BOURNE, Mass – They say to win playoff games that it takes blood, sweat and tears. Top-seeded Xaverian High School gave all of those things to get past fifth-seed Duxbury at Gallo Ice Arena in the Division 1 south semifinals.
Senior captain Tim Sweeney provided nearly all of those ingredients all by himself. The forward scored the first and last goals for the Hawks and assisted on another, despite leaving the game in the second period with a nasty gash to his forehead that required medical attention, and probably stitches after the game.
With Sweeney leading the way, Xaverian (17-6-1) outlasted a determined Duxbury (14-6-5) effort to win by a 4-1 margin.
“He just plays so hard, and he wants it so bad,” head coach Dave Spinale said. “At this time of the year, X’s and O's are critical, but it's really who wants it.”
Sweeney wasted no time giving the Hawks an early lead as he finished of a tic-tac-toe passing play just 1:44 into the game to stake his squad to a 1-0 lead, popping in a feed from Jake Farrell. The play developed quickly, with Xaverian breaking up the left wing and Sweeney finishing the play on the far post, getting it just past Duxbury's Tucker Kelly (32 saves).
The Dragons tied it up late in the period, but Xaverian struck right back to reclaim their lead less than a minute later.
P.J. Garrett slapped a knucklepuck from the high slot through traffic that Aidan Murphy (27 saves) never saw. Garrett's shot rung in off the pipe to knot the game at 1-1 at 12:09.
Just 58 seconds later the Hawks went back on top. Xaverian's Andrew Durkin roofed a rebound over Kelly at 13:01 to send the game into the first intermission with his team ahead, 2-1.
“I was so glad that we had the resiliency to bounce back,” Spinale said. “That's our white line. They've been pretty good for us all year, they're quick and slippery, and they were able to get loose on that rebound.”
Duxbury coach John Blake said that Xaverian is the type of team that makes its opponents pay for little mistakes, and they did exactly that on the go-ahead marker.
“They answered right away. There's a little breakdown, and a team like Xaverian is going to make you pay. We didn't really cover the rebound very well defensively and they were able to put it in.”
The goalies went on to play a game of “Top This” the rest of the way, making save after save on each end of the ice to make the score stand. They physical contest saw plenty of big hitting on each side, but it was bad luck that led to Sweeney having to leave the ice for the final five minutes of the second period.
“I was coming wide [into the corner] and I saw Jake [Farrell] coming up in the slot and I was trying to get it to him and I think one of their guys might have lost an edge, and he kind of took me off my skates and I just went head first into the boards. I think I caught a bolt in my helmet, or something like that,” Sweeney said, with his head wrapped up like a Revolutionary Soldier.
Sweeney said that he was going to do whatever it took to get back on the ice.
“I just knew that it's a big game, a close game. They were coming really, really hard, and I'm a senior and if it happened to be my last game I didn't want to miss it,” Sweeney said. “I decided to come back out, and we got a lot of energy going and ultimately I helped us win the game.”
He helped them put the game away in the third period, and so did Murphy. With Farell serving a penalty in the middle of the period, the Dragons came close to getting the equalizer. The Xaverian goalie swept aside a tip by Shawn Errasti that was headed for the far corner, and then moments later stood up to a point blank bomb by Kevin Corcoran. Later in the period he waffled aside a laser off the stick of Brian Zec that came with 2:25 left in the game.
“We needed to get that second one, but we couldn't get the equalizer,” Blake said. “I couldn't be any prouder of my guys, though. Shift by shift, we tried to outwork them. We knew that to beat a team like Xaverian that it has to be a low-scoring game, you're not going to beat them in a track meet. From the goalie out, I feel like we played good team defense tonight. Again, we just couldn't get that equalizer to tie things up.”
Sweeney finally helped the Hawks put the game out of reach as they added two empty net goals in the final minute. On the first one, the senior chipped the puck up the right wing wall to spring Jon Beniers, who filled the vacant net with 58 seconds left in the game. Then, 20 seconds later, he added the final dagger to make it 4-1, filling the open goal himself.
Xaverian now moves to the regional championship game, which will be held on Sunday at Gallo Ice Arena on Sunday at 6:15 PM. They'll face the winner of Friday's contest between Hingham and Barnstable, which was postponed due to inclement weather. The puck drops on that game at 4:30 p.m.