WILMINGTON, Mass. – Kristian Hanson had seen the scene play out before. Sure, his St. John’s Prep hockey team had No. 1 Malden Catholic on the ropes in the third period, up by two goals. And, in previous experiences, Hanson had seen those leads – perceived to be “safe” – vanish into the ether.
“I don’t feel comfortable until that last second ticks off,” Hanson quipped about playing against the two-time defending Super 8 champions.
Hanson and Co. will sleep tight tonight, having handed the Lancers their first MIAA loss in nearly two calendar years while finishing a 3-2 victory at Ristuccia Arena on Saturday. The loss is MC’s first in-state loss since Jan. 15, 2011, (a 2-1 loss to Hingham) and snaps the Lancers’ 40-game MIAA winning streak.
“MC obviously has a reputation as being a third-period team,” Hanson said. “They were down by two to Austin Prep and they were down 2-1 to BC High last week and those both ended in ties. We’ve had personal experience being up on them in the third period that we haven’t been able to hold on.”
The No. 9 Eagles (5-1-0, 1-0-0 Catholic Conference) trailed 1-0 at the first intermission, but strung together three straight goals, including two in the third period to hold a 3-1 lead in the final minutes of the game. MC’s Pat Wrenn added a goal with less than two minutes to play, sliding one past Eagles netminder Billy Price (20 saves) on a deflection off a defenseman’s skate, but Prep escaped another potential Lancer comeback bid.
Eagles senior forward Andrew Brandano figured prominently in the victory, factoring on Prep’s first two goals.
Brandano broke in for an unassisted goal at 6:58 of the second period, drawing the teams even at 1-1. He then set up Prep’s go-ahead tally at 11:11 of the third, throwing a puck at MC goaltender Connor Maloney (18 saves). Mark Azarian deflected the slap-pass to the right of Maloney. Brandano and captain Brian Pinho had the assists.
“We had some really good chances in the first period and we had a golden opportunity in the first period, with the puck sitting on the goal line and missed out,” Hanson said. “Sometimes those chances come back to bite you later in the game.
“But we got lucky on Brandano’s goal in the second period. That maybe gave us a little bit more confidence offensively and we were able to get two after that.”
Prep added an insurance marker that would later prove to be the game-winner on the power play. Tyler Bird shoveled a pass back to defenseman Ean Mendeszoon and the lanky blue-liner’s slapshot beat Maloney stick side.
CAUSE FOR GREATER CONCERN
Perhaps the greatest loss MC (3-1-2, 0-1-1) suffered on Saturday came in the third period when UMass-Lowell commit winger Tyler Sifferlen went down with an apparent lower body injury. Sifferlen was injured when he locked knees with a Prep defenseman on a clean hit in the neutral zone.
Lancers head coach John McLean accompanied Sifferlen to the hospital for observation and wasn’t available postgame.
TURNING UP THE HEAT
While Prep might have fallen behind, the Eagles pressed the issue on the forecheck throughout the first two periods.
And while they didn’t have anything to show for it, Brandano felt as thought Prep would break through if it maintained the pressure.
“We were on them from the start,” Brandano said. “Even though we were down one, we just kept on it.”
The Eagles used the forecheck to generate several high quality scoring chances in the first and second, only to see Maloney make opportune saves. Brandano forced a defensive zone turnover for a chance midway through the second and fellow winger Nic Gianelli also turned some dogged work in the MC zone into back-handed shot from his knees, with Maloney making a nice save, at the end of the first.
“We’ve had some problems scoring goals early on this season, so one way to correct that is to keep getting pucks to the net from all angles, eventually one goes in,” Hanson said. “You’re not to score if you don’t shoot.”
THE PRICE IS RIGHT
For the first time in several years, Prep is breaking in a new goaltender, after the graduation of steady starter David Letarte.
But Price has filled the bill in the early going. He was ready when called upon against MC and kept rebounds to a minimum. Everything else, his defensemen, led by senior captain Brent Murray, cleared.
“Billy’s given us a chance to win every game we’ve been in, that’s all you can ask for,” Hanson said of Price. “He made big stops, he looked great today. He was composed, didn’t get rattled in front of the crowd and facing MC.”