STONEHAM — From the game’s opening shift, it was apparent things were going to be different.
With their season hanging in the balance, the St. John’s Prep hockey team came flying out of the gates and never let up, establishing themselves both physically and offensively from the get-go. The Eagles had the ice tilted in their favor all night, got a huge goal from senior Nic Gianelli with 9:40 to play, and skated off with a thoroughly dominating 3-1 victory over Central Catholic last night at the Stoneham Arena.
In tying their best-of-3 Super 8 quarterfinal series at one game apiece, the top-seeded Eagles (18-3-1) held better than a 3-to-1 edge in shots on goal (45-13) and punished Central with bodychecks at every opportunity. If not for the splendid work between the pipes of Raiders goaltender Colin Soucy, this game would have been a rout.
But it wasn’t, and St. John’s needed Gianelli’s goal in a major way. The left wing from Hamilton gathered up his own rebound and backhanded a shot from the low slot under Soucy’s pads for the game-winner. Junior Jack McCarthy then iced it with an empty-netter with 66 seconds remaining.
“The puck was down in the corner and Brando (Andrew Brandano) threw the puck out to Jimmy (Currier) in the faceoff dot. I was coming off the bench into the zone and calling for the puck, and Jimmy hit me with a pass,” said Gianelli in describing his fourth goal of the season. “I shot it from the high slot and (Soucy) made the initial save, but I poked at it and managed to get it in.”
Now, St. John’s and Central Catholic (15-6-3) will play a third and final game to see who advances to the Super 8 semifinals to face Austin Prep. They’ll settle their differences tomorrow back at the Stoneham Arena (6 p.m.).