Middleton, MA – Thanks to some generosity from the fine folks at Essex Sports Center we had the best seats in the house to watch the first Quarterfinal game in the State between the top-seeded St. John’s Prep Eagles and the ninth-seeded Braintree Wamps. This promised to be the best playoff matchup we’ve seen to date with two teams coming in hot with multiple playoff wins. It was a packed house 30 minutes prior to game time with cars lining the streets on both sides. Lots of Braintree fans came up for the game and were very vocal (to support their team sporting platinum blond coiffures) and SJP had a massive student section with players from the lacrosse and football teams wearing their respective sports helmets in the stands. The feel was absolutely electric pregame: on with the game we went.
In the first period, it was off to a wacky start, SJP was able to get pucks deep in the early minutes and that led to a few chances down low. Just under three minutes in, junior forward Cole Blaeser put a shot on net from the end line that bounced off a Braintree player and snuck behind the Wamps goalie: 1-0 Eagles. Just under a minute later they scored a very similar goal as sophomore Johnny Tighe put a shot on net below the dots that hit a Wamps defender and deflected in: 2-0 Eagles. Things could have gone off the rails for Braintree but the start didn’t phase them one bit. They came back and attacked and ended up cutting the lead in half 30 seconds later on a quick shot through traffic by senior Owen Flynn. After that goal things settled down to a much more even tempo. Both teams were strong on their sticks and playing hard. This game had the feel of a knock-down drag-out fight to the finish.
In the second period, it was more of the same as the first. Both teams were playing physical and strong down low, which limited scoring chances. The period was a bit slow through the middle minutes as things were slowed down by a parade to the penalty box. Neither team was able to crack the scoresheet but there were a couple of Grade A scoring chances at both ends. On we went to the third period to decide who would punch their ticket to the Final Four.
In the third period, both teams tightened up in their defensive zones and the referees put away their whistles. This was another physical and fast period with neither team really gaining the upper hand. The sticks down low were strong and the goalies were not letting up any second chances around the blue paint. There were a couple of close calls but the real action started to materialize late in the frame. With three minutes to go, junior Cole Blaeser drove wide down the wing and stayed strong on the puck, throwing it netfront to Tommy Sarni who buried to make it 3-1, which looked like a dagger for SJP. But Braintree was determined not to let that happen. Literally one minute later they crashed the net looking for a goal to cut the lead back to one. The puck squirted out of the scrum to a waiting senior Garrett Coughlin who put it home over the prone netminder to make it 3-2. There were just over two minutes remaining and Braintree made a strong final push, pulling the goalie with a minute to go, and then putting him back in due to a D zone faceoff. After they pulled him for a second time, Braintree kept the pressure on in the offensive zone and was tantalizingly close to tying it up. There was a netfront scrum again and a loose puck in the paint that Peyton Palladino was able to finally secure after a five-second scramble. One final faceoff later the buzzer sounded: SJP is moving on to the D1 Final Four – final score 3-2 Eagles. They now await a date, time and venue to see who they will play: either BC High or Austin Prep.
- F Cole Blaeser, St. John’s Prep
- F Tommy Sarni, St. John’s Prep
- F Garrett Coughlin, Braintree