By Matt Williams
---- — WILMINGTON — St. John’s Prep hockey coach Kristian Hanson knew exactly how visiting Danvers would attack his Eagles in last night’s inaugural ‘Oniontown Classic’ at Ristuccia Arena.
It might have taken the Prep a bit too long to realize it, with the Falcons scoring the game’s first goal. The favored Eagles responded quickly, however, getting the last five of the night to win, 5-1.
“Having coached in Salem, I was very familiar with Danvers hockey and that pride and tradition. I knew they’d come in here doing everything they could to win, and that they’d never quit,” said Hanson, whose team evened its record at 4-4-1.
The Falcons (5-6 overall, but 5-5 for state tournament purposes as last night’s game was an exclusion contest) played a disciplined, physical brand of hockey. Danvers blocked eight shots in the first period, finished its checks and took the lead midway through the first period.
Trevor Daly tied up his man on an offensive zone faceoff, which allowed freshman winger Robert Tibbets to slam the puck by Prep goalie Zach Laramie for a 1-0 lead.
“It was really important for us to be ready to go, and we were. I was pretty proud of our effort throughout the whole game,” said Danvers coach Kevin Brown.
The Eagles didn’t allow Danvers to play with the lead for long. Captain Jimmy Currier took control of a loose puck in front of the cage and scored just 73 seconds later. Later in the first, the Prep took a lead it did not relinquish when Seth Murray tipped Ean Mendeszoon’s blast by Falcon goalie Alex Taylor (27 saves).
“I thought Danvers’ goalie played really well. He’s a big kid and he made a lot of big saves,” Hanson said. “We didn’t do a good enough job getting to the net, and we had too many shots come from the perimeter.”
Danvers had a tremendous opportunity to tie the game early in the second when captain Jay Calcagno spun and wheeled to the front of the net. The Eagles’ freshman goalie, Laramie, made the best of his 17 saves to keep his team ahead.
Overall, though, the Falcons were pleased with the play of their all-captain line of Calcagno, Matt Flynn and Kevin Hodgkins. The trio broke free with speed on a few occasions and saw scoring chances sail wide of the cage.
“We gave those three a look as a line tonight on that first unit and I liked the way they played,” Brown said. “I though we got better as the game went on. (The Prep’s) speed maybe is not the speed we see every day and we adjusted, calmed down and kept the play in front of us.”
James Curley was a sparkplug for Danvers, setting a physical tone. Defensemen Stephen Ganley and Ryan Cassidy also played quite well, controlling gaps and refusing to bite on some of St. John’s Prep’s more creative puckhandling.
“It seemed like we were flat-footed. We didn’t move our feet the way we should and Danvers did,” Hanson said. “Give Danvers all the credit for that. Sometimes when a team works as hard as Danvers did tonight, it can force an opponent to shy away a bit.”
The Prep’s ability to shoot from the point did Danvers in, as Kyle Lynch redirected a Dylan Lemiuex blast for a 3-1 lead in the second. The Eagles added two more in the third, with Mitch Shaheen collecting his first varsity goal just 51 seconds in. Salem’s Nick Latham also scored for the Eagles.
“They got us on special teams a couple of times,” said Brown. “Five-on-five, I was really happy with how we played. We’ll take a lot of positives our of his as we move back into conference play (at Winthrop tomorrow).
Lynch (goal, assist) was the only multi-point man among the Prep’s 13 players that earned points. Freshman winger Kyle Hentosh earned his first varsity point with a helper on Murray’s game-winner.
“We executed pretty effectively on the power play and we buzzed around their net,” said Hanson. “The message we sent before the game was ‘Don’t do it by yourself, because you can’t. Especially against a team like Danvers that’s going to work the way they do.’”