FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With only three seconds remaining in the second period, St. John’s Prep senior forward Brian Pinho pounced on a Xaverian turnover and wristed a shot under the crossbar that broke open a game that, at least on the scoreboard, was still close.
That goal gave Prep a 3-0 lead heading into the final period and clearly deflated the Hawks, which had hoped to go into the third still within a couple of goals.
“To give that one up with three seconds was a real poor mistake that we made,” Xaverian head coach Dave Spinale said. “That gave them that life and it deflated us a little. That’s something we have to correct down the road.”
He added, “We come out and make it 2-1 and it’s a whole new ballgame. We hurt ourselves tonight.”
The goal was the first of two for Pinho, who had a hand in each of the Eagles’ tallies in a 5-0 rout of their Catholic Conference rival on Wednesday night at the Foxborough Sports Center. Pinho finished the game with two goals and three assists.
Xaverian (4-4-2, 0-2-2 Catholic Conference) just could not contain Prep’s captain.
“Brian, in my opinion, you could argue is the best player in the state,” said Eagles coach Kristian Hanson. “It’s not all about goal-scoring. He creates opportunities for other guys, he draws a lot of attention to himself, he can dish the puck, he can play defense…we utilize him in every aspect of the game.”
No. 3 Prep (8-2-0, 3-1-0) dominated the action from the opening whistle. Junior forward Jack McCarthy scored a power play goal just 2:30 into the game to give the Eagles an early lead and Xaverian spent much of the opening 15 minutes defending deep in their own zone. The Hawks were back on their heels and made a number of blocks and deflections to protect goalie Matt Michaels (19 saves).
Hanson felt his team was fully prepared for the game and, despite a long bus ride to Foxboro, was the team with the most energy to start the game.
“We definitely looked like we were prepared to play tonight,” Hanson said. “We talked about the game a lot the past couple of days. We know that Xaverian is the type of team that can beat anyone. It’s always tough to get on the bus and come down to Foxborough, so we’re pleased with the final result.”
The second period was more even with both teams struggling to create clear-cut scoring opportunities. The best chance for Xaverian was created by junior forward Brian Cahalane. He slid the puck through the crease while falling towards the boards and it caromed off the skate of a Prep defender and agonizingly wide of the far post.
With 3:11 remaining in the second period, Pinho fired a defense splitting pass across two lines and hit Nic Gianelli in stride. The senior drove at Michaels and finished with a backhand that slipped through the 5-hole to make it 2-0.
Spinale was not impressed with his team’s effort in an important conference game and was blunt about what he thought of the performance.
“I thought we were unfortunately flat all night,” he remarked. “That’s probably our worst effort of the year and it came at a bad time. They were better in all three zones. They were faster, more skilled, they were just better all the way around.”
The Hawks had an opportunity on the power play early in the third period, which might have gotten them back in the game. Instead, Prep turned it into a goal of its own when Gianelli returned the favor with a quick outlet pass to Pinho, who held off the defender and dragged the puck across goal to score.
Gianelli and Pinho combined to set up linemate Andrew Brandano with little more than four minutes remaining in the game to complete the scoring. Prep goalie Billy Price (20 saves) kept out a late Hawks flurry for the shutout.
Prep will face No. 6 Austin Prep in Stoneham on Saturday night, while Xaverian travels to face No. 18 Chelmsford on Monday.