WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Kristian Hanson wasn’t ready to commit or even hint that his team could be on the beginnings of a run similar to the streak St. John’s Prep made all the way to the Super Eight final last season.
But it’s been a good week for the Prep.
Hanson’s club got a little bit of payback against No. 3 BC High with a 3-1 victory Saturday at Ristuccia Arena in a battle of Catholic Conference heavyweights. Tyler Bird at two goals and Sam Kurker added a goal and two assists, as the Prep has now won three in a row and have outscored their opponents, 17-2.
“I don’t want to predict any runs,” said a humble Hanson, whose team is now 7-4-0 this year. “I think sometimes that we may appear to be a second half of the season type team. We get so many new faces in each year and it takes time for them to build team chemistry and gel and understand their role. That’s why we may perform stronger in the second half than the first half.”
Obviously, Colin Blackwell (Harvard) carried the offensive load last season — and his output is sorely misses on this team — but it starts with the stalwart defense that has and will carry this team for the remainder of the season.
Nick Pandalena anchors the unit with his size at defense, while David Letarte (24 saves) has been stellar in net in his senior season. The defensive unit played some of their better hockey of the season in the first two periods as they routinely made their way into the passing lane, blocked numerous shots and forced the Eagles to take shots from less than ideal spots in the zone.
“I thought we did a wonderful job with defensive coverage today,” said Hanson. “System-wise we blocked 10 shots today. … The guys just stuck with the system all day and it worked.”
GETTING A LITTLE PAYBACK
The last time these two hooked up in the Catholic Conference opener there were plenty of good vibes to be felt by both teams. Bartley Regan’s goal in the waning moments of the game gave the Eagles a stunning 4-3 win and Hanson really wanted his guys to use that heartbreak as motivation on their home ice.
“I thought we played a really complete game and thought we deserved a better fate or at least a point out of that game,” he said. “We kind of stressed that before this game. We really wanted to try and go out there and get a point or two.”
NEW LINE, GOOD RESULTS
Hanson threw together Bird, Kurker and Brian Pinho a few weeks ago and the trio made dividends in this one. Each player recorded at least two points and the Eagles really didn’t have a match anytime the potent line was on the ice.
Bird cleaned up a wide shot by Pinho in the first period. He did a little more tidying up in the second period when he gloved down a shot from Kurker on the break rang off the crossbar and deposited it past Peter Cronin (15 saves).
"We were having trouble finding chemistry between the lines lately,” Bird said. “A couple of weeks ago (Hanson) put us together. At first it was kind of different. It was difficult working together. But we’ve been clicking and we’ve been playing really well together.”
The Prep have started a tradition of handing around an old school St. John’s Prep jacket — it looks like one from the 1980s with gold lettering and trim instead of the white and blue sported now. If the line keeps performing like it did yesterday, then the jacket might not be leaving the shoulders of that trio for some time.
EAGLES CAN’T SHAKE SLOW START
A sluggish first period has been a bit of an issue for BC High this season. It happened at Fenway Park against Catholic Memorial and happened in the early moments against Winchester. But usually that slow start is followed by a flurry of goals and odd-man rushes by the team wearing maroon and gold.
Those opportunities didn’t arise until it may have been a bit too late.
Michael Brooks potted a goal with a little more than a minute left in the third period and Kurker killed the rally with Cronin pulled for an empty-net goal.
“We came out a little bit slower than what I wanted to,” BC High head coach John Flaherty said. “I think the third period was more indicative of how we need to play. … You can’t give them chances and we did.”
The Eagles had a couple of opportunities to post a couple of goals in the third period as they put 12 shots on net in the final 15 minutes.
“We finally started playing desperate,” Flaherty said. “We finally started playing the way we are supposed to play. It just wasn’t enough. We gave ourselves a chance to get a point and it just didn’t happen.”