SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- On Saturday, No. 6 Springfield Cathedral saw a point slip off their stick in a 5-5 tie with St. John’s Prep. The Panthers had once led 5-1 in that game.
With an emphasis on finishing, the Panthers showed a renewed focus on their third-period performance against No. 8 Needham during their host tournament at the Olympia Center on Wednesday.
In a game that figures to have a profound impact on the upcoming Super 8 tournament selection, Cathedral received an early third-period goal from Frank Crinella that would be a difference-maker. Sophomore goaltender John Liquori made 28 saves to earn his second shutout in a 1-0 win over the Rockets.
“After squandering that four-goal lead against St. John’s Prep, we knew we needed to learn how to win,” said Crinella, a senior captain. “We can’t give up leads like that. It just showed character to get that 1-0 victory.”
Entering action, both Cathedral (10-5-6) and Needham (16-4-0) had aspirations of earning a top six seed in the Super 8 tourney, meaning they’d avoid a Monday play-in game.
After 45 minutes of action, it was a apparent that both teams belong in the state’s elite tournament and not much separates their level of play.
“It was what we had expected, a tight checking game,” Panthers head coach Brian Foley said. “I thought both goalies played exceptional. Needham’s always a good, well-coached team. It was just a battle.”
Not to be outdone, Rockets senior netminder Connor Murray turned away 22 shots, including three big stops on Cathedral’s 5-on-3 power play to start the second period.
The game remained scoreless until the first minute of the third when Crinella crashed the net, depositing a rebound of a shot from his little brother, freshman Peter Crinella.
It looked as though Needham might have found the game's first goal in the second period. Rockets senior Timmy Parlato -- who was playing forward, stepping up from his usual defenseman role in an effort to get more punch up front -- broke in on a partial break. Liquori made the save, but it appeared the puck crossed the goal line while the Cathedral netminder was pushed back into the net after a pileup in front.
"They never gave me an explanation as to what happened," Needham head coach Bill Guisti said.
Cathedral advances to play No. 1 Malden Catholic in the championship final tomorrow at 7 p.m. Needham will play Hamden, Conn. in the consolation at 5 p.m.
NO. 1 MC 4, HAMDEN (CT) 3 (OT)
Malden Catholic needed overtime to advance past their Nutmeg State opponent in the early game of the Cathedral tournament.
An early Brendan Collier goal, followed by a pair of strikes from Ryan Fitzgerald had the Lancers (15-1-3) to a 3-1 lead entering the third period.
However, the Green Dragons (10-5-2) came back to tie the game in the third, finding some success on the power play.
While the game goes into the MIAA books as a tie, freshman center Ara Nazarian pushed the Lancers on to the championship game with the overtime winner.