STONEHAM, Mass. — Arlington Catholic clawed its way back to force overtime, but Waltham goalie Nick Russo stole the show making 39 saves as the Hawks held on to beat the Cougars, 3-2, in the Division 1 North quarterfinals.
Russo was by far the star of the game as it took the Cougars (11-7-4) until the third period to find the back of the goal.
“He doesn’t get rattled,” Hawks head coach John Maguire said. “The pressure was relentless on him for while, and they had more jump in their offense than us. He made some very key saves.”
Bryan Longmoore had a goal and an assist for Waltham (13-8-2) in the win. His helper set up Joe Tully on the game-winning goal in overtime.
Arlington Catholic’s Marc Vercellini put on a show in the third period especially as he single handedly brought the Cougars from down, 2-0, to a 2-2 tie. He finished the night with a goal and an assist.
“We told Marc [Vercellini] in the locker room that tonight was the best game he has ever played at Arlington Catholic,” Cougars head coach Dan Shine said.
Waltham’s Kevin Snow started the scoring within the first two minutes of the second period after a scoreless first. Snow beat Arlington Catholic goalie John Richard (16 saves) in close on a wrist shot.
“[Snow’s] line has been carrying us a lot this season, and it was just a simple case of guys going to the net,” Maguire said. “We talk about dirty goals, and that was definitely one.”
Play started to get very physical as both teams delivered a few bone crunching hits, and Brendan O’Connell had a great chance to tie the game up. O’Connell was able to walk right out in front of the goal from behind on Russo, but Russo stayed with the speedy forward to keep his Hawks up, 1-0.
Before the period ended, Longmoore added a goal, which sent the Hawks into the intermission up two goals.
In the third period, Arlington Catholic amped up its offensive attack throwing everything it had at Russo. Vercellini was in the middle of all of it, as he set up Ryan Tierney with a beautiful one-timer by undressing the defense on his way to the goal.
“That was a big time move he made to get by the defense, and he put the puck right on Ryan Tierney’s stick, he buried it,” Shine said.
Vercellini kept the offensive pressure up throughout the period, and the Cougars finally got the tying goal with only 2:39 remaining in the third. It was of course Vercellini who tied things up as he tipped in a shot from the blue line.
“I saw it hit his stick and go into the net, and that is how you beat a good goalie like Russo,” Shine said.
Neither team could find twine before the end of regulation, so the game went to overtime. In overtime, Tully was the hero as he backhanded the game-winner past Richard, keeping Waltham’s season alive.
“I just saw the play creating as Longmoore was coming down with the puck, and I saw a lane on the right side to the net,” Tully said. “I called for the puck, and I found an opening to score. I just watched it slowly go in, and it was pretty surreal.”