By Phil Stacey
---- — 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.
Prep captain Brian Pinho had a chance to slice his team’s deficit in half in the final minute of the second, but his shorthanded breakaway attempt hit Raider goalie Colin Soucy’s glove and flew wide.
“It was a conscious effort (to slow down their forwards), but our team defense really showed, too,” Central head coach Mike Janikowski said. “We sagged a bit on their power play goal, but were able to regroup.”
Central essentially put the game on ice just 49 seconds into the third period after Price didn’t get his full stick blade on an attempted poke check and Alex Lester greedily knocked home the loose puck for a three-goal lead.
Junior Lloyd Hayes put a rebound past Price’s stick side 5:08 into the first for a 1-0 lead, but Currier’s sixth goal of the season, a backhand rebound off a Tyler Bird shot, tied the game up for St. John’s.
agateHed:Central Catholic 4, St. John’s Prep 1
agate_boldCentered:Super 8 quarterfinals, Game 1
agate_lineQuarters:Central Catholic@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: 1 2 1 — 4
agate_lineQuarters:St. John’s Prep@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: 1 0 0 — 1
agate_lineQuarters:First period@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: CC, Lloyd Hayes (Alex Lester, Corey Webber), 5:08; SJP, Jimmy Currier (Tyler Bird), ppg, 10:37.
agate_lineQuarters:Second Period@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: CC, Kevin Regan (Christian Thompson, Billy Stahley), 1:00; CC, Nick Gorski (un), 9:32.
agate_lineQuarters:Third Period@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: CC, Lester (Regan, Hayes), :49.
agate_lineQuarters:Saves@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: CC, Colin Soucy 22; SJP, Billy Price 22.
agate_lineQuarters:Records@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: SJP, 17-3-1; CC, 15-5-3.