STONEHAM, Mass. –- In a way, both Austin Prep head coach Louis Finocchiaro and Arlington Catholic head coach Dan Shine came away from last night’s 4-4 tie disappointed. The reason being that both Cougar squads had leads, and both teams saw them evaporate.
“When you look back at it, we should be happy with a tie, but we’re not,” Shine said. “We could have put them away, we had some opportunities late, but we know we could have won that game.”
For No. 6 Austin Prep (3-0-3) it was an even more bitter pill to swallow.
The Cougars led 2-0 just over four minutes into the game off the sticks of Robert Carpenter (0:33) and Cam Russo (4:17).
Russo split a pair of AC defenders to earn a one-on-one chance against goaltender Shawn Ray, beating him five-hole. Carpenter worked the puck from the corner around an AC defender to the front of the net, sliding a puck past a moving Ray.
But that’s when AC senior forward David George took over, potting a pair of goals and senior linemate Brendon O’Connell added another to go along with Zachary Blanch’s tally at the end of the first period.
In total, Arlington Catholic (1-1-2) scored three of the game’s next four goals, holding a 4-3 lead until late in the third period, when Russo added his second goal of the night, beating Ray five-hole after it appeared that he fanned on the first shot, and his second chance was ricocheting between defenders in front.
“When our backs were against the wall, we showed up to play,” Finocchiaro said. “But this is a league game, against a team we’ll be in the mix with for a league championship. We were up and ready at the beginning of the game, but we got two goals early and we got away from doing the little things that make us successful. You can’t turn that switch on and off, you need to play the way we played at the start and towards the end of the game all the time. If not, we’ll be in trouble.”
GEORGE SHINES BRIGHTEST FOR AC
There wasn’t a soul on the ice that was going to keep up with Arlington Catholic senior David George away from a career night.
The left winger potted the game-tying goal in the second period and later in the same period put the Cougars ahead, 4-3, with just 45.2 seconds left on the clock after a vicious battle with Austin Prep defenseman J.J. Layton along the wall where both players crumpled to the ice after charging for a loose puck in the corner.
After the play worked itself back to the point, George setup shot on the doorstep next to Elijah Harris and was able to fire a rebound into the twine.
Late in the third period, with the game tied after Russo’s second goal of the game, George barely left the ice, which Shine says was by design.
“He had to have been out there for four minutes,” he said. “And he has a rush there right at the end that almost won us the game. He can skate like the wind and he has great stamina. One of my assistants looked over at me at one point and said, ‘we need to get him off here,’ and I just said, ‘no way.’ He was fresh as a bird. He was just in a groove all night.”
George’s best asset are, without a doubt, his feet. He combines what seems like an effortless stride with good speed and plenty of wind.
“I always say to him that he could put on a pair of figure skates tomorrow and go do some double axles,” Shine said. “I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, either. He’s just that athletic and he’s that smooth on his feet. There’s a lot of skill in that. Plus, he’s a character to boot.”
Shine also says it was no surprise, with the game on the line, that George scored a pair of big goals while nearly netting a hat trick in the third period.
“He savors that type of moment,” Shine said. “He wants the puck.”
A TROUBLING TREND
For Austin Prep, the tie continued a string of tough luck. Last week, the Cougars were unable to hold on to a lead against St. Mary’s before ultimately scoring enough late for a 5-3 win. The next night against Malden Catholic, AP had the No. 1-ranked Lancers on the ropes, leading 4-2 after two periods, before letting it slip away. Against Arlington Catholic, Austin Prep held two leads (2-0 and 3-2) that it saw vanish.
“We’re up 2-0, we’re moving and playing, and once we get up in the game, we get too loose and we get away from doing the little things,” Finocchiaro said. “We’re taking our time coming back into the defensive zone and we’re not paying attention to detail. ... When we’re keeping it simple, doing little things in the defensive zone, we play well and get results. But it’s like, as soon as we get a lead, it becomes points night, and we want to run and gun and that exposes ourselves. Right now, we’re our biggest opponent. Not taking anything away from Arlington Catholic, but right now, we’ve been killing ourselves.”