards Monday when we name our Mr. and Miss Hockey Award winners, as the best players in MIAA hockey this year. Here’s a look at our four finalists for the honors, in alphabetical order:

Mr. Hockey:
  • Liam Coughlin, Sr. C, Catholic Memorial: The rangy pivot helped lift the Knights to the Super 8 semifinals, leading the team with 28 goals and 20 assists for 48 points.
  • Peter Cronin, Sr., G BC High: Undoubtedly, the state’s best goaltender for two years running. The three-year starter posted a 94.6 save percentage along with seven shutouts this year.
  • Ara Nazarian, Soph. C, Malden Catholic: Led the Lancers in scoring (26-20-46) during the regular season in addition to leading all players in Super 8 scoring, while tallying an unheard of four short-handed goals for the three-time defending champions.
  • Brian Pinho, Sr. C, St. John’s Prep: A natural playmaker with vision, the Providence College commit led the Catholic Conference champions with 12-24-36 totals.
Miss Hockey:
  • Alison Butler, Sr. F, St. Mary’s (Lynn): Among the leading scorers in the state (37-25-62), Butler saved her best for last, netting the game-winning goal in the state championship game.
  • Hannah Murphy, Sr. F, Duxbury: The Dragons captain capped her prolific career with the program’s third straight state championship win, scoring 29 goals and adding 24 assists.
  • Shannon O’Neil, Sr. G, Austin Prep: Led all Division 1 starting goaltenders with a 1.08 GAA and eye-popping 96.8 save percentage to go along with 10 shutouts.
  • Kayla Smith, Sr. F, Woburn: Perhaps the most feared scorer in the state, Smith finished with 34-29-64 totals for the Tanners.

Super 8: Catholic Memorial 3, BC High 2

March, 11, 2013

STONEHAM, Mass. -- It was too smooth. It was too easy. It was Liam Coughlin.

With less than 30 seconds left, Catholic Memorial’s Coughlin scooped up the puck behind BC High goalie Peter Cronin and circled around the net. With Cronin sprawled out and the BC High defense desperately out of position, Coughlin spun around, reset himself, and calmly lifted the puck over Cronin to put the Knights up 3-2 with 22.5 seconds left.

That’s how the game would end as CM defeated BC High 2-1 in the opening round of Super 8 to advance to Wednesday’s semifinals against Malden Catholic.

Coughlin, who led the Catholic Conference in scoring, had been held in check the first two games of the series before exploding for a pair of goals yesterday. He also had CM’s first goal.

“I was getting pucks to the net but they weren’t going in,” Coughlin said. “So I knew I had to go high. I always shoot low; I went high today and it worked.”

Coughlin and the Knights may have advanced to play on, but they did not make it easy on themselves. A slew of head-scratching penalties kept the Eagles power play on the ice, especially early in the game.

BC High made the Knights pay late in the first period when Patrick Kramer punched home a rebound past Brandon Collett.

“We did take a couple of needless penalties,” Catholic Memorial head coach Bill Hanson said. “The first one was a bad play by our kid, there was one down behind the net. We’ve been good at killing penalties all year long. We survived it.”

The Eagles assaulted Collett, peppering the freshman with 24 shots, but Collett buckled down when he had to and kept Tom Besinger & Co. at bay.

“It’s a BC High, CM game,” BC High head coach John Flaherty said. “A bounce one way, a bounce the other way, and it’s a difference in the game.”

Peter Cronin had a solid, 18-save showing in his final high school game. Flaherty said that he was sorry that Cronin, and the Eagles’ four other seniors, wouldn’t have a chance to continue on.

“Not every team makes it this far and I’m proud of my team for making it this far,” Flaherty said. “Disappointed for all my seniors; I think they deserved a better fate. Wish they could have a few more.

“I wish we could have him for more. [Michael] Brooks, [Ryan] McDonough, those guys have been around for a long time. They mean a lot to the program. They’ve done a lot of things for the program.”

Chris LaLiberte feathered a lazy wrist shot through some bodies and into the goal to put BC High up 2-1 early in the third. Catholic Memorial’s Aaron Clancy scored less than three minutes later to tie the game and set up the chaotic finish.

Collett does not yet have his driving license, but he already has the poise of a seasoned veteran.

Collett’s 22- save performance, in the biggest game of his fledgling career, earned much praise from his coach.

“He’s good,” Hanson said. “This is not a figment on anybody’s imagination, he can play the game.”

Hanson compared Collett to a couple of former CM greats.

“Jim Carey, Tom Noble they could have done it as freshmen, but didn’t have the opportunities to do it,” Hanson said. “This kid is the only freshman I’ve ever had that has played a full season of [varsity].”

After going through the grinder of playing against each other three times in a week, both coaches had varying opinions about the new format used in the Super 8 tournament.

“BC High and CM, that rivalry of schools actually supersedes the hockey game,” Hanson said. “We compete with them in everything.”

After competing with the Knights for more than 230 minutes of hockey spread over five games, Flaherty said that the new tournament format might create too much of a good thing.

“If they don’t like how it works, I’m sure they’ll change it,” Flaherty said. “It’s something new, something different. I think playing someone five times is a lot, but it is what it is.”

Super 8: Catholic Memorial 3, BC High 2 (SO)

March, 7, 2013

STONEHAM – After establishing an early lead, Catholic Memorial nearly saw its season end before clawing itself back and beating B.C. High, 3-2, in a shootout on Wednesday night, sending their Super 8 quarterfinal series to a third and deciding game.

CM got on the board first when Liam Coughlin flipped a backhand saucer pass to linemate John Maher on a 2-on-1 and the senior fired a wrister over Peter Cronin’s blocker.

The Knights would extend that lead to 2-0 minutes later. On a similar 2-on-1, Jack O’Hear fluttered the puck over to Kevin Hock who finished his wrister over Cronin’s glove from the right slot.

The Eagles then began their comeback in the second period, out shooting CM 10-6 and cutting the deficit in half thanks to Patrick Kramer’s goal off a rebound at the 4:18 mark.

The Eagles remained down by a goal until 28.4 seconds remained in regulation, when Ryan Shea established a net-front presence and directed a Tom Besigner pass from the bottom of the left circle past CM goaltender Brendan Collett with the B.C. High net empty.

“Ryan’s a good player,” BC head coach John Flaherty said of Shea. “He’s only a freshman but he’s highly skilled, that’s why he’s out there 6-on-5. We drew a couple of things up, but it’s execution. The kids do it. We can draw it up as coaches but it’s the guys on the ice that got it done.”

The teams played a scoreless overtime before going to a shootout.

BC High looked to be on the verge of ending the Knights’ season when Besinger and Shea put the Eagles up 2-0 in the shootout with just two shooters left for CM.

But O’Hear and Maher tied with a pair of goals and Collett was able to shut the door at the other end. Freshman Tim Weinstein won the game for CM as the sixth shooter.

For CM defenseman Tim Weinstein, it will be a 16th birthday to remember.

No, he didn’t get his driving permit -- that will have to wait -- instead, the freshman potted the game-winning goal in a shootout victory for that nights that kept their season alive.

“We’ve been working on shootouts in practice,” Weinstein said. “I was working on going fast on the goalie, trying to freeze him, and getting him to move left to right. When I saw that opening top right, I went for it. ... We saw glove side tended to be his weakness, if he really even has one because he’s a great goalie.”

CM head coach Bill Hanson needed to submit his shootout roster before the opening draw, but he didn’t tell Weinstein he was on his list.

“That’s LTW,” Hanson said, “Little Timmy Weinstein. He’s a freshman with more skill than any hockey player wearing a black uniform tonight. He’s fearless. He was our best defenseman. The way he moves the puck, his offensive skills and his puck poise, his presence in the neutral ice, he did it all night long. He was terrific.”

Super 8: BC High 3, Catholic Memorial 1

March, 4, 2013

LOWELL, Mass. - All season long, BC High has gotten serious contributions from a collection of talented skaters who aren't afraid to grind it out and do the dirty work as well.

Junior Steve DeForge has been one of those guys, the 'glue guy' that every coach wishes they had a bench full of. He isn't the only one on the Eagles roster, but he came through the play of the game that resulted from his typical daily output.

During a line change, Catholic Memorial was attempting to clear its own zone. DeForge, forechecking the play as he has done all year long, made a clean theft of the pass at the blue line. The junior took a couple of hard strides into the high slot area and drilled an absolute bullseye to the upper, far corner with 8:13 remaining in the game.

That broke a 1-1 tie, and the No. 3 Eagles were able to add an insurance goal later and held on for a 3-1 victory over the sixth-seeded Knights in the first game of a best of three series in the Div. 1A first round at Tsongas Arena.

"It was just a late change-up, I jumped on the ice, two guys are low so obviously first instinct is third guy high," DeForge said as he described the play. "They had a quick pass to the boards, the kid just popped it out, loose puck and I just got right on it and ripped it. It was perfect. Right spot at the right time."

Added Eagles coach John Flaherty, "He intercepted a pass right in the slot and he put it where nobody could stop it, not that goalie or any other goalie. He put that shot where nobody would get to it."

It is fitting that these two programs should be guaranteed a matchup in the Super 8. After all, no two teams personify the illustrious history of this tournament more than Catholic Memorial and BC High -- not to mention they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the on-ice rivalry this season.

The Eagles (15-3-3) jumped out first as Tom Besinger won a faceoff directly back to Jake Lemanski, who unleashed a rocket that screamed past Knights (12-7-2) goalie Brandon Collett at 8:53.

Catholic Memorial pulled even in the second as Jack O'Hear put back the rebound of a Kevin Hock shot. Aside from that one marker, however, BC High goalie Peter Cronin was superb. The senior made 12 of his 22 saves in the middle frame, a performance which saw him come out on the winning side more than once in a very exciting individual matchup against dangerous Knights forward Liam Coughlin.

"He's a goal scorer, that's what hes good at," Cronin said in praise of Coughlin. "In the second period he came in on a two-on-one and our defensemen did a good job of taking away the passing option. I knew he was going to try and maybe sneak one high glove side and I just threw up the glove. I might have gotten a little bit lucky but when a kid comes down like that you have to expect him to shoot."

BC High tacked on one final mark, showing a little bit of stick-to-itiveness by running the same play twice in succession. It's a backdoor play where defenseman Sam Topham fed forward Patrick Kramer down low. Kramer fanned on the initial attempt but when Topham fed him once again, the sophomore did not miss, giving the Eagles a 3-1 lead with 2:39 left to play.

At the other end, Collett proved himself more than capable in his debut on the state's biggest stage. The freshman made nine of his 17 stops in the first period, and it's hard to find fault with him on any of the three Eagles goals.

"On the first goal, they won the faceoff and our guy skated right by him and they had the shot," recalled Knights coach Bill Hanson. "Theres nothing [Collett] could do there. On the second goal, we preach all the time, chip it up the boards, don't make cross-ice passes in our end. It goes right on [DeForge's] stick and bang.

"Our goaltender played well. We didn't lose the game because of our goaltender. When you score one goal in a game, you're not going to win many games. Especially against a team like BC High with the way they play defense and eventually the way they have the goaltender back there in Peter [Cronin]."

Super 8 tournament primer and picks

March, 2, 2013
There are less than 24 hours remaining before the puck drops on the Super 8 tournament Sunday at UMass-Lowell’s Tsongas Center.

So we’re taking this opportunity to break down the final eight. As the tournament takes on a best-of-three format for its first-round matchups this year, we’re taking a look at the head-to-head breakdowns for each series, along with predictions:

Series: No. 1 St. John’s Prep (17-2-1) vs. No. 8 Central Catholic (14-5-3)

Players to watch: Prep – F Brian Pinho, F Tyler Bird, F Andrew Brandano, F Jack McCarthy, F Cam Shaheen, D Brent Murray, G Billy Price; Central – F Lloyd Hayes, F Corey Webber; D Nick Gorski, D Alex Lester, G Colin Soucy.

Previous meeting: Central 2, Prep 1 on Dec. 26.

The skinny: Central fought its way into the eight-team field with an improbable comeback against Hingham in Monday’s play-in game. But they’ll have to be ready to go out of the gate against the top-seeded Eagles. Prep is deepest team in the field — from its forwards to its defensemen — and the Raiders will have to weather the Eagles’ ability to wear teams down by consistently rolling four lines (Claude Julien surely would love this Prep team). The goaltenders will also be under the spotlight in this series with both Price and Soucy making their debuts in taking over for tournament stalwarts David Letarte and Kyle Williams, respectively. The play of both goaltenders has been a strength for their teams this year.

X-factor: Can the Raiders parlay some momentum gained from their dramatic play-in game overtime victory into a Game 1 win against the Eagles? Also, what kind of a factor will Central winger Mike Kelleher be?

Prediction: Prep in two.

Series: No. 2 Springfield Cathedral (16-1-4) vs. No. 7 Malden Catholic (12-6-3)

Previous meeting: MC 2, Cathedral 1 on Feb. 21.

Players to watch: Cathedral – F Peter Crinella, F Dominic Blad, F D.J. Petruzelli, F Johnny Leonard, D Matt Foley, D Jack Williams, G John Liqouri; MC – F Mike Iovanna, F Ara Nazarian, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Pat Wrenn, D Casey Fitzgerald, D Nick Rolli.

The skinny: While the Panthers enjoyed some down time this week, MC set about making a statement in its 9-1 dismantling of Archbishop Williams in Monday’s play-in game. Perhaps no team in the state has been hotter than the two-time defending Super 8 champion Lancers and they’d like to prove that, once again, this is their time of the year. There will be plenty of top-tier talent on the ice when the team’s top forward units face off with Cathedral’s line of Crinella-Artie Potter-Blad opposed by MC’s Iovanna-Nazarian-Sifferlen troika. The key to this series, however, will be which team’s second and third lines come to play.

X-factor: Cathedral goaltender John Liquori. As we saw in the Panthers’ game against St. John’s Prep in the final week of the regular season, he’s capable of stealing points and games for them. He’ll need to be at his best to curb the Lancers’ attack.

Prediction: Malden Catholic in three.

Series: No. 3 BC High (14-3-3) vs. No. 6 Catholic Memorial (12-6-2)

Previous meetings: BC High 5, CM 1 on Jan. 16; BC High 4, CM 3 on Feb. 2.

Players to watch: BC High – F Tom Besinger, F Pat Kramer, F Steve DeForge, F Chris LaLiberte, D Sam Topham, D Ryan Shea, G Peter Cronin; CM – F Liam Coughlin, F Jack O’Hear, F Kevin Hock, F Aaron Clancy, D Dennis Medeiros, D Sean Heelan, G Brandon Collett.

The skinny: Can’t get much better than this, right? Right up there with Bruins-Canadiens. The teams will add another chapter to their storied history in the 50th-anniversary year of their hockey rivalry. While the Eagles claimed both meetings against their Catholic Conference counterparts during the regular season, the play was largely even (minus one second-period outburst in BC High’s 5-1 win in January). So expect more of the same in this series.

X-factor: Liam Coughlin. The Eagles had success neutralizing the rangy center during their regular season appearance, both in the offensive zone and in the face-off circle. But we’ve seen Coughlin (25-16-41) take control at times this season, and he’ll have to do so for the Knights to advance.

Prediction: BC High in three.

Series: No. 4 Austin Prep (13-1-6) vs. No. 5 Reading (16-1-5)

Previous meeting: N/A.

Players to watch: AP – F Nolan Vesey, F Bobby Carpenter, F Jake McKenelley, F Eric MacAdams, F George Sennott, D Andrew Cross, D J.J. Layton; Reading – F Rob Devaney, F Mike Thomson, F Jake Barbera, F Mark Dente, G Evan Morelli.

The skinny: The Battle of Reading is just one subplot to a group of first-round series rife with context. The high-flying Cougars attack will have to break through a sticky Reading forecheck that can give opponents fits. AP does enter tournament having played some of its best hockey of the year in the final week of the season, wrapping up a Cape Cod Classic championship. The Rockets, meanwhile, will gain the fan bases of the rest of the state as the lone remaining public school entrant in this year’s field.

X-factor: Nolan Vesey. Has the potential to be the best player in the tournament. For a young squad such as AP, however, Vesey’s leadership will be vital for their long-term Super 8 chances. He needs to set the tone.

Prediction: Austin Prep in three.

Cape Cod Classic: AP, Falmouth set for final

February, 19, 2013

FALMOUTH, Mass. -- Austin Prep head coach Louis Finocchiaro couldn’t hide his emotions. With the locker room door open for everyone to hear, he exclaimed, “There is no quit in this team and that was the best win I’ve ever coached."

Finocchiaro was not exaggerating one bit.

The No.5 Cougars stunned No.3 BC High 3-2 in the first of two semifinals at the Cape Cod Classic at Falmouth Ice Arena. Austin Prep trailed by two goals and were being shut out in the final minute of the second period, only to post three unanswered goals to steal a much-needed victory in the eyes of the Super 8 voters.

Nolan Vesey pulled the rug right out from under the Eagles (12-3-3) with two third-period goals, the tying and game-winning tallies, after freshman Jake McKenelley gave the Cougars some hope with 31 seconds left in the second period.

"For us to come back against a team like that is a big time learning experience and character builder,” Finocchiaro said. “We were down but there is no quit in that locker room so I’m so proud of every one of those kids in their and it was a big time effort from everyone.”

All was not rosy for the young Austin Prep (12-1-6) squad in the first 30 minutes of play as two glaring miscues contributed to their early deficit.

Goaltender Peter Cronin recognized an out-of-synch line change by Austin Prep and fired the puck up the left side of the boards to Patrick Kramer, who then found Connor Noonan on the doorstep of the crease for the 1-0 Eagles’ lead. Prep was caught as they switched out defensemen along with the forwards and left the far side of the ice wide open.

Noonan was at it again only minutes later as he stole a bouncing puck in the neutral zone off a Cougars defenseman’s stick and went in untouched for the unassisted tally and a 2-0 BC High lead with just under three minutes to play in the second stanza.

Usually, a young team would fold after two huge mistakes resulted in two quick goals the other way, but Austin Prep stormed back with McKenelley’s third goal of the tournament right before the trip to the lockers for the second intermission. Bobby Carpenter fought behind the net taking on three BC High skaters to feed McKenelley in the right slot as the freshman forward popped in his own rebound after one of Cronin’s 20 saves with 31.4 seconds remaining.

“A line change cost us and then we fumbled one at center ice and cost us again,” Finocchiaro said. “I told them, the first period we played well and it was like a heavyweight fight and then in the second we were down two goals. But I came in the room and told them to stay positive because we didn’t really play that bad.”

Vesey picked up a penalty less then 30 seconds into the third period and it looked like BC High would add to their lead. But just as the Eagles’ man-advantage expired, the scrappy Carpenter was at it again, as he slid the puck out of the BC end trying to clear the puck only to find Vesey racing out of the box unchecked.

The senior captain leaped out of the penalty box for a 100-foot breakaway for the easy wrister just under Cronin’s outstretched glove to tie the score and send the pro-Prep crowd into a frenzy.

“Up 2-0, we make a mistake on the first goal they got, we have a breakdown we get beat to a puck – we just weren’t working hard enough,” BC High head coach John Flaherty said. “That team that was on the ice for Austin Prep is a very good team, we knew they were going to be good, we knew they were going to be desperate and we didn’t match that. We allowed them to come in and steal a game from us.”

Vesey was not finished as he captained a 3-on-1 breakout, only to keep the puck on his stick at the point and beat Cronin glove side with a pretty back-handed flip sliding by the right post for the game-winner with 5:15 remaining in regulation.

"Nolan [Vesey] is such a skilled player and usually you want to mix it up and drop the puck off across the ice for the easier look but you have to figure with skill like that, he gets the green light," Finocchiaro said. "You can't complain too much though because he finished it."

Flaherty added, "[It is] very frustrating as we have to know [Vesey] is coming out of the box, he's their best guy, and one of the most lethal in the state. Once it got to 2-0, the guys in this locker room thought it was over, but it was far from over, and it was proven by the way the game was finished."

In the second semifinal, Falmouth outlasted Waltham, 3-0, with a first-period barrage that only produced one goal.But Storm Fotiu had a stick on two of the three tallies as the Clippers advance to Thursday's final against Austin Prep at 7 p.m.

Waltham will face BC High in the consolation round on Wednesday night.

Robbie Souza scored for the Clippers (10-5-5) at 9:30 of the first, as Fotiu slid the puck on a perfect string to hit Souza on a break. Souza left Waltham senior goalie Nick Russo on the ice for the period's only goal despite outshooting the Hawks, 12-2.

The second period was a stalemate other than Falmouth racking up penalty minutes. Waltham (11-7-2) couldn’t muster much offense, even on the power play, as they finished the game 0-for-7 on the power play.

Fotiu doubled up the lead midway through the third period off a face-off in the Waltham end, as the senior forward dragged the puck across the crease for the top-shelf backhander. Cyrus Wickersham iced it with an empty-netter in the final minute of regulation.

Falmouth outshot the Hawks 32-15 overall as junior goalie Jake Beaton registered his first shutout of the season with numerous quality saves, including a picture-perfect glove save on a Bryan Longmoore breakaway in the final minute of regulation. Russo also played extremely well with 30 saves, including two huge glove saves in the third to keep things close before being pulled for the extra man.

Beaton didn’t see much in terms of shots, but has only allowed one goal in two tournament games and has Falmouth on the cusp of winning their own title for the first time since the Cape Cod Classic started.

"If they score with 52 seconds, it is going to be a huge lift for them,' said Falmouth head coach Buddy Ferriera about the breakaway save by Beaton. "He has been bounced around a bit and he's never had a chance to show he's a Number One, but now he is showing it."

Recap: No. 1 Cathedral 2, No. 3 BC High 2

February, 8, 2013

BOSTON – The only difference between Wednesday’s 2-2 tie by Springfield Cathedral and BC High and postseason hockey is the fact that are no ties in the playoffs. UMass-Boston’s Clark Center buzzed with a postseason pitch as two of the state’s top three teams battled for the second time this season on the Eagles’ Senior Night.

After dealing No. 3 BC High its first loss of the season in a 3-2 win on Jan. 12, Cathedral found itself playing from behind at two junctures during last night’s action. However, in both circumstances, the Panthers responded and showed resolve while running their unbeaten record to 13-0-3.

“To go anywhere, you’re going to have to be a team that battles through adversity,” Panthers head coach Brian Foley said. “We did a good job twice of coming back from a goal deficit.”

While Cathedral maintained control on play in the first, BC High (10-2-3) claimed the first lead of the game, as freshman defenseman Ryan Shea pinched in to collect the puck and score from below the goal line at 9:06 of the first.

The Panthers wasted little time drawing even. Eighteen seconds later, Peter Crinella potted the rebound from a Bryce Peritz blast from the point.

The teams went to the room tied, 1-1, but the Eagles reclaimed the lead in the second at Pat Kramer’s centering pass from Gretzky’s office found the tape of Tom Besinger. The goal at 2:49 of the second stood up till the third period, when Cathedral was again able to find the equalizer. D.J. Petruzzelli deked out an Eagles defender, allowing space for a 2-on-1 to develop down low. Petruzzelli then slid a saucer pass across the top of the goalmouth to a waiting Dominic Blad, who went 5-hole for the game-tier.

While BC High closed out the season series with Cathedral without finding an elusive second point, Eagles head coach John Flaherty felt his team had been acquitted.

“If that’s the number one team in the state, we’re as good as them,” he said. “We play a tougher schedule. I think we’re right there with them.”

Cathedral outshot the Eagles 30-23, and the difference in margin came largely due to a strong first period by the Panthers.

Cathedral found great success working the puck down low, all the while drawing BC High’s collective defense to sag down below the faceoff circles. With the Eagles playing down low in “the house” area, the Panthers’ forwards then looked to send the puck back out to the points for shots on goal.

“[Matt] Foley and Jack [Williams], we know they can shoot the puck and we know they’re a focal part of their offense,” Flaherty said. “They were zipping it up and going D-to-D, so we knew we had to make an adjustment to try to take that away the best the could.”

The Eagles made their corrective adjustments and tightened up the passing lanes to limit the opportunities in front of Peter Cronin (28 saves) in the second and third.

A couple of the teams’ youngest members made their presence felt on the score sheet.

Shea, who’s helped bolster the Eagles’ blue line all season with fellow frosh Billy Roche, netted his first goal of the season. Yet, at this stage of the season, the younger members’ contributions are viewed as compulsory.

“They’ve played a lot of hockey,” Flaherty said of his first-year defensemen, “so they’re not freshman any more.”

Flaherty added on Shea, “He’s a seasoned player, so we expect that more now even more heading down the stretch.”

In addition, Petruzzelli, a sophomore, might be playing his best hockey at an opportune time.

“His last two games have been his best two games of the year,” Foley said of Petruzzelli. “He’s really coming on strong. He put it right on [Blad’s] stick, he got it off quick and we were fortunate it went in.”

MIAA hockey midseason All-State teams

February, 4, 2013
1st Team

F – Liam Coughlin, Sr., Catholic Memorial
F – Brian Pinho, Sr., St. John’s Prep
F – Ara Nazarian, Soph., Malden Catholic
D – Casey Fitzgerald, Soph., Malden Catholic
D – Matt Foley, Sr., Springfield Cathedral
G – Peter Cronin, Sr., BC High

2nd Team
F – Sam D’Antuono, Soph., Hingham
F – Mike Kelleher, Sr., Central Catholic
F – Cam Owens, Sr., Wilmington
D – Bryan Nelson, Jr., St. John's (Shrewsbury)
D – Jack Williams, Sr., Springfield Cathedral
G – Drew Foley, Jr., Wilmington

1st Team

F – Alison Butler, Sr., St. Mary’s (Lynn)
F – Jane Freda, Sr., Hingham
F – Kayla Smith, Sr., Woburn
D – Cassandra Connolly, Sr., Woburn
D – Annie Messuri, Jr., Acton-Boxborough
G – Courtney Davis, Jr., Woburn

2nd Team
F – Kaleigh Finigan, Sr., St. Mary's (Lynn)
F – Hannah Murphy, Sr., Duxbury
F - Adrieanna Rossini, Soph., Arlington Catholic
D – Tatiana Doucette, Jr., St. Mary’s (Lynn)
D – Alexx Good, Sr., Falmouth
G – Maddie Scavotto, Soph., Falmouth

Aside from those named to our first two teams, there are a plenty of deserving candidates across the state that made for some very hard decisions.

Here's a peak at few players who were on the cusp and who are worth keeping tabs on as we near tournament time:

Tom Besinger, Sr. F, BC High: His two-goal performance in Saturday night's comeback win over Catholic Memorial tells you everything you need to know about the shifty center.

Eddie Pratt, Sr. F, Xaverian: It wouldn't be too outlandish to say that you could make a strong case for the power forward (15-11-26) as the Catholic Conference MVP.

Jack Kilty, Sr. F, Medway: Don't let the fact that the Mustangs play in D3 detract from his resume (17-17-34); he could skate on any line in the state.

Nick Rolli, Sr. D, Malden Catholic: It's been an up-and-down year for the Lancers, but the blue-liner is a steadying force, playing on all units.

Alex Buckley, Sr. G, Newburyport: In terms of shots seen, it's hard to beat his 94.8 save percentage.

Tim Birarelli, Soph. G, Beverly: The Panthers' offense gets a lot of the pub, but the second-year backstop has been a revelation this year as they've surrendered just 10 goals on the season.

Brittani Lanzilli, Jr. F, Medford: After transferring back from St. Mary's, she'll lead the Mustangs as far as they can go.

Maggie Layo, Jr. F, Sandwich: Among the leading scorers in the state (11-33-44), she's a huge part why no one will want to cross paths with the Blue Knights in D2.

Hannah Wright, Sr. D, Arlington: As close to a shut-down blue-liner as you'll find in MIAA hockey this year.

Shannon O'Neil, Sr. G, Austin Prep: Perhaps the toughest decision to make among all of them in a particularly good year of goaltending in the girls' game. A 97.2 percentage and six shutouts is about as good as it gets.

Recap: No. 3 BC High 4, No. 8 CM 3

February, 3, 2013

BOSTON -- BC High senior captain Tom Besinger was quick to return the No. 18 jersey that he borrowed from teammate Aidan Foley after Saturday's Catholic Conference clash with rival Catholic Memorial. Foley just better hope that Besinger left a few goals in thats sweater for him.

Besinger scored the first and last goals of the game, the latter capping a stirring, three-goal, third period comeback that lifted the third-ranked Eagles to a 4-3 victory over the eighth-ranked Knights in the 13th Annual Ed Wright Memorial Hockey Classic at Walter Brown Arena.

"I gave it right back to him. I'll say I forgot my shirt at home," joked Besinger afterward.

[+] EnlargeTom Besinger
Scott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comOn the 50th anniversary of the BC High-Catholic Memorial rivalry, alumni Jack Parker (CM) and Jerry York (BC High) were on hand to award the game MVP award to Eagles center Tom Besinger.
Besinger was named Most Valuable Player of the game and was presented the trophy by Boston College coach Jerry York (BC High Class of 1963) and Boston University coach Jack Parker (Catholic Memorial Class of 1963). Both were first-line players in the initial game between the two programs in 1962, and they were joined by other members of those squads as well as past Wright Cup MVP winners to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of hockey between the two schools.

What the BC High (10-2-2, 5-1-2 Catholic Conference) captain did not leave at home were his leadership skills and playmaking abilities. Besinger scored the game's first goal at 3:29 of the second period, banging home a one-timer off a feed from Connor Noonan.

Despite giving up the early score, Catholic Memorial (8-6-2, 2-5-0) was in command of the game for the first two frames, piling up 34 shots and getting three straight goals from Liam Coughlin, Beau Starrett and Jack O'Hear to take a 3-1 lead into the third.

BC High head coach John Flaherty knew his team needed a spark and said it was Besinger who provided it, first in the locker room between periods, and then out on the ice in the third.

"Tommy Besinger is a player, he's a competitor. He works hard and I think he took it personal that we were getting outworked the first two periods," Flaherty said. "He was the most vocal in the locker room after the first two periods so I knew he'd be ready for the third. He has the ability to take it to another level and he did that tonight. He raised his game to another level and he put a few away, which we needed. Leadership we needed, and he provided it."

The Eagles responded with their best period of the night and the comeback started when defenseman Sam Topham sniped a shot from the left wing circle at 7:54. Just under two minutes later, a bad CM giveaway at the Eagles blue line led to a breakaway for Patrick Kramer, who raced in alone and shifted to his backhand to tie the game at 3-3.

Then, with 3:42 remaining, Besinger got the game-winner after a strong forecheck resulted in him getting the puck down low and tucked in a wraparound bid.

"We came out real slow in the first and second," Besinger admitted. "We weren't doing what we normally do - chipping pucks low, getting behind their D and trying to get pucks to the net. Come the third period we just knew we had to get a lot of shots on net, keep them low for rebounds and we just had to put them home."

With the excitement of the comeback, it can't be forgotten that Eagles goalie Peter Cronin not only gave his team a chance to get back in the game, but also helped the comeback stand up.

The Knights peppered the BC High net with and endless array of shots, 79 total according to CM coach Bill Hanson, with 43 of them getting to Cronin. Some of the senior captain's best work came in the third, when shortly after Kramer tied the game, Cronin (40 saves) stared down a point-blank slapper from Mike Stathopoulous on the left wing dot.

Not long after Besinger notched the go-ahead goal, Cronin stoned Coughlin on another point-blank blast, then turned aside shots on both a 2-on-1 bid as well as a 3-on-1.

"What cannot get lost in this whole thing was Peter Cronin in the third period," Flaherty stated emphatically. "He made save after save after save. I would argue that, they earned their bounces, but they got three very good bounces on those goals. Some goalies would get flustered, some goalies would want to hide in the net and Peter didn't. He attacked, he made the saves. In the third period alone he had three or four point blank shots. Liam Coughlin is probably one of the most dangerous kids in the state and Peter had a point blank stop on him a couple times."

Added Knights coach Bill Hanson, "We put 79 shots out there tonight, [43] on net. [Cronin] played out of his head. We had chances. We had a three-on-one, we had a two-on-one but we just didn't capitalize."

Normally, the Catholic Memorial roster is full of experienced players, bit this group yields just six seniors among its numbers and a number of freshmen are contributing, notably goalie Brandon Collett (23 saves), who has been terrific throughout his rookie season.

Hanson has watched his young team go through several stages and while they remain two points of shy of returning to the postseason after a two-year hiatus with four games left (against Xaverian, Braintree, Central Catholic and Fairfield Prep) he hopes that if his team does qualify, they will have developed into a group that gives others reason to shudder.

"We've had the breakdowns and that first goal was a breakdown," Hanson admitted. "But that's what happens with young teams and we just haven't been able to overcome that. As I said to them, I put the season into three five-game increments. The first five games, we're averaging over five goals a game. Games six through ten, over four. And from 11 through 15 the other other night, we have eight goals and gave up 16. So we have to win by shutouts and we're 0-3-2."

"Tonight we scored enough against a real good goalie to win," Hanson continued. "We had the lead, we're a good third period team but again, they got some fortunate plays. I don't know what their coaches will say but if I was on the other side of the ledger I'd say we escaped with our lives out there tonight."

He added, "I want to make the tournament and when the seedings come out, I don't care where we are. I want everybody to say, 'The one team we don't want to play is Catholic Memorial.'"

Recap: No. 2 BC High 4, No. 17 Xaverian 2

January, 24, 2013

BOSTON -- No. 2 BC High had plenty ahead of it entering Wednesday night’s Catholic Conference duel with No. 17 Xaverian. Aside from keeping pace in league play, the Eagles had the opportunity to wrap up an early tournament berth

The Eagles did all of the above while remaining unbeaten in the Catholic Conference with a 4-2 win over the Hawks at UMass-Boston.

“It was a qualifying game for us so we wanted to win it, plus it’s a big two points for us in the Conference,” BC High head coach John Flaherty said. “You have to take those opportunities when they come.”

The Eagles (9-1-2, 4-0-2) reestablished a two-point lead over St. John’s Prep atop the Conference standings, leading into Saturday’s duel at Ristuccia Arena.

But BC High had its hands full with the physical Hawks (4-5-3, 0-3-2), who jumped out to 1-0 first period lead on Brian Cahalane’s power-play goal at 12:06. Cahalane cut across the goal line to stuff in backhander to the short side of Eagles goaltender Peter Cronin.

However, BC High struck for the equalizer before the period was out. Seconds after an Eagles power play expired, Chris LaLiberte wristed home a shot with 29 seconds remaining in the period, with assists from Michael Brooks and John Stillman.

Neither team was able to generate much offense in the second period, despite sharing three power-play opportunities. The Eagles held a slim 14-9 lead in shots on goal through 30 minutes.

BC High claimed its first lead of the game at 7:11 of the third period with Brooks tallying his second point of the game, sneaking one past Matt Michals (19 saves) off a broken play.

Xaverian fired back less than a minute later with its second power play goal of the game. Eddie Pratt blasted a slap shot, working the blue line on the man-up unit, from the point off a feed from Jake Farrell.

The momentum shifted back to the Eagles moments later when Pat Kramer scored what would prove to be the game-winner at 9:34. Kramer’s wristshot from the right wing circle was set up by an expert drop pass from Eagles junior captain Tom Besinger.

“[Besinger] is able to draw attention to himself and when Pat [Kramer] saw that, he put himself in position to receive a pass,” Flaherty said.

BC High closed out the victory with Brooks tallying his second goal of the game and third point of the contest with an empty-netter.

Despite having nothing to show for it in the standings, the Hawks were effective on specialty teams, going 2-for-5 on the power play and shutting out BC High on four power play chances.

In addition to their keen defense on the man-down, Xaverian was consistently able to bottle up the Eagles coming through the neutral zone. It limited BC High’s scoring chances, particularly in the first two periods, and helped to bog down the Eagles’ fleet-footed forwards.

“We’ve been trying to clog the middle up a little bit more,” Hawks head coach Dave Spinale said. “You have [the first forward] take the pass away, then the [second and third forward] fill the middle and try to make them go cross-ice instead of up the middle. I thought we were pretty effective there and that’s a big part of their game.”

The Eagles could control their own destiny, in terms of claiming the Catholic Conference title, if they can sweep the season series from Prep on Saturday.

It’s one of the goals BC High’s leaders set at the start of the season.

“We set a goal to win the Catholic Conference,” said Brooks, a senior captain. “We haven’t won it, but it’s another step closer. This is the earliest we’ve ever qualified [for the tournament] and that’s a good feeling. I’ve been here four years, so it’s a good feeling.”

Recap: No. 3 Cathedral 3, No. 1 BC High 2

January, 13, 2013
WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- As the lone Division 1 high school hockey program in Western Massachusetts, Springfield Cathedral sometimes doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

A trip to last year’s Super 8 Tournament did wonders to build up this program’s stature but there were still many who walked away believing it was a fluke that they got there.

Making a concerted effort to prove the naysayers wrong, perhaps the Panthers did just that on Saturday after rallying to beat top-ranked Boston College High School, 3-2, in a non-conference battle held at the Olympia Ice Center.

In a contest that played out like a postseason affair, No. 3 Cathedral (8-0-1) scored a pair of third period goals and managed to withstand several late offensive assaults by the Eagles (6-1-2) to secure the triumph.

“This was obviously a huge game against the No. 1 ranked team in the state,” said Panthers coach Brian Foley, now in his ninth season there. “It was a chance for us to knock off a No. 1 and undefeated team. So obviously there was a lot of extra excitement taking place.”

Trailing 2-1 after 30 minutes, Cathedral came out for the final frame believing it had BC High in its cross hairs. A club that has relied so heavily on its defense throughout the first month of the regular season, it was now time for the offense to step it up and perform.

Just 3:02 into the final period sophomore Peter Crinella did just that. An initial shot laid buried between the pads of Eagle goaltender Peter Cronin (21 saves). However Crinella came in and was able to get enough of his stick on it to push it over the goal crease to tie matters at 2-2.

Moments later, BC High self-destructed a bit after being called for a couple of ill-timed penalties. Defenseman Alec Flynn was whistled for roughing. Moments later the Eagle bench was called for unsportsmanlike conduct giving Cathedral a golden 5-on-3 opportunity.

Failing to perform up to their standards on earlier power play chances, the Panthers weren’t about to let this opportunity slip through their grasp, especially with the outcome hanging in the balance.

A blast from freshman Johnny Leonard at the left face off circle deflected off the stick of senior Jack Williams, who positioned himself in front of the crease, and slipped by Cronin for the eventual game-winner coming at 4:23.

“We have a lot of guys who are poised with the puck,” Foley said. “I think our power play is a strength for us and it was nice to have that opportunity in the third period. Jack has been the key to our power play. We’ve been getting a lot of down low games because of him that we hadn’t gotten in previous years. Moving Jack [Williams] from defense to offense, he’s been great on rebounds and tipping the puck on shots from the point.”

For the remainder of the period, the Panthers defense, spear headed by senior Matt Foley, took over and kept the Eagles at bay.

“It goes in the column as a loss and we will get better from and learn from it,” BC High coach John Flaherty said. “We have another big game on Wednesday against Catholic Memorial so we need to come back and have an answer.”

It took nearly an entire first period before either team would get on the board. The Eagles were the first to do it with only 56 seconds remaining. Forward Patrick Kramer cut through the Springfield Cathedral defense along the left boards and beat Panther goaltender John Liquori (20 saves) with a hard wrist shot putting the Eagles on top, 1-0.

“The two times they scored on us we had two bad line changes," Matt Foley said. “We didn’t get the right guys on the ice during those two times. Even though we have started out the season pretty well, this was our first true big test of the season. All of us were very excited for it and fortunately we were able to come away victorious."

Springfield Cathedral answered at 3:39 of the second when Crinella, who earlier in the week made a verbal commitment to play at Holy Cross following graduation, pushed in a rebound to knot this contest at 1-1. But just 18 seconds later, the Eagles responded with Kramer, once again, leading the way. Standing just outside the Panther net, the sophomore lifted a back had over Liquori’s catching glove to send his club into the second intermission leading by a goal.

“Pat [Kramer] is playing well and has a hot stick,” said Flaherty. “He’s shooting the puck and making plays with it. He’s a big body and a big presence around the cage. He’s making good plays and good decision. He’s doing a great job for us.”

Recap: No. 1 BC High 2, No. 4 St. John's Prep 0

January, 10, 2013

BOSTON -- A popular phrase around the high school hockey barns this winter has been 'compete level' and it's been applied to both teams and individuals.

Wednesday night, BC High junior captain Tom Besinger earned the tag. Despite routinely drawing the attention of opposing defensive gameplans, Besinger came up with a number of hustle plays that helped set up a 2-0 victory for the top-ranked Eagles (6-0-2) over No. 4 St. John's Prep (5-2-0) at Clark Athletic Center.

Five minutes into the second period, freshman defenseman Billy Roche chipped the puck off the side boards to Besinger, who stretched far enough to get to it before a pair of Prep skaters could beat him to it. He got just enough on it to poke it forward to teammate Patrick Kramer, who corralled the puck with one hand on his stick, split a pair of blue-liners and managed to push the puck through to the stick side of Prep goalie Billy Price.

"Tommy made a good play, he brought it over the blue line and it just bounced," Kramer said. "I kept my feet moving, it was a good bounce, goal. It was a good play by Tommy to get the puck over the line."

Then with 4:05 left in the middle frame, Roche disrupted a clearing attempt at center ice. Besinger changed direction quickly and danced around one defender to get the puck, then took a pair of short strides before slipping it through a pair of sticks to Jake Lemanski for a quick wrist shot through another defender to the short side.

"Tommy gets attacked, he gets draped on and his compete level is second to none," praised BC High head coach John Flaherty. "As I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, he may not be the biggest kid on the ice but he competes as hard as anybody. He had a couple guys draped on him and he still kept his feet moving and made a nice pass to Jake Lemanski who didn’t hesitate and just put it right back by him. That was a nice job by Tommy and a nice job by Jake to keep his stick on the ice and fire it."

For his part, Besinger intimated that he was just sticking with the team's game plan.

"We were just attacking the zone with speed," he explained. "We got a lot of pucks in deep and we were finding guys back door and we were just trying to get behind their defense and work the puck in along their goal line because we knew we could beat them back door and try to get shots from the slot."

Besinger was marked in the preseason by most observers as the player to watch, and he has more than done his part, leading the Eagles with 2-9-11 totals. What may come as something of a surprise is the player who leads the state's number one team in goal scoring.

Just a sophomore, Kramer's second-period tally was his team-leading sixth of the season. And a lot of them are the "dirty goals" that coaches love because they come from right around the crease.

"He’s putting pucks away for us, Flaherty said of Kramer. "He competes hard, he’s a big body and I think all of his goals have come right from where that one was, all around the net. He has a nice knack for when he gets in that circle around the net, he puts pucks away."

Among the six defensemen listed on the BC High roster, there are two juniors, a sophomore and three freshmen. While having an elite goaltender such as Peter Cronin (20-save shutout against the Prep) backing them certainly helps, this young blue line corps continues to make positive strides.

"We’re young on the blue line and those guys are getting better every day," Flaherty said. "I think they’ve improved and I think today was another big step forward. [St. John's Prep's] Brian Pinho can fly. He's a legit division one college player, his future is very bright so for our defensemen to at least make his life a little difficult is a big step forward to us. He’s scary when he touches the puck and he can make things happen so we did a pretty good job of at least limiting some of his chances."

Coming off a big victory against Malden Catholic last Saturday, you could almost excuse St. John's Prep for suffering something of a letdown last night.

The Eagles struggled to put passes together and struggled to find quality scoring chances through the first 30 minutes of play. Even in the third, when SJP finally began to control the tempo somewhat, they still seemed unable to get themselves into any kind of groove despite outshooting their counterparts.

"There was no flow. We just looked out of sorts the entire night and couldn't get anything going," Prep coach Kristian Hanson admitted. "Systematically we were off. It just seemed like we were fighting every stride that we took tonight, like we were skating in quicksand."

"Scoring opportunity-wise we had some but we didn't do anything outstanding tonight where I felt we had our chances and just couldn't put anything away," Hanson continued. "That's our fault. We just did not play well. Those things happen. We’ve got a good group of kids in there and we’ve had a pretty good year up to this point so we’ll hope to turn things around on Saturday."