By Dan Harrison
---- — WILMINGTON — The St. John’s Prep hockey team couldn’t find its special teams game Saturday against Woburn as the Eagles didn’t capitalize on any of their four power-play opportunities, while giving up a pair of goals to the Tanners’ man-advantage unit.
But five-on-five, the Prep dominated all three periods and escaped Ristuccia Arena with a 4-2 win.
The Eagles gave up a pair of power-play goals in the second period to see their lead shrink to just a goal, but a 40-16 shot advantage proved enough to outweigh the fact that St. John’s Prep registered a -2 on special teams.
“I felt 5-on-5, we played our best hockey,” explained SJP (3-0-1) head coach Kristian Hanson. “I thought 5-on-5, we controlled play, but in the end it doesn’t matter how much you control play, how much possession you have or how many shots you have; it’s how many goals you put in the net. We certainly made it interesting in the end.”
So interesting in fact that the Eagles needed netminder Billy Price to stonewall Colin Flynn on the doorstep with just over a minute left to preserve the lead before senior captain Brian Pinho forced a turnover in the offensive zone and backhanded the puck just out of the reach of Jeremy Flibotte’s glove to put the game away for good.
Pinho had two other shots make it into the back of the net-one in the first period and one in the third, but both were waved off due to quick whistles from the officials.
“I thought Brian (Pinho) was the best player on the ice for both teams. He’s a Providence College commit; we kind of expect that,” Hanson said. “Sometimes maybe he tries to do a little too much, but clearly he’s a tremendously gifted player. It was nice to see that last one go in and give us a little cushion there with under a minute to go (in the game). It just takes one shot to tie it, so it was a big goal for us.”
Woburn actually carried play for the first four minutes of the opening period before the Eagles finally woke up. Jack McCarthy fed Tyler Bird in the slot from behind the net, and Bird calmly waited for Flibotte to drop into the butterfly before he tucked the puck inside the right post.
Then, the Prep’s fourth line got into the action when a nice piece of forechecking by Paul Crehan led to the team’s second goal of the period. Crehan barreled into the corner, bumped the Woburn defender off the puck and then quickly fired a pass to Justin Longo in the high slot. Longo’s shot somehow trickled through Flibotte, and an opportunistic Cam Shaheen banged it into the back of the net.
Longo then made it 3-0 in the second period when he took a quick wrist shot from the left side that snuck just under Flibotte’s glove as the Tanner goalie was screened briefly by his own defenseman. Hanson had stressed in between periods that the Eagles put the puck on net as his team missed a number of chances trying to make one-too-many passes or trying to pick a corner.
“I think our guys sometimes try to be a little bit too fancy, too cute with the puck instead of just driving to the net and going for the rebound,” Hanson said. “It doesn’t have to be a highlight reel goal every time you score. Shoot the puck and get the puck on net, and that (Longo’s goal) is a perfect example of it. Just shoot the puck — I couldn’t stress that enough to these kids.”
The game seemed out of reach for Woburn considering how badly the Tanners were being outskated five-on-five. But a lack of discipline by the Eagles both in getting three-second period penalties and then a lack of discipline on the penalty kill led to a pair of Woburn goals.
Nicholas Baldino and Tyler Shaw scored power-play goals in a span of two minutes and two seconds to cut the lead to 3-2 headed into the third period.
“I just thought if we could hang in there for a little bit, crazy things can happen,” said Woburn head coach Jim Duran. “They are a really talented team, so we knew we had our hands full. We tried to work and chip away, and we made it a game.”