LOWELL — If Kristian Hanson could’ve come up with an explanation — any explanation — for what transpired yesterday afternoon, he would have.
But the St. John’s Prep hockey coach was as befuddled as everyone else at Tsongas Arena during yesterday’s Super 8 opening game. His top-seeded Eagles came out flat and stayed that way throughout, suffering a 4-1 upset loss to Central Catholic.
In allowing more than two goals in a game for the first time all season, the Eagles (17-3-1) find themselves needing to defeat Central in Game 2 of their quarterfinal series Thursday at Stoneham Arena (7:45 p.m.), then again in a winner-take-all Game 3 next weekend (time, date and place TBA) to keep their season alive.
“Where do I start? In all aspects of the game, we were outplayed,” said Hanson, whose team could only manage a first period power play goal by Jimmy Currier that tied the score at 1-1. “We looked like the No. 1 seed and they looked like the No. 8 seed.
“It’s hard to put your finger on it; we had a number of problems. We’re fortunate it’s a 2-out-of-3 series. We were just out of sync all day.”
Forechecking, a staple of the Prep’s success, was virtually nonexistent yesterday as Central Catholic (15-5-3) played strong defensive hockey and limited the top seed to just 23 shots.
“It’s really frustrating,” said Prep captain Brent Murray, a defenseman. “They definitely had momentum going for them from their last game (a 4-3 win over Hingham in the play-in contest, in which Central rallied from a 3-goal deficit) and brought it all day — and we didn’t.”
A sloppy second period with poor goalmouth coverage found St. John’s trailing, 3-1, after 30 minutes. Kevin Regan gave Central the lead one minute in, taking a seemingly harmless pass out front and knocking it past goalkeeper Billy Price. The Raiders made it 3-1 eight-and-a-half minutes later when, as a power play was expiring, a scramble ensued to Price’s left ... but the puck kicked back out to his right, where a wide open Nick Gorski flung a wrister high into the empty cage.