Boston High School: Springfield Cathedral

Video: Super 8 Sunday highlights and breakdown

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
LOWELL, Mass. -- Four teams are up, four teams are down after the first day of the Super 8 tournament's first-round games at Tsongas Center on Sunday.

ESPN Boston High Schools editor Scott Barboza has all the highlights, while taking a look at why teams who are up in their best-of-three series aren't being complacent and giving out his Three Stars on the day:

(Video by Greg Story and Ben Cormier)

Super 8: Springfield Cathedral 3, Woburn 2

March, 1, 2015
Mar 1
LOWELL, Mass. – It was an undefeated Catholic school versus a public school that many never expected to be here in the first place, the top seed versus No. 8, but all of was thrown out the window when it came down to it.

But despite things not going as planned for top-ranked Springfield Cathedral in their opening round game against Woburn on Sunday, they were able to escape with a 3-2 victory at the Tsongas Center in a battle as tight as the score indicates.

“I knew Woburn was going to bring it, I thought they played real hard,” said Cathedral coach Brian Foley. “I’m a little disappointed in our group.”

“That team is so talented,” said Woburn coach Jim Duran of Cathedral. “We tried to do the best we can and keep it to the outside. We were lucky enough to get off on the right foot. I thought we did a pretty good job anytime they got momentum it seemed like we got right back at it.”

From the jump the Panthers looked like they might devour the Tanners as Frank Crinella ripped a shot off the left post in the game’s opening seconds, but after Woburn found their defensive balance things leveled a bit.

The Tanners did find themselves with the first power play opportunity of the game nine minutes in, but were unable to enjoy it.

Tyler Shaw ripped a blast from the point that was saved by Keith Petruzzelli (13 saves), but the Tanners could not keep the puck in the zone and a pack of white jerseys busted up the ice, led by John Leonard who controlled enough to get it on his backhand before going five-hole on Sammy Best.

“[D.J. Petruzzelli] broke up the play, made a nice play to me and I just kind of had a breakaway,” said Leonard. “I lost it for a little bit, then the goalie tried to poke it away. Fortunately, I was able to slide it five-hole. It felt good to score, but we kind of came out flat, which is something we can’t do if we want to go somewhere in this tournament.”

The Tanners were able to keep it a one-goal game with Best stopping six shots in the first, coupled with a defense that continued to strengthen throughout the period, blocking shots and back-checking well enough to keep the Panthers off balance.

“They’re a solid team,” said Leonard. “We definitely can’t take them lightly. We felt them out in the first early on and we can’t do that if we want to do something.”

The feeling out seemed to carry over into the second period while the Tanners kept gaining traction.

Four minutes in the Tanners struck pay dirt behind Evan McDonald who blazed up the left wing, came across the slot and held long enough to get Petruzzelli on the ice before firing a home a power play opportunity.

Before the PA announcer could finish relaying the goal details, Cathedral struck back, just twenty seconds later when Devon Tongue led a pack of Panthers charging the net to regain the lead.

Despite the quick response, the Tanners were undeterred and dominated much of the rest of the period, using a later power play opportunity to pull even once again.

And again it was McDonald, this time with a blast from the slot that Petruzzelli stood no chance against.

Meanwhile Best was keeping the Panthers at bay, stopping 33 shots in the game and keeping the Tanners alive for much of the action.

“We expect that out of him now,” said Duran of his goalie. “We told the guys all game that we just have to take care of the puck and Sammy will take care of everything else around his net. He’s just so smooth, nothing phases him.”

Unfortunately for Best, the last puck he was unable to stop just so happened to be the dagger as D.J. Petruzzelli, from behind the net, found Riley Prattson for what would be the game-winner at the 5:30 mark of the third.

“I was just coming off the bench and saw D.J. coming around the net,” said Prattson. “He’s always one for making big plays, so I knew he was going to find me. He just went to the net, made a beautiful play and I was able to bang it home.”

As the minutes and seconds ticked off the clock, Cathedral was able to gain a foothold in the Tanners zone, enough to keep Best between the pipes in the waning moments and clinch the victory.

TOP CATS: In the Panthers prior four trips to the Super 8 they have slotted in at anywhere from the No. 2 to the No. 6 seed.

They’ve even battled in the dreaded play-in game before, a 5-2 loss to Woburn in 2011.

This time around however, it’s different being the top seeded team in the state’s premiere high school hockey tourney.

“Being the top team this year, everyone is coming for us,” said Leonard. “Everyone is going to play as hard as they need to. That’s something that we’ve got to match the intensity and come out even stronger.”

Their whole demeanor has changed from just five short year ago when they made their Division 1A tourney debut, seeded sixth in 2010.

The novelty of “just being there” has worn off and those long rides from Western Massachusetts are strictly business now.

A fixture in the Super 8, they know the ins-and-outs of the tournament, the quirky schedule and they are starting to get pretty familiar with the rinks, despite the hour and half drive.

“Every year there seems to be an adjustment in first game in this rink,” said Foley of the Tsongas Center. “It’s a warm rink, the ice is softer, you questions your conditioning it seems here. You just got to keep your shifts short and work hard.”

They also know that in order to get that grand rink on Causeway Street, that they can’t have too many performances like they did in their Super 8 opener against Woburn.

“I didn’t think we had the sense of urgency that you like to see here in the first game,” said Foley. “We’ve got to stop getting outworked by teams.”

“It felt good to get the win, but we’ve got some work to do over the next couple of days,” added Leonard.

Super 8 recap: Woburn 3, Burlington 0

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24

CHELMSFORD, Mass. — It was dubbed as the Battle of Winn Street, Part Three, and it was Woburn that imposed its will on Burlington, earning bragging rights on the street that connects the towns as well as entry into the Super 8 tournament where they will play Springfield Cathedral in a best-of-three series starting Sunday at the Tsongas Center.

The Tanners (16-1-4) got goals from Kyle Flaherty, Andrew Palmer, and Justin Alves (empty-netter) and a 24-save performance from sophomore goalie Sammy Best in a 3-0 victory in front of a spirited crowd at the Chelmsford Forum Tuesday night.

For Woburn, the win avenged a 4-2 defeat to the Red Devils on Feb. 12 and sets up the daunting task of overtaking No. 1 seed Springfield Cathedral, which finished the regular season without a loss.

“I told them to enjoy this one because we are not sure what is going to happen these next two games,” quipped Woburn head coach Jim Duran. “We wanted to really win this game and whatever happens, happens. It is David and Goliath and everybody knows that. If we can hang in there and have a great effort that is all we want.”

Woburn’s effort was not In question from the beginning against Burlington and the Tanners almost got on the board on a Flaherty bid early in the first period that was denied by Burlington goalie Nick Howard, who was brilliant at times in the Burlington cage.

Midway through the second period, the Tanners struck on a scrum near the Burlington net when Flaherty picked up a loose puck at the left post and fired one behind a prone Howard, giving Woburn a 1-0 lead.

It was not until late in the third period that the Tanners found some breathing room. With two minutes left, Timmy Doherty looked to double the lead but he was denied by the glove of Howard.

Less than a minute later, Palmer was sprung free on a pass through the neutral zone from Tyler Shaw and Palmer made a quick move and slid one in between Howard’s pads for a 2-0 lead with just 1:02 left.

Alves would add the empty netter with just five seconds remaining to send Tanner nation into a frenzy.

“I think it was a great game,” added Duran. “We played really well. It was back and forth in the first and then in the second I thought we got going a little better. Once we got that first goal it was a huge goal for us.”

SAMMY’S BEST: Woburn sophomore goalie Sammy Best has been on a bit of a roll lately.

Best’s last three starts have resulted in three straight shutouts for the Tanners – with two in Woburn’s own Irish American tourney victory and Tuesday’s over Burlington, a team that put four past Best in his last loss.

“He has been awesome all year and I think this is his eighth or ninth shutout,” said Duran. “He just works hard and he knows the game. Everyone is else is going to the park and he is going to do goaltending drills. He has been great for us and he works hard.”

Best will have to be at his monumental best to shut down the high scoring offense of Springfield Cathedral.

DEVILS MUST REGROUP: For Burlington (16-2-4), they must now do something they have not had to do since late December: bounce back from a loss.

But for Burlington coach Bob Conceison, it may be something a little tougher to figure out after some lapses by the Red Devils on Tuesday night.

“I don’t know what it was tonight,” said Conceison. “We worked hard at times but we gave up that goal and we were really struggling. We got shots on net but we didn’t get any real aggressive plays to their net. Maybe the pressure of it all got to us. I can’t figure it out.

“I give Woburn a lot of credit. They took advantage of their opportunities and they worked hard.”

Burlington will drop into an always tough Division I North field, but history is on their side. In 2011-12, the Devils lost a Super 8 play-in game to Central Catholic before rallying to win Division I North and then beating Milton for their first in a string of back-to-back state titles.

No. 2 Cathedral downs No. 1 MC for Classic crown

February, 20, 2015
Feb 20
WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Several long minutes had passed before Brian Foley appeared from the team dressing room.

In the aftermath of witnessing his Springfield Cathedral hockey team play a game of survival against Malden Catholic, resulting in a 2-1 victory in the finals of the Cathedral Hockey Classic played Thursday evening at the Olympia Ice Center, Foley seemed less than enthused after defeating the No. 1 program in the state.

Foley, and his team, know full well they had just pulled off a Houdini act against a club that had taken complete control of things over the final two-and-a-half periods. No. 2 Cathedral had set the tone early in the first period by scoring a pair of goals within the span of a minute. But the momentum of those two scores failed to garnish much strength as things started to go south thereafter.

Cathedral's early outburst acted more like a wake up call for the slumbering Lancers, as they took over the reins moments later and never let go. MC went into lock down mode on the Panthers, limiting their pursuits up ice and pinching them along the boards the rest of the way.

Had it not been for the steady play of Cathedral goaltender Keith Petruzzelli, who turned out to be the Panthers saving grace, Cathedral most likely would have come up on the short end.

Petruzzelli, a sophomore, stopped 27 shots – many of the high quality variety, including several during the final minute.

"I thought we did a good job keeping their shots on the outside," said Petruzzelli, a Quinnipiac University commit. "They didn't get a lot of chances point blank. Our defense and our off wings did a really good job keeping them out of the front. We executed well by getting in front of shots. Because of the great system that we have here, we have guys constantly selling out by blocking shots and keeping stuff out of the front of the net."

With the victory, the Panthers close out their regular season 20-0-2 and now wait for their invitation to the Super 8 tournament.

Malden Catholic, the four time defending Super 8 champs, suffers its first loss of the season as they fall to 14-1-2. If the stars align correctly, these two super powers could face one another again in the Super 8 finals next month.

"It almost felt like scoring those two early goals was a bad thing," Foley said. "I thought there was a lot of energy early and were able to establish some territory. Then when we got those first two goals it looked like it was going to be a good night for us and appeared as though we were going to out-shoot them, out-work them and out-play them. But then it just went completely the other way on us. I thought Keith played exceptionally well for us so we'll take these two points without our best effort."

In the early going, and with a jammed pack crowd in place, the Panthers came out stoked. Just 3:51 in, after MC's Austin Goldstein was whistled for roughing, Cathedral pounced on its man advantage opportunity. Senior D.J. Petruzzelli, standing in front of MC goalie Kyle Casey, redirected a Johnny Leonard blast from inside the blue line for a 1-0 lead.

Just 24 seconds later, the Panthers were back on the march. Freshman center Devon Tongue, standing just outside the Lancer goal crease, pushed back a rebound to make it a two-goal affair.

"They got on us early and we weren't ready mentally," Lancers head coach John McLean said. "It was a big crowd here and I felt our kids just weren't mentally ready to go at the start. That team has a lot of talented kids but I'm very proud of our guys for the way we battled for the rest of the game. You can't win every game and our guys could have easily quit after those first six minutes. But they didn't and went to war for the remainder of the game. It was a very good game by both teams."

Despite being down by a pair, MC shook off the cobwebs. Over the last minutes of the first and during the final two frames, MC took over. The Lancers started getting more physical at both ends of the ice, knocking the Panthers off of their anticipated lanes with a mix of forechecking and backchecking. They were also beating Cathedral to numerous loose pucks as well as limiting the Panthers' attempt to create separation once they moved inside the attacking zone.

However, in spite, their on-ice changeover, MC was still down a pair. Even when the Lancers went on the power play (five times total), they came up empty thanks to some quality special teams play put forth by the Panthers.

"You hate to see that much special teams in these types of games but we were forced to kill some penalties, make some blocks and we know Keith is the best penalty killer we have," said Foley. "We don't feel great about the win right now but I think it is a sign of a good team that doesn't play well yet can still pick up two points against a great team like Malden Catholic."

Midway through the second period, MC found a glimmer of hope when Jack Adams, off a turnover, punched one past Petruzzelli from the right circle, drawing the Lancers to within a goal.

Cathedral, who attempted just 12 shots on net for the game, spent the rest of the night diving on the ice in an attempt to push puck away from its own zone or drop down to block shots from the perimeter. When MC was able to gain space and set up shots, Petruzzelli was his team's last line of defense and held the fort.

"Keith played out of his mind for us tonight," said senior wing Peter Crinella. "He's the best goalie in the state. It was a great atmosphere here and we fed off of that early and then we kind of rode Keith the rest of the way. Malden is a great team. You know whenever you play them, they're always going to be a great team and they are well-coached."

Moments following Adams' marker, the Panthers went on a short 5 on 3 opportunity but were held in check by the Lancer defense. Cathedral ended up finishing 1-for-6 on its extra man chances.

Having managed to dodge several bullets in the middle frame, the Panthers knew these last 15 minutes would be a war of attrition. Starting to show signs of fatigue, Cathedral conjured up every last ounce of energy it had to fend off the relentless MC onslaught. Even after the final horn sounded to render them victors, the Panthers hardly had enough left in the tank to celebrate.

St. Mary's rebounds: After getting leveled by Cathedral in Wednesday night's opening round of this event, St. Mary's showed tremendous poise in bouncing back to post a 6-1 triumph over Hamden (Conn.) in Thursday's consolation game.

The 17th ranked Spartans (12-7-3) looked more like the club head coach Mark Lee has been expecting. St. Mary's broke a 1-1 tie with a two goal second period and went on to add three more in the third to put this one out of reach.

"It was a little bit of a slow start for us but I was really happy with our third period in how we came out and played some inspired hockey,'' Lee said.

Just 8 seconds into this tilt, the Green Dragons (8-8-1) took the lead. Off the opening face off, sophomore Jeremy Routh skated in alone on Spartans goalie Ryan Borders, beating the senior for a 1-0 lead. For the remainder of this contest, Borders played exceptionally well, finishing with 26 saves. Midway through the first, Jon Powers, taking a nice angle pass from Marc Zampanti, one-timed a shot past Collin Burke to tie matters.

St. Mary's took things over from there. Sophomore forward Eric Pedro struck for a pair of goals one minute apart in the second period to send the Spartans into the final intermission ahead 3-1.

St. Mary's continued its dominance over the final period with Dante Maribito, another sophomore, leading the assault. The forward netted back-to-back goals early in the frame before Mike Desmond close things out with a blast from the right circle in the final minute.

The Spartans will not earn a Super 8 berth this year, but it would not be surprising to see them make some serious noise once the Division 1 North tournament begins.

"I thought we played good (against Cathedral) Wednesday despite it being a 7-0 loss," said Lee. "We are happy with the way things are going right now but we also know we are not a team that can make mistakes. Fortunately we have learned a lot from the mistakes we have made this season. We are starting to peak at the right time. Overall, we are a young team but I think these kids are starting to get it. So now we'll have to see what happens in the playoffs."

Cathedral, MC advance to tourney final

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19
WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The business as usual approach in the game of hockey is not something that comes highly recommended by most experts.

Teams attempting to adhere to this concept often get caught off guard at some point and end up falling flat on their faces.

However, there are some teams that can get away with it. Springfield Cathedral and Malden Catholic happen to be two of them, and both found the philosophy to their liking in the opening round of the Cathedral Hockey Classic Wednesday night at the Olympia Ice Center.

Cathedral buried St. Mary's of Lynn, 7-0, while the Lancers did the same against Hamden (Conn.), slaying the Green Dragons, 7-1.

With victories in hand, it now sets up a game of the year scenario Thursday night between No. 1 MC and No. 2 Cathedral in the finale beginning at 6:30 p.m. St. Mary's and Hamden will square off in the consolation game starting at 4 p.m.

"It couldn't be scripted any better," said Panthers head coach Brian Foley. "Malden Catholic is a team that has been with us in the postseason the last few years and has had our number. To play them (Thursday) for perhaps the No. 1 seed in the Super 8, there is certainly a lot at stake. We are looking forward to it."

Cathedral reached the title game after receiving solid contributions from its special teams. Of the seven goals scored, four came on the power play. The Panthers also netted a pair of shorthanded tallies, including one when they only had three players on the ice against five for St. Mary's.

Junior forward John Leonard, yet again, was Cathedral's offensive catalyst. The future UMass-Amherst product registered four goals, giving him 42 on the season.

Cathedral (19-0-2) jumped on Spartans starting goaltender Andrew LoRusso for a pair of first period goals and never looked back. Cam Peritz got things started at 4:42 after he was left unattended just to the left of LoRusso. The sophomore held onto the puck before lifting his shot over the freshman netminder for a 1-0 lead. Later in the frame, playing with the man advantage, Leonard notched his first with a hard wrist shot between the two circles.

"The kids have been doing a good job moving the puck," Foley said. "St. Mary's is a team that works. I told our kids before the game that they always seem to out-work us. Tonight, I thought they worked as hard as usual. They are tough and they come after you. They play with an edge and they are a tough team to play against."

The Panthers opened things up in the second. With two Cathedral players in the penalty box, St. Mary's (11-7-3) looked to be in good shape to climb back into this one. But a mistake in coverage allowed Leonard to score from a tough angle and extend Cathedral's advantage to three goals.

"It was a lucky goal," Leonard said. "It came from a difficult angle but a goal is a goal. It all looks the same on the score sheet. Our special teams was huge tonight. Overall, it was a great team effort."

Midway through the period, Spartan junior Bob Pagliuca was whistled for roughing. That, in turn, set the stage for Peter Crinella's one-time off a feed from Riley Prattson to make it a 4-0 contest. With under three minutes to go in the frame, and once again on the powerplay, Bryce Peritz connected with the back of the net to send the Panthers into the second intermission in command, up by five.

"The goal felt great," said Peritz, a senior defenseman. "It was my second of the year but as a team we need to work on limiting our penalties."

Cathedral (27 shots) continued to apply the offensive pressure in the third. At 6:20, with his club down a man, Leonard skated into the left circle and fired a howitzer past LoRusso. At that moment, LoRusso would be replaced by eighth-grade goalie C.J. Fusco. But the results didn't waver. Another St. Mary's penalty (one of nine called against them) led to Leonard's securing his fourth marker with a right circle blast coming at 13:45. Cathedral had seven infractions called against them.

"I haven't seen anything like that in a very long time," said Spartans head coach Mark Lee. "Special teams, it's more like they are a special team. They have guys who can handle the puck incredibly. That team is the real deal. I'm proud with the way we kept battling back. We had our opportunities but I thought their goaltender (Keith Petruzzelli, 18 saves) made some great stops. I think the score was a little bit deceiving but we'll take some positives out of it that I hope will make us better."

Lancers soar: Last week, MC had to endure four straight days of games due to the recent snowstorms. In spite winning all four, you had to wonder how fresh the Lancers legs would after such an ordeal.

As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about as MC proved against Hamden. The Lancers left the Green Dragons in their wake all evening long, setting up shop inside Hamden's defensive zone literally at will.

MC amassed 46 shots on Stephen Richetelli. Credit must go to the sophomore goaltender for keeping this game somewhat manageable, making some incredible stops in the process.

But Richetelli alone could not out-muster the Lancers who got a pair of goals each by senior Jake Witkowski and sophomore Tom Albert to improve to 14-0-2.

Those in attendance probably had a crick in their neck after watching MC control the pace within Green Dragons territory. On the other side, the Lancer defense put for an admirable job, holding Hamden (8-7-1) to just six shots total.

"Our goalie is young and we are happy with his play," Green Dragons head coach Bill Verneris said. "I said to him after the game if he felt like the goalie in 'Slap Shot.'

"Top to bottom that team is better than us. We're a public high school and we get our kids from one town. It's an honor to play MC but a game like this doesn't really do much for them. It does help us because it enhances our speed to the game. We play a couple of parochial schools but nothing like them. Tonight that team won every battle and every race."

Witkowski and Albert set the gears in motion in the opening period, by connecting for goals to send the Lancers into the first break on top 2-0. At 9:50 of the second, Witkowski recorded his second goal with a slap shot from the center point. But the Green Dragons got one back two minutes later. Jake Blackwell, getting behind the Lancer defense, took a long up ice pass from Jeremy Routh and beat goalie Alex Reissis, cutting the deficit to two.

Blackwell's goal only angered the Lancers as moments later, consecutive scores from Pat Harrington, Austin Goldstein and Jack Adams quickly had MC in front 6-1 after two periods. Spending much of the final period playing dump and chase, the Lancers would add their final goal in the closing seconds after Albert was able to bat in a rising puck past Richetelli.

"We really turned things on in the second," Witkowski said. "We were told to start burying pucks and get stronger in front of the net. We knew we would have a tough two games up here and Hamden is a good team that works hard. We knew they would come to play but we just did our job. Our objective all year is to just play our game and get ready for the playoffs."

Reading the Super 8 tea leaves

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
With teams finishing up their regular-season schedule this week, let’s take this opportunity at the midweek to reset some Super 8 projections.

There’s still plenty to shake out during the final days of the season ahead, but here’s a look at my projected field of 10, including play-in game participants, ahead of Sunday’s tournament selection meeting (which is scheduled for 4 p.m. at MIAA headquarters in Franklin):

(Records as of Wednesday)

1. Malden Catholic (13-0-2)

2. Springfield Cathedral (18-0-2)

3. Austin Prep (18-1-0)

4. BC High (12-5-2)

5. St. John’s Prep (13-5-1)

6. Xaverian (13-5-1)

Play-in teams: (Will be ranked by final record)

7. Central Catholic (15-5-2)

8. Burlington (15-1-3)

9. Franklin (14-2-3)

10. Hingham (11-8-1)

How it shakes out in the Top Six: The top four teams have pretty much sorted themselves out, especially with Austin Prep moving ahead of BC High after an emphatic 6-2 win over the Eagles at the Buddy Ferreira Classic.

However, the No. 1 spot remains up for grabs. With a projected meeting between MC and Cathedral coming Thursday, if both teams win their respective games Wednesday at the Cathedral Hockey Classic. Which ever team wins that game will take the top spot.

Now, everything after the top four spots is where the intrigue begins. I have to believe both St. John’s Prep and Xaverian will forego having to be subjected to a play-in game – you can pretty much flip a coin for their respective placements. The teams also split their Catholic Conference series this year, so no determination can be made on that front.

How to get off the bubble and in: As many questions are remedied this time of year, winning is the best recipe for gaining entry into the tournament. Of the “bottom four” listed above, I feel most confident about Central Catholic and Burlington’s bids. The MVC/DCL Division 1 champions have become a perennial Super 8 entrant in recent years, playing one of the state’s toughest out-of-conference schedules. Meanwhile, Burlington has significantly bolstered its chances in recent weeks, especially with a huge win over Woburn last week at the Ice Palace.

Now, for the last two spots.

Franklin very well could have a “win-and-get-in” experience this week. The Panthers have an early season tie against state No. 2 Cathedral on their resume, and they looked far from outmatched against Malden Catholic last week – running out to a lead over the four-time defending champs in their building at the first intermission. If Franklin holds serve in the Cape Cod Hockey Showdown, there’s enough to get the Panthers in.

Hingham presents a real interesting case. In the last decade, the Harbormen have become yearly participants in the MIAA’s elite tournament, winning the whole thing in 2010. Last year, Hingham failed to qualify for the postseason after a tough week in Falmouth. This year, the Harbormen have heeded last year’s lessons and made a run at the Ferreira championship; they will play AP tomorrow. Should the Harbormen at least manage a point in regulation against the Cougars, I think that gets them over the hump. (Remember, committee voters always place emphasis on how teams finish the season and Hingham might be playing its best hockey of the year right now.)

Out in the cold?: So what about the other teams on the 14-team “Watch List” who were not mentioned above? Outside of Catholic Memorial, which will not qualify with enough points to participate in the postseason, the other squads are very much alive.

And here’s how they can crash the party:

-Barnstable: As we mentioned before, a spot could be made or broken on the Red Raiders’ believed-to-be impending faceoff with Franklin in their host tournament championship game. If Barnstable beats the Panthers, the Red Raiders can slip in through the back door.

-Braintree: The Wamps were cast out of the tournament last year in heart-breaking fashion in their play-in game against CM before making a run to the Division 1 South sectional title. Wouldn’t you know it a young but talented Wamps squad still has a chance at the big dance. And they have an opportunity to make some decisions that much more difficult if they could pull of a win against St. John’s Prep in their regular-season finale on Wednesday.

-Woburn: The Tanners need a win over Milton – which made the initial Watch List cut before being dropped over the weekend – and a championship at their host Irish American Shootout. Ultimately, their loss to Burlington a week ago could come back to haunt them, but if the committee decides to pull in another Middlesex League team (which always inspires debate of whether it’s the best public hockey conference in the state) the Tanners could be back in the tournament field for the first time since 2011-12.

Recap: No. 2 Cathedral 4, No. 3 BC High 2

February, 5, 2015
Feb 5

BOSTON – In recent weeks, No. 2 Springfield Cathedral has been so dominant in its victories, the Panthers have hardly had to break a sweat past any point of the second period.

Of course, with a visit to UMass-Boston’s Clark Center and No. 3 BC High on tap Wednesday, the Panthers knew they’d been in for a 45-minute battle. While Cathedral was unable to keep up its lofty margin of victory, which has averaged eight goals a game through its last four tilts, the Panthers turned in a equally impressive three-zone performance, shutting down the Eagles in a 4-2 win.

Cathedral (15-0-2) jumped on the Eagles (10-3-1) early, scoring twice within the first five minutes of the game. After taking a 3-1 lead to the first intermission, the Panthers went about stymieing the Eagles’ rush through the greater portion of the final two periods.

“We came out of the first with a two-goal lead, and the last thing you want to do is to let them back into it in the second,” Panthers head coach Brian Foley said. “So I thought we did a good job there keeping them off the scoreboard. They pressed hard and they’re a great team, but Keith [Petruzzelli] played well.”

In front of a sizeable contingent of Panthers fans who bussed across the Mass Pike, Cathedral seized the lead on Peter Crinella’s breakaway goal at 2:36, taking an outlet pass from Dan Petrick and racing down the right wing.

Despite falling behind early, the Eagles controlled early territorial play and headed on the power play for the first time at 3:20. That wouldn’t stop BC High falling behind by two goals with Zach Prattson leading the rush on his own. Skating into the teeth of a 1-on-2, Prattson sidestepped his way around two Eagles defensemen to close on goaltender Brandon Payzant. Prattson used a third deke to beat Payzant five-hole at 4:41 while short-handed.

“He’s relentless on the puck,” Foley said of Prattson. “I thought all of those goals in the first period just gave us a lot of life, a lot of energy there.”

BC High cashed in on its second power play chance of the period at 6:51 with sophomore forward Ian Murphy dragged across the slot from left to right and shot across Petruzzelli’s body to find daylight on the far side inside the post.

The Eagles’ presumed surge of momentum didn’t hold out till the end of the period, however, as Johnny Leonard his Division 1 state-leading 33rd goal of the season, letting off a wrist shot with 33.7 seconds remaining on a 5-on-3 advantage.

“You can’t go man-down with Springfield,” Eagles head coach John Flaherty said. “If you go two men down, they’re definitely going to score. And they’ve got guys that, even when they’re killing penalties, they’ve got skills and they can score. That really made the difference in the first period.

Play slowed and chances were at a premium in the second period, but the Eagles made a final charge in the third period, outshooting Cathedral 11-4.

But once again, despite carrying play, the Eagles weren’t able to find the back of the net while Cathedral maximized its chances. Leonard collected an outlet pass from Cam Peritz in front of the Panthers bench. Skating the remaining half of the ice sheet, Leonard pulled off the half-wing boards and cut back to a high percentage shooting area before getting off another wrist shot.

The Eagles closed the final margin to two goals with Jack Duffey’s tally at 13:13.

Mr. Hockey beckons?: With his second goal of the game, Leonard upped his season goal tally to 34, and no team across state lines or in the Commonwealth seems to have an answer for the UMass-Amherst commit.

So while it’s no secret that Leonard has been a big part of Cathedral’s 17-game unbeaten streak to start the season, what might not be apparent what has allowed Leonard to break out among a roster which boasts six Division 1 commits.

“He’s dynamic for sure,” Foley said of Leonard, “but the good thing about this team is I think a big part of John’s improvement has been the other kids on this team pushing him every day in practice. He doesn’t have an easy time against them in practice.”

Don’t forget the defense: While Cathedral’s gaudy offensive numbers have garnered many of the headlines of late, Wednesday’s victory was very much a function of the Panthers’ defensive unit.

Their top defensive pairings were able to shut out BC High’s top line from the score sheet, including senior Merrimack commit Patrick Kramer.

“Danny [Petrick] and Bryce [Peritz] did a great job as a pairing, and Cam Griffin and Matt Cieboter did a great job, too,” Foley said. “They were both out there with [BC High’s top line] and did the job.”

Recap: No. 2 Cathedral 9, Mt. St. Charles (R.I.) 2

February, 1, 2015
Feb 1

WOONSOCKET, R.I. – This is what’s really scary about No. 2 Springfield Cathedral -- only five players on the Panthers roster are seniors.

“Lack” of seniors notwithstanding, the Panthers still mauled perennial Rhode Island Division I state champion Mount St. Charles, 9-2, Saturday night at Adelard Arena.

“Last year we had one (senior),” said Panthers coach Brian Foley. “I think those five seniors (Pete Crinella, Zach Prattson, D.J. Petruzzelli, Bryce Peritz and Matt Cieboter) are all great kids and great leaders. They work really hard in the off-season to get stronger and it’s paying off for us right now.”

How true.

Cathedral’s victory improved the team’s record to a gaudy 14-0-2. In the process the Panthers scored three short-handed goals, two power-play goals and three goals off Mount turnovers.

“We’ve got some guys that know what to do with the puck in the offensive end,” said Foley. “They’ve been finishing. We’ve been pretty consistent with that all year. We’ve just got to keep working hard.

“But we’ve been working a lot on special teams in practice and it’s been paying off for us.”

Leonard on a tear: Ironically it was a junior, Johnny Leonard (who’s given a verbal commitment to UMass-Amherst), who led the onslaught by recording a hat trick plus two assists.

Through 16 games, Leonard has 32-20-52 totals.

“He’s an elite goal scorer and he’s having a great year,” said Foley. “He’s playing with two great linemates (Petruzzelli and Cam Peritz). We have a lot of good players on the team that challenge him every day in practice. The team’s working real hard and he’s improving along with the rest of the boys.”

Despite the uncharacteristic nature of this loss for Mount (9-5-2), coach Dave Belisle still was able to take away some positives.

“I think after getting out-played in the second period (Cathedral out-shot Mount 33-15 and out-scored Mount 5-0 in that period) I thought we came back and played a good third at the end,” said Belisle, whose team received two power-play goals from Keith Phaneuf to avoid a shutout. “I thought we played a good first. But if you don’t skate against a team like this … we stood around a lot.

“It’s not like we weren’t trying. We just totally broke down. Our power play gave up three short-handed goals. They’re too skilled to fool around with the puck at the top or be lazy in neutral ice and make lazy passes.

“They’re a skilled team. I thought we did a really nice job in the first but we made two mistakes and it cost us.”

Mount was on a power play when Petruzzelli (two goals and two assists) stole the puck in the neutral zone and poked it to Leonard who skated in on a breakaway and beat starting goalie Ryan Hanaway (12 saves on 15 shots) at 3:54.

Then, at 11:11, Leonard scooped up a loose puck around Mount’s blue line and beat Hanaway 5-hole for a 2-0 lead.

The Panthers added their second short-handed goal at 3:59 of the second. Leonard stole the puck and fed Petruzzelli who snapped home a shot from the bottom of the right circle.

Belisle removed Hanaway in favor of Zach Vanasse at that point but he received minimal support from his teammates since the Panthers scored consecutive power-play goals – by Petruzzelli who buried the rebound of a Crinella shot at 10:07 and Leonard who scored top shelf at 11:16.

After Kyle Kazeroid scored on a wrist shot from just outside the crease at 13:58, Dan Petrick accounted for Cathedral’s third short-handed goal with 30 ticks of the clock let in the middle period.

At the opposite end, Cathedral goalie Keith Petruzzelli, who began the game with a 94.8 save percentage, made 23 saves for the victory.

Learning experience: “I thought Mount St. Charles worked really hard which was great for us,” said Foley. “It was a game where we worked hard for three periods. I didn’t think we came out great in the first period but I thought our work ethic got getter as the game went on. I thought they brought that out of us so I thought we learned a lot tonight.

“We learned how hard you need to work each and every night on every shift. I think Mount’s got a great tradition and a great coach. They always work hard no matter what talent they have. “

Belisle subscribed to the adage that in order to be the best a team must play the best.

“That’s what I told my kids,” he said. “We can take something from this. We can’t make mistakes against good teams. You can’t take foolish penalties.

“I mentioned that before the game. Stay out of the box (because) they’re too skilled. They’re going to make you pay. They’re just as offensive minded short-handed as they are on the power play. Five-on-five it was pretty close. But special teams it wasn’t a contest.”

Recap: No. 2 Cathedral 5, Hendricken (R.I.) 0

January, 18, 2015
Jan 18
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.”

Putnam, Central show solidarity with Cathedral

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- On Thursday night, in the final game of Day 1 of the 2015 Spalding Hoophall Classic, Springfield Central and Putnam, the state’s top team, put their heated rivalry on pause, at least during warmups.

The Golden Eagles and Beavers chose to take the Blake Arena floor at Springfield College united by the identical purple T-shirts they wore, which read “Save Cathedral High”.

Springfield Cathedral was ravaged by the June 1, 2011 tornado. Ryan McCollum, a member of the Committee for Cathedral Action, reached out to both teams prior to Thursday night’s game.

“I’m all for kids in the city of Springfield to have an environment of learning, a safe environment to be successful and reach their full potential. I’m all for that, no matter where it is at,” said Putnam head coach William Shepard, who is a graduate of Springfield’s High School of Commerce.

Cathedral, which is located three miles away from both Putnam and Central, has been abandoned since the 2011 tornado. Currently, the school is being torn down, however, there is uncertainty as to whether a new Cathedral will be built on the Surrey Road property.

Officials from the Diocese of Springfield are expected to announce a decision on the school’s fate at some point in February, following an extensive review process.

“For me it’s all about the city,” Central alum and first-year head coach Darryl Denson said. “So this is what we can do to support the city and other schools.

“It’s good for the city. It shows we have a united front and we’re not separate when it comes to education, and that’s the most important part. Keeping a school open it’s great for the city.”

Cathedral’s Valley League rivals have not been that kind to the Panthers on the hardwood in recent years, as the Golden Eagles and Beavers -- who account for the last three Division 1 state championships -- have each served as the city’s dominant program. Cathedral was the city power in the late 1990s, early 2000s, winning the 2002 Division 1 state title over Brookline.

Despite a declining enrollment, Cathedral has continued to be competitive at the Division I level. In the spring, the Panthers captured the Western Mass. Division 1 baseball championship, and once again this winter, Cathedral has one of the state’s top hockey programs.

Thursday night’s act of solidarity was not lost on the players, who have grown up playing with and against one another.

Cathedral hockey galvanizes threatened community

January, 2, 2015
Jan 2
WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- When the subject is Springfield Cathedral, the first thing that comes to most peoples’ minds is hockey.

The Panthers hockey program has built a solid reputation, having established themselves as a premier power state-wide; they’ve been a fixture in the prestigious Division 1A Super 8 Tournament. As the only Division 1 program in Western Mass., any player from this area that is talented enough wants to play for Cathedral.

It’s hard not to dispute that.

Six players from this year's team have already accepted Division 1 college scholarship offers – the most by any high school program in the state – with likely more to come over the next couple of years.

Panthers head coach Brian Foley has gone on record stating this year's group is the best under his 10-year watch there, and very well could be the best in school history. There are many who believe Cathedral, ranked No. 1 in the preseason Top 25 poll, has the perfect mix of talent, speed, strength and maturity to win this year's Super 8 title.

"We have been fortunate here," said Foley. "We continue to get great kids from great families. The kids are buying into the culture of the hockey program and are doing everything the coaches ask of them. We've been real competitive and being the only Division 1 program in Western Mass. helps with kids making decisions to play high school hockey at the Division 1 level.

[+] EnlargeSpringfield Cathedral
Scott BarbozaSpringfield Cathedral hockey captain Peter Crinella is one of six Division 1 college commits lacing up for the Panthers this year -- the most of any high school or prep school program in Massachusetts.
“In my opinion, we've never had a more-talented group of kids then this year's team and, arguably, I feel this is the most-talented group in the program's 131 year history."

But now there is growing concern as to how much longer will Cathedral have a history to fall back on. A feeling of uncertainty has shrouded this school, its students, its faculty and, yes, even the hockey program.

Three years ago, an F1 tornado cut a 39-mile swath of destruction through Springfield, the Pioneer Valley and parts of Worcester County. In the tornado's crosshairs sat Cathedral, which suffered total devastation. The building, located in a rural neighborhood on Surrey Road, still sits with boarded up windows, with parts of the building either missing or severely cracked.

Several months ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the school's insurance company awarded the Springfield diocese nearly $100 million dollars. That does not include the $3-plus million dollars donated by alumni and others.

The money was projected to go towards the rebuilding of a new high school on the same plot of land where the old one presently sits.

Or so everyone thought.

New Diocese of Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski says the plan to rebuild a new high school is not a guarantee, citing diminishing enrollment as one of the prime factors as he weighs his decision. With that being said, there is a distinct possibility Cathedral will not be rebuilt, leading to the eventual closing of the school and, yes, the termination of the hockey program as well.

"What Cathedral is looking for right now is a statement from the Bishop in regards to a new school being built on Surrey Road with a state of the art school and state of the art athletic facilities," Foley said. "I believe if we get that then we will start building up our enrollment once the product is here. I have faith. It would be very sad to see the school go away."

Cathedral's student population numbers have declined by nearly 300 since 2006. At present, the number of students attending between grades 9-12 is at 426.

Tuition fees have also risen, now ranging between $8,600 and $9,300, with 57 percent of those students receiving financial assistance. Ever since the school was destroyed back in June of 2011, students and faculty have been calling a vacated elementary school in Wilbraham – a half-hour drive from the Surrey Road location – home.

"As expected, the travel to Wilbraham and the tuition fees have deterred some people's decisions in regards to whether or not to attend Cathedral and spend the money," Foley said. "The biggest thing is the tuition versus the other option of public schools."

While the Panthers continue to square off against top-level competition night in and night out on the ice, you can't help but wonder if the effects of seeing the program's possible demise hasn't weighed on them. Players, both past and present, have left an indelible legacy here and to see it possibly come to an end would be nothing short of tragic.

"As a senior looking at the underclassmen, and having been here for four years, I want them to continue to experience what I've experienced here so far," said senior co-captain D.J. Petruzzelli, a Quinnipiac University commit. "Obviously, we want to continue being successful as a hockey program and show everyone that we can compete with anyone. We want to show this area what a great group we have here, and hopefully show the bishop that as well.

“We may be small in numbers here but all of us in this school have a lot of fight in them. There are a lot of great people at our school. It's important to have a Catholic school out here and we've been the big, powerful one with a lot of tradition. Nobody wants to see that taken away."

The only other Catholic high school in the area is Holyoke Catholic, located at Elms College in Chicopee. Holyoke Catholic's enrollment currently stands just over 300.

Panthers junior forward Johnny Leonard has one of the longest treks daily to Wilbraham. A native of Amherst, Leonard says his commute takes nearly an hour one way. Like so many other Cathedral students, Leonard says he has learned to cope with the distance. However, the thought of transferring to a school closer to his hometown has never entered his mind.

"Me, being from Amherst, it's a farther distance than going to Springfield," said Leonard, who will play for UMass once his high school career finishes. "It's just something you have to deal with and find ways to make it work. Where we are right now, it's still Cathedral High School to me even though it's not on Surrey Road. It's still the same faculty, staff and students and we are all working together as one. Everyone throughout Western Mass. has been making the push to get the school rebuilt."

Cathedral alum Daryl DeVillier, a former boys' varsity lacrosse coach and member of "Committee for Cathedral Action" - a group advocating for a new school - believes Rozanski will likely render his decision no later than February.

DeVillier, who was coaching at Cathedral during the time when the tornado struck, has been stern in his vigilance to see Cathedral rebuilt. All five of his children attended Cathedral.

"I can understand the diminishing enrollment," he said. "But we have the money in excess of $100 million dollars and people have stepped up in the community to be extremely generous and charitable. What we need to do is seize the opportunity to market ourselves better throughout the region and make people aware of what the school can offer, that includes our alumni too, which is over 25,000 strong.

“We have the resources to market the success of a new school, both academically and athletically.”

DeVillier says the possibility of having Cathedral and Holyoke Catholic collaborate into one regional high school has also been tossed around.

Foley says if and when a new school is to be constructed, it needs to become privatized like that of BC High, St. John's Prep, St. John's High School of Shrewsbury or Xaverian Brothers High School (all schools whose hockey teams compete against Cathedral). Each one of those aforementioned schools has managed to maintain a high success rate in terms of growth and development.

"Those schools are private and are not run under the roof of the diocese," Foley said. "That's the ticket. Privatize grades 7-12 is the answer. It seems like the most successful catholic schools in the state are privatized and that is what Cathedral needs to be. You find that at many of those schools there is a waiting list to get in."

Peter Crinella, a standout hockey and baseball player at Cathedral, believes it is time for people to realize that the school shouldn't be solely identified just on the success of the hockey program.

"It's not just about hockey here," said the senior hockey co-captain who's bound for Holy Cross next season. "It is more about what Cathedral is and what it stands for. This is a great school.

“You drive around the area and you see the "Save Cathedral" signs all over the place. This community needs Cathedral and it wants Cathedral. We have some great prep schools around here but you are in that in-between situation where the prep schools are a little too much financially and you can't really afford it. From a hockey standpoint, Cathedral is the best hockey around if you want to stay home. You aren't just playing for a school here, you are also playing for an entire city."

Whatever Rozanski's decision will be and when it will come remains unclear at the present time. For many, the waiting has been the most difficult part. No doubt, Rozanski is aware of the strength in numbers by those who have unified in their demands for a new high school.

"It basically comes down to one vote and it is his," DeVillier said. "There is no excuse for this process to have taken so long. To me, it shows a lack of concern and that's the sad part in this. Cathedral is not just a building. It's the people.”

DeVillier is stout in his belief that a new high school would also see an influx in enrollment because a portion of the money already in the coffers would go towards lowering tuition rates.

"We have an opportunity, in the face of a major travesty which happened three years ago, to reinvent Catholic education here for decades to come," he said. "If Cathedral is going to be built they need to decide now. People here want a new school and have stated openly the need for a new school.”

He added, “The diocese has an opportunity to now right the ship. We want to build a new school, market it and still maintain the Christian values. But if the bishop decides not to rebuild then it will be a death knell for this community emotionally. If he says we're done then you will see people running for the exits immediately. That just cannot happen."

No. 1 Cathedral takes Frates championship in shootout

December, 29, 2014
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — If high school hockey fans across the state are lucky, Sunday’s Pete Frates Classic championship game between Springfield Cathedral and BC High will be a preview of a great playoff matchup in March at the TD Garden.

“Absolutely,” said Cathedral coach Brian Foley when asked if he thought his team might see BC High again in the postseason. “They’re going to be there. They’re a really talented team. Hopefully we’re both there.”

Players, coaches, referees, fans, scouts and members of the media all seemed to be in unanimous agreement that it was a terrific high school hockey game. The top two teams in the state battled toe-for-toe to a 2-2 draw at Merrimack’s Lawler Rink.

“It was a great environment, a great tournament. Both coaches feel good about it. It was a really fun game,” said Foley. “It was two very even teams. We outplayed them at times. They outplayed us at times. It was back and forth. Both teams just went at each other. No one was trapping. It was just a good wide open hockey game.”

“It’s great that it’s a tie. That game deserved to be a tie. It was exciting to watch. Our boys enjoyed playing in it. I’m proud of my guys,” concurred BC High coach John Flaherty.

Fittingly the game will go in the books as a 2-2 tie, but Cathedral was able to capture the trophy with a shootout victory. UMass commit John Leonard was the only player to sneak the puck into the back of the net in the three-man shootout following a scoreless four-on-four overtime.

“He’s an elite goal-scorer,” Foley said. “He sees the net. A lot of guys see the goalie, but he sees the net. Everyone on the bench knew he was going five-hole in that shootout. He waited, got the goalie’s legs open and slid it in.”

The intensity was apparent from the get-go as both teams came out flying, hitting hard and skating with purpose. It was easy to see that players on each side really enjoyed competing for a trophy in a regular season game.

“I love playing these guys,” said Cathedral senior captain Peter Crinella, a Holy Cross commit. “They’re always one of the top teams in the state. Given the circumstances, being the championship game, it’s always a fun game to play in.”

Crinella drew first blood as he put the Panthers up 1-0 with 1:40 to play in the opening period. With precision timing he skated right past the goal mouth in stride to tip home a low point shot from defenseman Cam Griffin.

“I made a little eye contact with Cam Griffin. He made a great, low, hard shot. We work on that a lot in practice – getting in front and getting in those dirty areas. I had my stick in the right place at the right time,” said Crinella.

The Eagles knotted the score at one just more than five minutes into the second period. Merrimack recruit Pat Kramer, playing in his future home rink, scored the goal after receiving a really pretty pass from defenseman Jayson Dobay at the blue line. Kramer skated in from the left side and patiently waited for Cathedral goaltender Keith Petruzzelli to go down. Once Kramer had the goaltender down he took two more strides before backhanding it into the empty net.

“It’s Pat’s rink – this is where he’s going to be for the next four years,” Flaherty said. “That’s what Pat Kramer is capable of doing. He’s a big game player. You saw him do some things that are indicative of the college hockey player he’s going to be.”

Cathedral regained the lead with 6:26 to play in the middle frame. Leonard showed off his shooting accuracy with an absolute snipe from the left wall. He sent a laser into the top far corner of the net beating the outstretched glove of BC High goaltender Brandon Payzant.

BC High didn’t crumble and came out flying to start the third period.

It only took 43 seconds for the Eagles to even the score. The goal came after a furious scramble that saw the Eagles hit the post and then barely keep the puck in the zone. After receiving the puck from Christian Simeone down low Kramer skated out and sent a pass right to the stick of Jack Nisbet, who wasted no time depositing the puck into the back of the net.

With BC High charging, Petruzzelli stood tall. He stopped Ian Murphy on a partial breakaway with just over six minutes to go in regulation then fended off a huge flurry just a few minutes after that.

“It’s tough to rattle Keith, he’s so tough mentally,” Foley said. “He expects to save every shot. They had some nice goals. He’s a great goalie. He really picks us up when we break down.”

Despite not having the same physical stature or fanfare, Payzant had his own shining moments. He stoned Riley Prattson in each of the first two periods on two-on-ones and then made a gigantic save on a Leonard shot from the high slot in overtime.

It was the first annual tournament to benefit the Pete Frates #3 Fund.

This past summer the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral on the internet after a few of Frates’ friends looked for a way to help the former St. John’s Prep and Boston College baseball star who is battling the awful disease. The cause of the tournament was not lost on the participants.

“It’s a great cause. I was watching the Patriots before we got on the road today. Seeing [Frates] at the game was really cool,” said Foley.

All-Tournament Team:

Forward: Patrick Kramer, Sr., BC High

Forward: D.J. Petruzzelli, Sr., Springfield Cathedral

Forward: Kyle Hentosh, Soph., St. John’s Prep

Defense: Ryan Shea, Jr., BC High

Defense: Bryce Peritz, Sr., Springfield Cathedral

Goaltender: Keith Petruzzelli, Soph., Springfield Cathedral

MVP: Keith Petruzzelli

Recap: No. 1 Cathedral 6, No. 4 Central Catholic 0

December, 28, 2014

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- How Springfield Cathedral finishes up come March is anyone's guess.

The general consensus believes the Panthers are stockpiled with enough talented to make a serious run at a Super 8 championship. With six future Division 1 college players on the roster, who’s going to argue?

But in order to reach the pinnacle of Massachusetts high school hockey, Cathedral must fend off some the state's other elite programs along the way. On Saturday night, the Panthers did just that by blanking previously unbeaten Central Catholic, 6-0, in the opening round of the inaugural Pete Frates Winter Classic held at Merrimack College's Lawler Arena.

The Panthers (4-0-1) will meet BC High (4-0-0) in the title game Sunday night beginning at 7 p.m.

Cathedral, which in its last three games have outscored the opposition 20-1, put this contest away with a three goal outburst in the second period. Senior D.J. Petruzzelli and junior Johnny Leonard scored a pair of goals each while sophomore goaltender Keith Petruzzelli stopped all 21 shots he faced.

"We've been stressing moving the puck from the defensive zone up," said D.J. Petruzzelli, who is committed to Quinnipiac University. "We want to be the best transition team in the state and with our speed and our skill ability we can score a lot of goals that way.

“Keith has been rock solid for us. He's my brother and I love him and it's great knowing he's back there making big saves. Sometimes when we aren't at our best he always seems to keep up his end of the bar and keeps us positive. With how slow we started this game he made some big saves at the beginning to keep us in it."

The Panthers withstood a solid first period flurry by the Raiders (4-1-0), as the younger Petruzzelli, also a Quinnipiac commit, turned aside eight shots in the frame – many from point blank range. However, it was the Panthers who skated into the first intermission leading 1-0 thanks to Zac Prattson's rebound score coming at 4:10.

Cathedral wasted little time upping its lead. With Sean Holly's tripping penalty having carried over into the second period, Cathedral began the period on the power play. Just 36 seconds in, Petruzzelli, left open outside the crease, slipped a shot past Central Catholic goalie Pat Schena. Three minutes later, fourth-liner Cole Foster made it 3-0 with a backhander off a rebound.

In control, Cathedral continued its role of aggressor. With just over a minute remaining in the period, Petruzzelli poked in loose puck inside the crease to send the Panthers into the locker room ahead by four goals.

"I thought Central was very quick," Cathedral head coach Brian Foley said. "I thought this was a real good test for us and Keith played exceptionally well in goal. The final score made it look a little more lopsided than it actually was.

“Keith made a lot of big saves for us and it's good to have him back there when we break down which we did plenty tonight. I thought Central looked faster than us in the first period but I thought we picked it up as the game went on but they are certainly a very good team."

The final period turned hostile with a combined 11 penalties called on both sides. In the midst of it all, Leonard, who will play for UMass in two years, found the back of the net twice to turn this one into rout.

The first came rather easily. Leonard skated into the offensive zone all by his lonesome and without much resistance managed to fire a shot past Schena at 6:24. Twenty seconds later, while on the man advantage, Leonard was again left unattended, and from the right circle rifled a shot by Schena.

"I felt we had some chances early," Raiders head coach Mike Jankowski said. "We've lost 12 kids from last year so we're still trying to find an identity within our team. We need to find what kind of character we are made out of and what kind of team we are going to be. So far it's all good.

“Their goaltender was very good and made the saves when he needed to. A couple of them were exceptional so just tip your hat to him."

Our preseason MIAA boys' hockey All-State team

December, 21, 2014
Presenting our MIAA boys' hockey preseason All-State team:

1st Line
F – Peter Crinella, Sr., Springfield Cathedral
F – Matt Filipe, Jr., Malden Catholic
F – Pat Kramer, Sr., BC High
D – Ryan Shea, Jr., BC High
D – Mike Seibold, Sr., Reading
G – Brandon Collett, Jr., Catholic Memorial

2nd Line
F – Johnny Leonard, Jr. Springfield Cathedral
F – D.J. Petruzzelli, Sr., Springfield Cathedral
F – Riley Prattson, Soph., Springfield Cathedral
D – John McLean, Sr., Malden Catholic
D – Dan Petrick, Jr., Springfield Cathedral
G – Keith Petruzzelli, Soph., Springfield Cathedral

3rd Line
F – Eric MacAdams, Jr., Austin Prep
F – Ryan Smith, Sr., Arlington Catholic
F – Tim Sweeney, Sr., Xaverian
D – Frank Cosolito, Jr., Catholic Memorial
D – Ryan Walsh, Sr., Xaverian
G – Aidan Murphy, Soph., Xaverian

Cathedral takes boys' hockey preseason No. 1

December, 16, 2014
For the first time in the history of ESPN Boston's MIAA boys' hockey Top 25 poll, Springfield Cathedral begins the season at No. 1.

The Panthers host six Division 1 college recruits on their roster to begin the year, but start the year with a pair of Catholic Conference powers in BC High (No. 2) and four-time defending Super 8 champion Malden Catholic (No. 3) on their tail.

For a look at the complete preseason poll, click HERE.

Here's more on how our first poll of the year breaks down:

Super 8 takes shape?: Projecting out a way-too-early field of 10 for the Super 8 at the top end of our preseason poll, there's a bit of a different look from last year's tournament field.

The old stalwarts are included, with Central Catholic, Catholic Memorial, Xaverian and Austin Prep all represented in the top 10. However, there could be a bitter race developing in the Catholic Central Large, with both Arlington Catholic and St. Mary's (Lynn) debuting in the top 10. Our top 10 also features one public school side with Reading checking in at No. 6.

Looking further down the poll, all of last year's field of 10 teams make the initial cut. Braintree (No. 11), Duxbury (14) and Archbishop Williams (15) remain in the Top 25 to start the year. We wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Wamps make another run at the state's premiere tournament.

CCL bears watching: As we just alluded to, the key to the Super 8 this year could be the Catholic Central Large race. Aside from the Catholic Conference, (which finds all of its members in our opening poll), the CCL checks in with the second highest number of member teams in the poll with four. We could be in for a real treat watching AC, St. Mary's and the incumbent AP vie for the league crown, and don't forget about Archies.

It's highly feasible that the league will carry up to three Super 8 berths this year, so the drama will be aplenty.

Handicapping the statewide races: Looking beyond the Division 1 ranks, Tewksbury ranks as the highest Division 2 squad at No. 21. The Redmen should be view as a prohibitive favorite to win the state crown after losing to eventual champion Beverly in last year's D2 North final. In the South region, Canton checks in at No. 25, leading a strong contingent of Hockomock League schools (Franklin and Oliver Ames) in the Last 10 Out section of the poll.

Defending Division 3 state champion Shrewsbury also cracks the poll at No. 24. The Colonials could be primed for a repeat performance with a high-flying offense led by brothers Dan and Jack Quinlivan -- both of whom will challenge for the statewide scoring title this season.