LOWELL — Taking down the No. 1 seed in the Super 8 hockey tournament is no easy task, especially for a team that has only six seniors on it.
But Austin Prep never let that slow it down at any point of last night’s semifinal contest against a senior-heavy St. John’s Prep team.
It’s youngsters like Peabody’s J.J. Layton and Salem’s Eric MacAdams that helped the Cougars prevail, 2-1, and earn the right to play for the Super 8 title Sunday against Malden Catholic at TD Garden in Boston.
Layton, who came to Austin Prep from Cardigan Mountain Junior Boarding School in New Hamsphire, played outfield/third base for the Peabody West Little League all-star team that advanced to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. a few years back and is used to the pressure of big games.
“Playing in these types of games gives you a whole other level of confidence,” explained Layton. “Being involved with this team is amazing, it’s really like a family.
“We have kids with experience on the team. We come to play and believe that we can take these types of teams down.”
The 16-year-old defensman didn’t hesitate to rally his team after St. John’s Prep winger Tyler Bird scored the tying in the third period. The Cougars (16-1-6) never let their heads drop, but kept focus on the ultimate goal at hand.
“We knew we would get back into it,” Layton said of the go- ahead, power play goal. “We never pack it in; we’re playing to win. We keep pushing and keep going ... and it fell for us.”
For MacAdams, whose father Steve is an Austin Prep assistant coach, his poise came through on the initial Cougar goal as he was credited with one of the assist’s on senior captain Nolan Vesey’s score.
“We were just trying to work the forecheck,” said MacAdams, who relished his opportunity to play at the Tsongas Center. “It was a lucky pass, I guess.
“It’s such an honor to play in game like this; the atmosphere is amazing. To be this far is a dream come true, and we have the potential to play in front of a few thousand people on Sunday, it’s a real privilege.”
Head coach Louis Finoacchiaro wasn’t all too sure if his team would get the chance to make it this far despite losing just one game all season (ironically, to St. John’s Prep).
“Halfway through the season we didn’t know if it was going to work out for us. We thought it might not be our time,” explained Finocchiaro. “We were up and down like a rollercoaster ... last four games of the season, though, we played really well, right through to (last night). They got some confidence going and started to believe in themselves.
“St. John’s Prep has been (a top) all season long and to beat them is quite an accomplishment. It’s obviously a great experience for our young kids.”