MALDEN, MASS. – It turns out there is some firepower left in the cupboard at Austin Prep after all.
Despite losing its leading scorer, star goaltender and two top defensemen, the Cougars improved to 2-0-0 with a 4-1 victory over St. Mary’s in the first round of the Christie Serino Tournament.
The Cougars advance to Sunday’s championship game where they will play tournament host Malden Catholic in the annual event to honor the late former Malden Catholic and Merrimack College head coach.
After a scoreless first period where the two teams did some feeling out of each other, the Cougars jumped in front just 3:35 into the second on a beautifully played two-on-one. Junior Eric MacAdams was coming down the right side when he faked a shot before giving a perfect pass to linemate Jake McKennelley on the left side for an easy goal.
“It was a nice play. He drew the defensemen to him before giving it tape-to-tape to McKennelley. As Jack Edwards would say, he gave him room service,” said Austin Prep head coach Louis Finocchiaro.
Cam Russo extended the Austin Prep lead to 2-0 with 1:26 to play in the second period. The senior captain picked up a rebound off a Louis Finocchiaro shot before spinning around and quickly blasting a low shot past St. Mary’s goaltender Ryan Borders.
St. Mary’s capitalized on a lack of discipline from the Cougars to pull within one before the second intermission. Generating nice puck movement in the offensive zone, the Spartans’ top power play unit had the Cougars on their heels. It finally turned into a goal when Eric Pedro blasted home a rebound off a Dante Maribito shot.
“We’re not as disciplined right now as where I’d like us to be,” said Finocchiaro. “It really fouls up your rhythm. We have to be more disciplined. We can’t be taking offensive zone and frustration penalties.”
St. Mary’s couldn’t hold on to the momentum gained late in the second period. Senior Scott Duarte banged home a third chance opportunity from in front of the net to put Austin Prep up 3-1 at the 4:58 mark of the final period.
The Cougars salted away their victory with an insurance that came with 4:43 left on the clock. Collin Murphy’s point shot was redirected by McKennelly to the side of the cage where a wide-open Mike Egan quickly deposited it into the back of the net.
Taking over as the number one goaltender with the departure of Brown recruit Elijah Harris to prep hockey, senior goaltender Cam Hill was superb when he had to be. There were several stretches where St. Mary’s had Austin Prep hemmed in their own zone, but Hill stood tall.
“He had some nice saves. We had some major breakdowns in our defensive zone,” said Finocchiaro, who also complimented St. Mary’s for its execution and ability to exploit his team’s weaknesses.
Strong up the middle: There might not be a team in high school hockey that is as solid up the middle as Austin Prep. Junior Eric MacAdams centers the top line with McKennelly and Egan while Russo anchors the second line with Finocchiaro and McDonough flanking on the wings.
As pretty as MacAdams’ move on the odd man rush was for the first goal and how impressive Russo was collecting his second game-winning goal in as many games, their play in all three zones is underrated.
“They’re good. They play all 200 feet of the ice. They’re good in our defensive zone. Having guys like that, a senior and a junior, it’s important. They’re stalwarts. They’ve been around and been in big games,” explained Finocchiaro.
Russo is one of those players that is always trying to learn the game and improve. He’s constantly trying to figure out ways to be better and talking with Finocchiaro after practices and games.
MacAdams, who was invited to USA Hockey’s Select 17 Festival as well as the Beantown Classic, is a player who is beginning to gain the attention of Division I college coaches. He has a knack for scoring clutch goals as evidenced by last year’s Super 8 semifinal victory over BC High, but credits his experience over the summer as a major reason he believes he can take his game to the next level this season.
“Playing against bigger and faster competition really helped me a lot,” said MacAdams of the prestigious summer showcases. “Once I come out here I feel like I have a little more time and can do a little more.”
With Boston University recruit Bobo Carpenter’s departure to the USHL, Russo and MacAdams will be counted on to carry more of the offensive weight this season. As much as the two will be counted on to provide scoring punch, the two will be equally important to the leadership structure.
“It’s still a team sport. We have a bunch of hardworking forwards. It’s going to be a fun year,” said MacAdams, an alternate captain as a junior.