LOWELL — You can plan for, anticipate or ready yourself for almost anything in a particular hockey game.
What you can never see coming are the fluke plays, the ones that happen at the worst of times and deliver devastating results.
That’s how the St. John’s Prep hockey season ended last night.
An Austin Prep power play shot from the left circle popped up in the crease, was knocked down by a St. John’s defenseman ... and bounced backwards and over the Eagles’ goal line, proving to be the game-winning goal. That strike, coming with just 2:11 to play in regulation, gave the underdogs from Austin Prep a stunning 2-1 victory over the top-seeded Eagles in the Super 8 semifinals at the Tsongas Center.
“It doesn’t matter how they got it. (Goals) all count the same,” St. John’s Prep coach Kristian Hanson said after his team saw its season end at 19-4-1.
“I thought we played a pretty good game. Did we play a great game? No, but we played well enough to win. But we’ve had difficulty all year capitializing ... and tonight it came back to bite us.”
Timely scoring -- or lack thereof -- was one of the Eagles’ few Achilles heels this season, and as Hanson noted postgame, it came back to bite them last night.
Desperate to tie the score as the clock wound down, the Prep swarmed the Austin Prep zone and got two excellent chances. But junior left wing Jimmy Currier -- who rang the post early in the second period -- was denied at the near post by the Cougars’ sophomore netminder, Elijah Harris, who then stopped Jack McCarthy’s bomb from the top of the left circle with 10.5 seconds to play.
Harris finished the night with 28 saves, and when the final buzzer sounded his teammates mobbed him in celebration while the Eagles tried to fathom that their season was over.