WORCESTER, Mass. -- It was one of those kinds of periods of hockey.
After spotting three goals to No. 1 Springfield Cathedral in the second period of Monday’s holiday matinee at Holy Cross’s Hart Center, Central Catholic head coach Mike Jankowski had some choice words for his team at intermission.
As to what those words were? Jankowski referenced the Constitution and one of Dave Chappelle’s finest sketches.
“I should plead the Fifth to that one,” Jankowski said coyly.
Whatever coach communicated to his team was taken to heart, as the Raiders erased a 3-1 deficit to come back and tie the Panthers, 3-3.
After falling behind 1-0 after one, Cathedral (9-0-2) mounted a three-goal outburst in the second, thanks to a two-goal effort from freshman forward Johnny Leonard.
However, No. 9 Central (8-2-2) reemerged from the room a different team. Mike Kelleher scored just eight seconds into the third to make it a one-goal game and Lloyd Hayes netted the equalizer with 6:20 remaining in the game.
“We knew we had to start the third pretty strong because we all know Springfield Cathedral’s a good team,” Raiders senior defenseman and captain Nick Gorski said. “We wanted to start strong, pound the net, get shots and battle for rebounds.”
Central climbed to an early lead at 2:40 of the first, with Alex Lester’s goal, assisted by Zach Cote.
The Panthers responded with a string of three straight goals in the second, started by Leonard’s first at 1:14. Peter Crinella scored Cathedral’s third goal of the period at 11:58, with assists from Cam Peritz and Artie Potter.
“They were all over us in the first period, even though we played well,” Panthers head coach Brian Foley said. “But the second period we just skated. We didn’t compete too well in the first period, but in the second period we picked it up. We started moving our feet, with or without the puck. We started getting shots on the net and crashing the net.”
Central responded in the third, playing with the confidence gained from Kelleher’s early goal. The Raiders blue-liners got into the action, jumping up into the play, while their forwards began dominating down low and looking to generate opportunities funneled back into the slot.
“We definitely felt like we could control the action down low,” Jankowski said, “and I think we made the adjustments with the defenseman to be a little bit more aggressive and play a little bit more offensively.”
FROSH OUT OF THE BOX
Leonard, with his two-goal game, increased his standing among the Panthers’ top scorers, building his season goal total to 10.
Foley said he was expecting big things from the “natural goal-scorer,” but was surprised by his impact this quickly.
“He’s been great for us. He had two today and now he has 10 on the season. That’s great production for a freshman at this level. He’s got a lot of poise with the puck … He’s playing great and he’s building confidence.”
MIND THE GAP
The Raiders agreed that they allowed Cathedral too easy an entry into their zone during the second period and, conversely, the Panthers put too many pucks in the back of their net.
“We knew we need to shorten our gap,” Gorski said.
That issue was addressed at intermission and Central responded with a much tighter effort in the third, when they held Cathedral to five shots on goal.
Gorski was part of the equation, meeting several Panthers forwards with body checks while trying to come over the blue line.
While stepping up on defense, the Raiders’ blue-liners were also able to move into the rush, creating several high quality scoring chances in transition during the third.
Much of that, as well, was due to the Raiders’ captain.
“He sees the ice so well, both offensively and defensively,” Jankowski said of Gorski. “He’s a two-way defenseman. He’s a kid that started from JV from freshman year, and he’s just an unbelievable story. He’s gotten better and better, year to year.”