BOSTON -- A popular phrase around the high school hockey barns this winter has been 'compete level' and it's been applied to both teams and individuals.
Wednesday night, BC High junior captain Tom Besinger earned the tag. Despite routinely drawing the attention of opposing defensive gameplans, Besinger came up with a number of hustle plays that helped set up a 2-0 victory for the top-ranked Eagles (6-0-2) over No. 4 St. John's Prep (5-2-0) at Clark Athletic Center.
Five minutes into the second period, freshman defenseman Billy Roche chipped the puck off the side boards to Besinger, who stretched far enough to get to it before a pair of Prep skaters could beat him to it. He got just enough on it to poke it forward to teammate Patrick Kramer, who corralled the puck with one hand on his stick, split a pair of blue-liners and managed to push the puck through to the stick side of Prep goalie Billy Price.
"Tommy made a good play, he brought it over the blue line and it just bounced," Kramer said. "I kept my feet moving, it was a good bounce, goal. It was a good play by Tommy to get the puck over the line."
Then with 4:05 left in the middle frame, Roche disrupted a clearing attempt at center ice. Besinger changed direction quickly and danced around one defender to get the puck, then took a pair of short strides before slipping it through a pair of sticks to Jake Lemanski for a quick wrist shot through another defender to the short side.
"Tommy gets attacked, he gets draped on and his compete level is second to none," praised BC High head coach John Flaherty. "As I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, he may not be the biggest kid on the ice but he competes as hard as anybody. He had a couple guys draped on him and he still kept his feet moving and made a nice pass to Jake Lemanski who didn’t hesitate and just put it right back by him. That was a nice job by Tommy and a nice job by Jake to keep his stick on the ice and fire it."
For his part, Besinger intimated that he was just sticking with the team's game plan.
"We were just attacking the zone with speed," he explained. "We got a lot of pucks in deep and we were finding guys back door and we were just trying to get behind their defense and work the puck in along their goal line because we knew we could beat them back door and try to get shots from the slot."
A KNACK FOR THE NET
Besinger was marked in the preseason by most observers as the player to watch, and he has more than done his part, leading the Eagles with 2-9-11 totals. What may come as something of a surprise is the player who leads the state's number one team in goal scoring.
Just a sophomore, Kramer's second-period tally was his team-leading sixth of the season. And a lot of them are the "dirty goals" that coaches love because they come from right around the crease.
"He’s putting pucks away for us, Flaherty said of Kramer. "He competes hard, he’s a big body and I think all of his goals have come right from where that one was, all around the net. He has a nice knack for when he gets in that circle around the net, he puts pucks away."
YOUNG DEFENSE MAKING STRIDES
Among the six defensemen listed on the BC High roster, there are two juniors, a sophomore and three freshmen. While having an elite goaltender such as Peter Cronin (20-save shutout against the Prep) backing them certainly helps, this young blue line corps continues to make positive strides.
"We’re young on the blue line and those guys are getting better every day," Flaherty said. "I think they’ve improved and I think today was another big step forward. [St. John's Prep's] Brian Pinho can fly. He's a legit division one college player, his future is very bright so for our defensemen to at least make his life a little difficult is a big step forward to us. He’s scary when he touches the puck and he can make things happen so we did a pretty good job of at least limiting some of his chances."
STUCK IN NEUTRAL
Coming off a big victory against Malden Catholic last Saturday, you could almost excuse St. John's Prep for suffering something of a letdown last night.
The Eagles struggled to put passes together and struggled to find quality scoring chances through the first 30 minutes of play. Even in the third, when SJP finally began to control the tempo somewhat, they still seemed unable to get themselves into any kind of groove despite outshooting their counterparts.
"There was no flow. We just looked out of sorts the entire night and couldn't get anything going," Prep coach Kristian Hanson admitted. "Systematically we were off. It just seemed like we were fighting every stride that we took tonight, like we were skating in quicksand."
"Scoring opportunity-wise we had some but we didn't do anything outstanding tonight where I felt we had our chances and just couldn't put anything away," Hanson continued. "That's our fault. We just did not play well. Those things happen. We’ve got a good group of kids in there and we’ve had a pretty good year up to this point so we’ll hope to turn things around on Saturday."