ALLSTON, Mass. – Skill plus hard work might equal success, but for two periods of Thursday’s Kevin T. Mutch Memorial Game against Catholic Memorial, St. Sebastian’s head coach Sean McCann thought the Arrows were coasting on skill alone.
Although the Arrows held a 2-1 lead over the Knights coming out of the second intermission, it’s what St. Seb’s did to close out its 3-1 win that most impressed the bench boss.
“In the first two periods, we were turning over pucks, we weren’t making good decisions, our positioning from a defensive standpoint was very poor,” McCann said. “I think the way we came out in the third and competed and were more physical, we did those things and I think the little things add up.”
While Noah Hanifin’s power-play goal at 4:41 of the second period provided the difference for the Arrows (6-2-0), McCann lit a fire under his troops during the second intermission.
The message was clear: close it out.
“He told us to stop playing as individuals and start playing as a team,” said Hanifin, a sophomore defenseman and Boston College commit. “That go everybody going.”
In the third, the Arrows added an insurance marker on Will D’Orsi’s snipe at 9:05. What was more telling was the manner in which St. Seb’s controlled play in the final stanza, outshooting the Knights (3-1-0) by a 11-4 margin.
James McLaughlin provided the Arrows with a 1-0 lead just before the first intermission, walking out front from the end boards and beating CM freshman goaltender Brendan Collett (26 saves) 5-hole on the backhand.
Hanifin’s blue-line blast on the man-advantage gave St. Seb’s a two-goal cushion before Knights winger Beau Starrett put the Knights on the board less than a minute later in the second.
Despite surrendering a power-play goal that proved to be the deciding tally on Thursday, the Knights penalty kill unit did good to stave off several Arrows man-advantages. CM was put to the test while skating two men down for 1:07 at the tail end of the second. The Knights surrendered just two shots from the periphery on the kill.
What’s more encouraging for CM is that its effort came in the face of one of Massachusetts hockey’s most feared shots.
Hanifin is a legitimate weapon on the power play, with a heavy shot, nose for the cage and terrific lateral skating ability to boot.
As a result, McCann’s given Hanifin the explicit task of taking on the quarterbacking duties of the power play unit this year as a sophomore.
“He sees the ice very well and his lateral movement is very good, especially for a young kid,” McCann said. “He realizes that when he has an opportunity to shoot or pass, he’s taking it for the most part.”
But, as Thursday’s collective effort with the man-advantage showed, there’s still room for improvement by the Arrows unit.
“I think the big thing is that we have a quite a few skilled players and that we need to continue to move the puck faster,” McCann said. “Sometimes we hold onto it too long.”
It’s a point solidified by Hanifin’s game-winner.
“Our goal on the power play is to get movement and get shots to the net,” Hanifin said. “I saw a lane there, I took a rip and it happened to go in.”
YOUTH IS SERVED
The Knights received a tremendous effort from their freshman goaltender. Collett was undeterred by St. Seb’s blend of speed and size at the forward position and stood tall during the Knights’ man-down situations.
Perhaps his greatest attribute is his rebound control, however. His coach has taken notice.
“He doesn’t leave any bunnies out there,” CM head coach Bill Hanson quipped.
FOR A CAUSE
For the 19th year, the Mutch Memorial Game raised money for local charities. In the past, the proceeds had gone toward the Kevin T. Mutch Scholarship Fund, but in recent years, the proceeds have been distributed to a plethora of deserving causes.
This year’s game funds will again go to The Jimmy Fund.