By Phil Stacey
---- — 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.).
“All we wanted to do tonight, win or lose, was give our best effort and leave it all on the ice,” said St. John’s Prep head coach, whose team beat Central for the first time in three meetings this winter.
Forechecking like they had for most of the season and imposing its will on the Raiders, St. John’s took the momentum early and ran with it. Even after Central’s Lloyd Hayes scored a shorthanded goal off a Prep turnover in the defensive zone midway through the second period, the Eagles didn’t panic; instead, they tied the game at 1-1 just 22 seconds later as Justin Longo played beat the clock, scoring just seconds before the power play expired with a wrist shot through a screen.
The Eagles, who held a 31-11 shot advantage through two periods and did a fine job at possession the puck even on line changes, didn’t change a thing heading into the final frame. Their mantra of shoot early and often continued over the final 15 minutes, and Gianelli’s snipe was the one that mattered most.
“We got as many goals as we needed, and that’s all that matters,” said Hanson.
Senior goaltender Billy Price wasn’t nearly as busy as his counterpart at the other end of the rink, but on the few sustained flurries the Raiders had he stood tall. Defensemen Brent Murray, Evan Leclerc, Ean Mendeszoon et. al. did a terrific job pushing Central towards the perimeter and limiting shots.
“We got back to doing what we’re good at: being physical, getting pucks to the net, rolling four lines ... and good things happened,” said Hanson.
agateHed:St. John’s Prep 3, Central Catholic 1
agate_boldCentered:Super 8 quarterfinals, Game 2
at Stoneham Rink
agate_lineQuarters:Central Catholic: 0 1 0 — 1
agate_lineQuarters:St. John’s Prep: 0 1 2 — 3
agate_lineQuarters:First period: No scoring.
agate_lineQuarters:Second Period: CC, Lloyd Hayes (un), shg, 8:07; SJP, Justin Longo (Cam Shaheen, Paul Crehan), ppg, 8:29.
agate_lineQuarters:Third Period: SJP, Nic Gianelli (Jimmy Currier, Andrew Brandano), 5:20; SJP, Jack McCarthy (Brent Murray, Brian Pinho), eng, 13:54.
agate_lineQuarters:Saves: CC, Colin Soucy 42; SJP, Billy Price 12.
agate_lineQuarters:Records: SJP, 18-3-1; CC, 15-6-3.