By Phil Stacey
---- — When you have the type of grueling regular season schedule that the St. John’s Prep hockey team does, you don’t panic over small obstacles.
So after host Catholic Memorial scored a shorthanded goal in the first period of their game Saturday at the Walter Brown Arena in Boston, the Eagles didn’t panic. Instead, they stuck to their game plan, got timely scoring and great goaltending from senior Billy Price and emerged with their best victory of the season, a 4-1 triumph over the Knights.
St. John’s Prep (6-2) got goals from its first, third and fourth lines, while Price, a senior from Danvers, stopped 29 shots. The Eagles, now 2-1 in the ultra-competitive Catholic Conference, shut down a Catholic Memorial (8-2) team that had been averaging almost six goals a contest.
“There was a lot riding on this game for us as far as the conference standings, competing for the Super 8 (i.e., higher seedings), it being a road game and getting back on track after losing (to BC High) the other night,” said Prep head coach Kristian Hanson. His team has beaten Catholic Memorial in each of their last six meetings, a previously unheard-of accomplishment.
“The kids knew the importance of this one. We got a lot of contributions and played very good team defense. We rose to the occasion; I’m really pleased with the effort.”
Left wing Mark Azarian, recently moved to the third line, tied the game at 1-1 in the latter stages of the second period when he broke through the CM defense and put a backhand past Brendan Collett’s (15 saves) blocker. Fourth liner Justin Longo then procured the game-winner with 1:35 to go before the period ended, picking up a loose puck backdoor off a scramble and burying it.
“Our fourth line (including center Paul Crehan and right wing Cam Shaheen) was out there quite a bit against their first line, and they won most of the battles,” Hanson said.
In the opening shift of the third period, first line right wing Tyler Bird flew up ice and fired a shot on Collett that was stopped, but linemate Andrew Brandano went far post for the rebound and was rewarded when it popped free, giving his team a 3-1 advantage just 13 seconds into the final frame. Bird’s empty netter, on a pass from Brian Pinho, sealed it with five seconds left.
The entire Prep defense, highlighted by captain Brent Murray, as well as Ean Mendeszoon and Evan Leclerc, were lauded by Hanson for their work Saturday night. So was Price, who was especially huge with three minutes to go when CM went on the power play and pulled its goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage, but couldn’t put the puck past the netminder.
“It’s our biggest win of the season so far,” said Hanson, whose team plays at Peabody (today), Xaverian (Wednesday) and Austin Prep (Saturday). “Now we have to keep the momentum going off of this one and take it into another very tough week of games.”