By Matt Williams
---- — STONEHAM — St. John’s Prep captain Brian Pinho went to the locker room after the second period of yesterday’s Super 8 elimination game against Central Catholic shaking his head.
The Providence College-bound had to be wondering what he had to do to get the puck past Raider goalie Colin Soucy — and, once Central tied it 2-2 in the third, what he had to do to keep his Eagles season alive.
The answer was to keep calm and go the net.
Just 26 seconds after Central’s tying goal, Pinho slammed the puck into an open net to give the Prep (19-3-1) its last lead of the series. The Eagles went on to defeat the Raiders, 4-2, in a winner-take-all Game 3 to advance to the Super 8 semifinals for the third straight season.
The first playoff goal for team’s leading regular season point-getter stood up as the game-winner.
“Did I think he was due? I hoped he was,” said Eagles head coach Kristian Hanson of his senior captain. “He certainly picked the right time to score the biggest goal of the season for us.”
Pinho was perhaps the most frequent victim of Soucy (86 saves over three games), with a denial on a shorthanded breakaway in the second period last night emblematic of the entire series.
“Soucy robbed me probably five times. He was great,” said Pinho, the Prep’s leading scorer in the regular season with 14 goals, 25 assists and 39 points. “I was frustrated, but I tried not to worry about it too much. You keep doing what you do and things will come.”
The last two St. John’s Super 8 semifinalists had 60-point scorers in Colin Blackwell (2011) and Sam Kurker (2012). This year’s Eagles don’t need a superstar to carry the scoring. To wit: Pinho, Jimmy Currier and Tyler Bird share the Super 8 scoring lead with three points each and six other skaters have two points.
Still, with seven minutes left in a tied do-or-die playoff game, the best players step up.
For the Eagles, that meant it was time for their Hockey East commit to pot one.
“You can’t tell a kid how to score a goal. He has to seize the opportunity,” said Hanson. “Brian had the chance and he buried it.”
The Eagles’ penalty killers were challenged last night, with Central going on the man-advantage five times. Pinho, a fast, smooth skater, is one of St. John’s best defensive forwards, and felt like the work on the kill helped him stay focused on the task at hand rather than figuring out how to score.
“We were pretty riled up; I think the guys on the kill really helped keep everybody calm and helped us get control of the game,” said Pinho, who scored on a cross-ice feed from Bird and assisted on Bird’s insurance tally with 2:08 to go. “I like to let the game come to me.”
As a result, an Eagles team that three years ago had never been to a Super 8 semi has made it back-to-back-to-back. Wednesday against Austin Prep, Pinho will try to lead his team back to the Garden — not by gripping his stick and trying to go bar-down on every shot, but just by being himself.