Stoneham, MA – Tonight it’s another elimination game as the Eagles of St. John’s Prep take on the Knights of Catholic Memorial. This should be a tough, grind it out style of game and nothing will come easy. Early before the game, the student sections packed it in but interestingly there were plenty of seats available since it was a weekday game. If we were to take bets we would say the rink was about 75% full, which for a work and school night is a pretty good draw all things considered for a 6pm ripper.
In the first period, the Eagles took early control of this one by putting 3 shots on net in the opening 10 seconds. That set the tone for a period where they were aggressive, opportunistic and quick and they won most of the 50/50 races to pucks in the process. Five minutes in they drew first blood as senior Matt Taylor sent senior Ryan Hart away up ice off the left wing and he snapped one home top shelf to make it 1-0 Eagles. As the period wore on, that aggressiveness started to bite the Eagles hard as they took two penalties in succession to create a 5-on-3 and gave CM some momentum. It was a tough break for the Knights when the first penalty elapsed and SJP defender Andrew Cole threw the puck up ice and Ryan Webb won the race to scoop it up. He then cruised in on Dom Walecka and slipped one by him going left to right: 2-0 Eagles. That was how the first ended and CM needed to regroup and rebuild.
In the second frame, CM came out like a house on fire and it only took 1:30 to cut the lead in half. Off a steal, sophomore Gavin Havens fed junior forward Glen Considine who’s initial shot produced a rebound that he followed up and poked home at the left post: and the score was 2-1. CM continued to work the ground and pound game but ultimately that’s as close as they would get. Six minutes later the Eagles struck again off a turnover at the blue line and Ryan Hart fed sophomore Nick Townshend who snuck one through the pads to restore the two-goal cushion. About five minutes later they would pad that lead off a pass down low by Jack Gilligan who found Townshend again at the left post for his second of the night: 4-1 Eagles. They finished off the period strong and went to the room up by three. The time is now or never for CM.
In the third period, the Eagles asserted more dominance and just continued to clog lanes and lift stick to prevent Grade A chances. They were strong on pucks and continually won battles which made life tougher for CM. For the most part the rushes of the Knights were one and done in the SJP zone and the action turned in the other direction quickly. With three minutes remaining the teams traded scores. The Knights cut the lead to two when freshman Brendan MacNeil dished it to junior forward Jonny Nichols in the slot to make it 4-2. But literally 14 seconds later the Eagles squashed any momentum with a tic-tac-goal: Nick Townshend to Matt Taylor to Ryan Hart for his second of the night to bring us to our final score of 5-2.
- F Ryan Hart, St. John’s Prep (2G, 2A)
- F Nick Townshend, St. John’s Prep (2G, 2A)
- F Matt Taylor, St. John’s Prep (2G, 2A)
TTPA: F Glen Considine, Catholic Memorial
This game took shape exactly as you would expect: it was fast, it was physical and there was no love lost between these two schools. There was plenty of chirping after the whistles and plenty of late hits and bear hugs to go around. These two squads had some real animosity towards each other, which made for an entertaining hockey game. The student sections were engaged during this one but they weren’t quite as rowdy as last night’s games at the Forum. The real story of this game was SJP jumped out to a lead and keeping their foot on the gas all game long. There were moments where CM climbing back into it and owned the momentum, but turnovers really hurt them and the Eagles made them pay.
For Catholic Memorial, sophomore goaltender Dom Walecka is the reason this team has gotten as far as they have. As far as goalies at the D1 level go, he has some of the best footwork we’ve seen this season. He may not have great size (yet) but he was on his angles and his reaction times were quick and twitchy. He will be worth a very close watch as CM reloads to make another run next season. As a staff, we universally like what Mac Casper brings as a senior. He has quick-strike ability and he recognizes plays quickly which allows him to get a step on the defense and win races to pucks. On the back end, senior Kevin McCarthy keeps things simple and consistent in his own: limiting mistakes. Offensively he runs the power play and walks the blue line well on the point.
For St. John’s Prep, we heard a parent in the stands mention that this is the best game he’s seen sophomore Nick Townshend play, and we would have to agree. He relies well on his strengths, he has good size and a nose for the net (scored two goals), the ability to find soft spots offensively plus the instincts of how to interrupt the breakout by getting into passing lanes. Hard to overlook the night by Ryan Hart who factored into four goals tonight for the Eagles. Not only did he chip in on the scoresheet but he was great on the penalty kill blocking numerous shots in the slot with his skates. We also liked the game Cole Lopilato had tonight. The sophomore continues to grow his game each year he plays of MIAA hockey: he has great size given his age and he uses his length and aggressive stride on the forecheck to disrupt the breakout. Finally, a quick stick tap to Cam Russo, the 2005-born freshman who played a few shifts tonight but made the most of his opportunities, ringing one off the iron and setting up another Grade A scoring play to boot. He just might become a weapon the deeper this playoff run goes…