St. John's Eagles Boys Ice Hockey '07-'08

Thu, Mar 06, 2008 08:00 PM @ St. John's
Team 1 2 3 Final
Playoff Game Division 1A Tournament
Xaverian 0 4 3 7
St. John's 2 0 2 4
Carl Russo, Staff PhotographerMore photos

St. John's Prep hockey team subdued in Super 8 tourney

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Thursday, March, 06 By Phil Stacey
Sports editor

LOWELL | There was still a period left to play, but one look at the St. John's Prep bench at the end of the second period and you know this one was, for all intents and purposes, over.

Because both teams exited the ice at The Tsongas Arena at the far end of the rink, the Eagles | on the bench furthest away | had to wait for their opponents, the Xaverian Hawks, to clear the ice first.

While they waited, a look of disbelief seemed to be on the face of every Prep coach and player, a look that was equal parts stunned, shocked and utterly baffled as to how this could have happened.

What happened was that the Hawks, their Catholic Conference rivals, beat them for the third time in as many meetings this season by pouncing all over some poor defensive zone coverage and numerous breakdowns on the part of the Eagles, erasing what had been a two-goal deficit.

The end result was an ugly 7-4 loss for St. John's in the second round of the Super 8 hockey tournament | a defeat that virtually ensures they won't be advancing to the semifinals next week.

"We broke down for a few minutes in the third period, and that's all it took," said Prep senior right wing Colin Prior. "They were just a step quicker than us and seemed like they wanted it more."

The third-seeded Eagles (12-7-3), who have been outscored 11-6 in two tournament games, still have at least one game to play: a Sunday date with Hingham back at Tsongas at noon. Suffice to say ,the Eagles would need a miracle of biblical proportions to squirm their way into one of the top two spots in their four-team bracket.

"Technically, we're still alive. But realistically ... ," said St. John's Prep head coach Kristian Hanson, his voice trailing off.

"They capitalized on every mistake we made, and we weren't able to capitalize on theirs."

Xaverian (16-5-2), which finished last in the Catholic Conference this winter and needed to beat Needham in a play-in contest just for the right to be part of the Super 8, never flinched last night. Even after surrendering a pair of goals to St. John's within an 18-second span of the first period, the Hawks stuck to their game plan and began to control the flow of the game at about the 10-minute mark of the first period.

From that point forward, they scored six unanswered goals over a span of 15 minutes and 36 seconds, stretching from the middle period into the third. But the time the Eagles tacked on two late goals with under two minutes to play, the final outcome had been long decided.

"A few quick goals gave them all the momentum | and we couldn't get that back," said Prior.

Things certainly started out well for the Eagles, who took a 2-0 lead after one period.

The first of those came from one of the unlikeliest sources. Left winger Chris O'Hare | normally a fourth liner who was moved up to the third line last night | had never scored a varsity point in his career. But on this occasion, the senior energy guy was on the receiving end of a 2-on-1 break with Mike Papagni , going in on Xaverian goaltender Kyle MacDonald and beating the sophomore with a wrist shot over his glove.

Prior, who missed most of last Saturday's game with Malden Catholic after getting injured on the first shift of the game, doubled the Eagles' lead with his 12th goal of the season. Linemate Christian Cowles hit him in stride with a home run pass up the middle of the ice, and Prior broke in alone, deked and tucked a backhand stick side past MacDonald.

Xaverian, however, seemed to shift the momentum onto their side as the period wore on, producing several good scoring chances that went by the wayside. They carried that surge into the second period | and this time they cashed in on their chances, scoring four times on just seven shots.

Sophomore Nathan Hardiman got the Xaverian rally started, grabbing a loose puck off a turnover in the Prep zone and firing it past Kyle Pettoruto. Just 20 seconds later at the 3-minute mark, another turnover in the Eagles' end | this one the result of poor defensive zone coverage | left the Hawks' Bill Scannell all alone in front of Pettoruto from 15 feet out. He didn't waste this golden opportunity, scoring low glove side to knot things up at 2-2.

"That second period definitely showed our character," said Xaverian head coach Dave Spinale, whose team is 2-0 in Super 8 play heading into Sunday's game with Malden Catholic.

A little over six minutes in, Xaverian took the lead for good when the Eagles were caught terribly out of position up ice. With their two defensemen caught at the blue line, that allowed the Hawks' Walsh to get into Prep territory with the puck ahead of him. Pettoruto tried valiantly to come out and poke check the disc away, but was unable to as Walsh slid it into the empty cage.

But the stake through their hearts, as far as the Eagles were concerned, came in the final minute of the period, as yet another defensive miscue cost them big-time. This time, it was Xaverian's Chris Wagner who cleanly picked the puck loose in the lower right circle, bore in untouched on Pettoruto, got the keeper to go down and faked going out front before easily tucking his shot inside a wide-open near post.

"That one was the killer," admitted Prior. "To be down two goals after two periods, especially when they scored in the final minute, was devastating. We couldn't mentally recuperate."

Senior Eric Clifford replaced Pettoruto in the Prep goal to start the third, but he too was victimized as Xaverian's Chris Kennedy and Mark MacDonald (on the power play) scored to make it 6-2 early in the period.

The Eagles made it respectable late as Eric Danilchuk fed Dan Lawton for a goal, then scored one himself 25 seconds later to cut the deficit to 6-4 with a minute-and-a-half remaining. But Wagner sealed it for the Hawks with an empty netter with 6.4 seconds to go.

"Sometimes, a team just has your number," said Hanson.

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