LAWRENCE, Mass. -- In every good piece of theater a story is told. The setting and story and laid out, the characters become clear, and the show builds momentum and finishes with a flourish.
Last night, Central Catholic and St. John’s Prep put on a show that would have made Andrew Lloyd Webber jealous.
The No. 6 Raiders defeated the No. 4 Eagles 2-1 after a frantic third period in front of more people than the Lawrence Valley Forum was ever intended to hold.
“This win was unreal,” Central senior Mike Kelleher said. “We circled SJP from day one. This was the biggest game of our season so far.”
After a first period that saw a clogged neutral zone and few scoring chances, the pace picked up in the second as the hits became louder and more frequent.
The teams were deadlocked at zero before all hell broke loose in the third.
In the first minute of the third Central junior Lloyd Hayes took the puck by the end boards, spun into the circle, and fired an unremarkable shot at Prep senior goalie Billy Price that somehow found its way home and put the Raiders up 1-0.
“Lloyd just competed, grinded and threw something at the net,” Central Catholic coach Mike Jankowski said. “We knew he was real good up top so he just tried to get pucks to the net. Sure enough he got one to the net and it went in.”
Just over three minutes later Hayes sent a pass up the middle of the ice that found Kelleher in stride and the senior finished after a slick move got Price out of position.
“Worked hard for the goal, but give all to Lloyd Hayes though,” Kelleher said. “He created the play for me and he’s been working hard all game; he deserved it.”
Chaos took over from there as Prep’s offense finally awoke and the Eagles started to attack from every angle.
Central’s Colin Soucy stood tall in net for the Raiders, but Prep finally solved the junior when senior Mark Azarian found fellow senior Brian Pinho in front who touched home the one-timer to halve the deficit with 4:13 to play. The Eagles continued attacking, but the Raiders held firm to walk out with a hard-fought win.
“We played with much more urgency once we got down two goals,” St. John’s Prep head coach Kristian Hanson said. “That’s when we played our best hockey. We have to play with that same intensity and urgency the entire game. If we had played like that the whole time it could have been a different outcome.”
When you’re replacing the greatest goalie in program history there is almost no pressure…almost. Yet Soucy, who turned aside 18 St. John’s shots, has stepped into the role of replacing Kyle Williams and shined.
“Colin was phenomenal,” Jankowski said. “He came up big time and time again. He made a big save here and there and he kept us in it. One in particular, that glove save [in the third period], if that didn’t get your juices going I don’t know what will.”
With Soucy backstopping them, the Raiders are 3-1-0 with two wins over ESPN Boston Top 25 teams (Prep and Westford) and the third coming against a tough Billerica team. The only loss came against yet another ranked team, Arlington Catholic.
Win or lose Kelleher said that Soucy is one of the most important players on the ice every night.
“Colin’s playing unreal every single game right now,” Kelleher said. “He’s automatic right now. He’s probably our key player in every single win.”
Jankowski said that as good as Soucy’s been on the ice he’s just as good of an influence in the locker room.
“He’s such a nice kid, he’s bonded with all his teammates so it’s really taken off,” Jankowski said of Soucy. “It’s almost like he’s never been apart from us.”
CONTROVERSY AT THE NET
A series of four calls, all in front of goal, played a key role in the outcome of the game.
The first came in the second period when a gaggle of Raiders descended on Price and stuffed the puck past him. The goal was called off because the net popped off its pegs an instant before the puck crossed the line. Central’s players protested, but Jankowski said it was the right call.
“The first one was completely understandable,” Jankowski said. “The second one was tough. That was real tough to swallow.”
That one came a minute after Kelleher’s goal. The Raiders were swarming again and the puck found its way to senior Conrad Jepson who blasted it in from the blue line and appeared to score. The goal was wiped out due to goaltender interference.
In the third, Prep was hit by a quick whistle that negated an almost-certain scoring chance, and a non-whistle in the waning seconds when the puck was stuck under a slew of bodies in front of Soucy. At least 10 seconds ticked away during that time.
“Our goal at that point is to put the puck on net and get everyone to the net and look for the garbage goal out front,” Hanson said. “I think everyone on the ice was in front of the net. I don’t know how that one could have gone in anyway.”