No high school hockey team in the Commonwealth has lost fewer games this season than the Austin Prep Cougars.
Coach Louis Finocchiaro’s squad is young, talented, offensively gifted and defensively sound. They swept their city rivals from Reading High in the Super 8 playoff quarterfinals, allowing just one goal in the two-game sweep. With an overall record at 15-1-6, the Cougars are a team that much be respected and considered extremely dangerous.
So who did they lose that one game to?
Glad you asked.
It just happens to be St. John’s Prep, their opponent in tonight’s Super 8 semifinals at the Tsongas Center in Lowell. The contest, scheduled to start at 7:45 p.m. as the back end of a semifinal doubleheader, marks the second time they’ve met this season; St. John’s bested the Cougars, 5-1, at the Stoneham Arena back on Jan. 19.
Will that first meeting have any bearing on tonight’s game? Both coaches vehemently say no.
“We played them two months ago ... and to me it feels like two years ago,” said Kristian Hanson, the head coach of top-seeded St. John’s Prep (19-3-1). “What matters is what happens (tonight).
“Austin Prep is a really talented team, with a lot of excellent forwards and a terrific goalie in (Elijah) Harris. And they certainly know how to win.”
Finocchiro, the former Saugus High head coach (who guided the Sachems to their first state title in 1999) who has been at Austin Prep for the past 10 seasons, harkens back to a preseason trip his team made up to the University of New Hampshire and borrowing a bit of wisdom from Wildcats’ head coach Dick Umile.
“Coach Umile told us that with his team, every opponent has no face, no name. They get prepared and play every team the same,” Finocchiaro recalled. “That’s their motto, and one we’ve adopted for ourselves. We just worry about our game and what we can do to succeed.