“Both of those games were hard fought and we know whoever wins (tonight’s) game will give us a huge challenge,” said Eagles’ head coach Kristian Hanson, whose teams have reached the Super 8 title game and semifinals the last two seasons, respectively.
“The level of play when you get to the tournament is so elevated; as a coach you really don’t know if your players are ready or not until they hit the ice. Fortunately for us, we have a bunch of guys back with big-game experience from our past tourmament runs; they know what it takes as far as raising their games up.”
St. John’s Prep, which rolls four lines and six defensemen consistently, didn’t allow more than two goals in a game during the regular season. First-year goaltender Billy Price won 14 games with a goals-against average of 1.35 while nine different players had at least 10 points, led by Providence-bound center Brian Pinho (15 goals, 39 points).
With one of the best regular seasons in program history behind them, top-seeded Beverly (18-1-1) is out to prove any doubters wrong in the ultra-competitive Division 2 North playoffs. With fewer teams (14) in the draw than in recent years, the competition remains top notch with powerhouses like defending state champ Wilmington (16-3-2), Lincoln-Sudbury (15-2-3), Tewksbury (14-3-1) and always tough Newburyport (12-3-5), among others, gunning for the crown.
“I think any one of the top 10 teams in the draw can win it,” said Beverly assistant coach Justin Shairs. “It’s going to be a tough road to take the whole thing; you can’t have a bad day at this point or you’re done.”
The Panthers treated wins over Winthrop (4-2) and Marblehead (5-1) last week as playoff-type games to get them in the postseason frame of mind. There’s been a ramped-up emphasis on defensive zone coverage; despite allowing a mere 20 goals in the regular season, the Orange-and-Black know they’ll need to kick it up another few notches as far as protecting their own net now that the postseason has arrived.