STONEHAM, Mass. -- As Corey Webber streaked down the ice in overtime, looking to bury the game-winning goal, defenseman Nick Gorski trailed the play thinking about the fact that he was in the midst of a two-minute, 30-second long shift, hoping that his teammate would do them all a favor and end it.
Webber broke in on Hingham goalie John Grenier, watched as the senior made the stop on his first shot, then with eyes as big as beach balls when the rebound landed on his stick, Webber calmly put it home and brought a huge roar from the Raiders' faithful.
That marker came with 2:06 remaining in the extra frame, capping a three-goal comeback as eighth-seeded Central Catholic surged past No. 9 Hingham for a 4-3 victory in the first of two Div. 1A play-in games Monday at Stoneham Arena.
The Raiders (14-5-3) move into the Super 8 field and will face top-seed St. John's Prep in a best-of-three series that starts Sunday at Tsongas Arena.
"I got behind their D, calling for [teammate Kevin Regan] to pass it," said Webber when asked to describe his game-winner. "He changed it right to me, I saw there was a D there so I shot it low right through the defenseman's feet, got it to the net, crashed the net, got the rebound and it went in.
"It had been rebounds all game and I was just surprised it was right on my stick I was ready there," he added. "There was one in the third I actually missed off a rebound, I missed the net, so I was ready to bury that one."
It looked as though Central Catholic may have been left for dead as Hingham (13-8-2) seemed to be continuing the momentum from a 10-1 victor5y over Marshfield in the regular season finale. The Harbormen outshot the Raiders, 23-13, through the first two periods and needed just 27 seconds to score the game's first goal as Sam D'Antuono stuck in the third of a flurry of rebounds.
Hingham got itself a shorthanded goal just 2:51 into the second as D'Antuono left a nice drop for Matt Brazel, who unleashed a nasty snipe from the slot to give his team a 2-0 lead. Just under six minutes later, D'Antuono struck again, converting a pass from Brazel.
"They played a great game tonight," said Hingham coach Tony Messina in praise of his two stars, D'Antuono and Brazel. "We tried to get them out there a lot, they were tired at the end but they're our best chance to score. Sometimes we rely on them too much to score, unfortunately, but when the game gets going like that, that's what do - try to get them out there all the time. They had a great game."
When all seemed lost, junior defenseman Alex Lester came through with a controversial goal with just 1:21 left in the frame. It was hard to tell if the puck actually crossed the line or not (Hingham said no, Central said yes, no surprise). The on-ice official never blew his whistle but the goal judge flipped the light on. After a conference, the goal was ruled good and the Raiders had the spark of momentum they needed.
"After that goal by Lester, I guess it was controversial but we all knew it went in," Gorski said. "We were confident that the right call was going to be made and when they made the call, the place went crazy. We knew there was going to be a swing in momentum."
Indeed there was. Central turned up the heat and controlled the third period, exceeding their output in the first two with 14 shots. After a faceoff win in the Hingham zone in a four-on-four situation, the puck cycled around to Gorski, who fired in his shot from the point at 2:56.
The Raiders kept firing but Grenier (26 saves) kept getting in the way all the way until Regan won the battle for a rebound of a Lester shot and tied the game with just 1:09 remaining in regulation.
As he had done all game long, Raiders goaltender Colin Soucy (30 saves) continued to stand on his head and snuffed D'Antuono on a breakaway bid with just 25 seconds left. Off the ensuing faceoff, Brazel clanged one off the post and the game went into overtime.
"It started with Soucy. He made some great stops, back to back to back and he gave us every opportunity to win that game," Central head coach Mike Jankowski said. "He was fantastic, you can't say enough good things. Every time you're holding your breath and kicks something else out, another part of his body got the rebound. he just stood on his head for us. He did remarkably well."
Each goalie made big stops in the extra minutes, and just when everyone started thinking about a shootout, Webber got loose and banged in his own rebound to send his team into the Super 8.
"It's unbelievable character," Jankowski said of his team's comeback. "We talked about a lot of people not giving us a chance. We talked about being in the play-in before where they hadn't been, they've always been in the top six. We've been here before and just reminding them that every shift matters, every period matters and keep moving forward. Great resiliency, great character."
Hingham returns to the Div. 1 South tournament field for just the second time in the last 12 years and will be the second seed, based on win percentage.
"It's a tough way to lose," Messina admitted. "I just told the kids we gave it our hardest. Sometimes we have trouble sealing the deal and that's what happened tonight. We went out there and tried to change nothing in the third period, just be smarter about the pinching, giving up two-on-ones, three-on-ones, and I think we did for the most part. Couple of crazy goals but they were coming strong, they sensed it and they had momentum at the end."