LOWELL, Mass. - All season long, BC High has gotten serious contributions from a collection of talented skaters who aren't afraid to grind it out and do the dirty work as well.
Junior Steve DeForge has been one of those guys, the 'glue guy' that every coach wishes they had a bench full of. He isn't the only one on the Eagles roster, but he came through the play of the game that resulted from his typical daily output.
During a line change, Catholic Memorial was attempting to clear its own zone. DeForge, forechecking the play as he has done all year long, made a clean theft of the pass at the blue line. The junior took a couple of hard strides into the high slot area and drilled an absolute bullseye to the upper, far corner with 8:13 remaining in the game.
That broke a 1-1 tie, and the No. 3 Eagles were able to add an insurance goal later and held on for a 3-1 victory over the sixth-seeded Knights in the first game of a best of three series in the Div. 1A first round at Tsongas Arena.
"It was just a late change-up, I jumped on the ice, two guys are low so obviously first instinct is third guy high," DeForge said as he described the play. "They had a quick pass to the boards, the kid just popped it out, loose puck and I just got right on it and ripped it. It was perfect. Right spot at the right time."
Added Eagles coach John Flaherty, "He intercepted a pass right in the slot and he put it where nobody could stop it, not that goalie or any other goalie. He put that shot where nobody would get to it."
It is fitting that these two programs should be guaranteed a matchup in the Super 8. After all, no two teams personify the illustrious history of this tournament more than Catholic Memorial and BC High -- not to mention they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the on-ice rivalry this season.
The Eagles (15-3-3) jumped out first as Tom Besinger won a faceoff directly back to Jake Lemanski, who unleashed a rocket that screamed past Knights (12-7-2) goalie Brandon Collett at 8:53.
Catholic Memorial pulled even in the second as Jack O'Hear put back the rebound of a Kevin Hock shot. Aside from that one marker, however, BC High goalie Peter Cronin was superb. The senior made 12 of his 22 saves in the middle frame, a performance which saw him come out on the winning side more than once in a very exciting individual matchup against dangerous Knights forward Liam Coughlin.
"He's a goal scorer, that's what hes good at," Cronin said in praise of Coughlin. "In the second period he came in on a two-on-one and our defensemen did a good job of taking away the passing option. I knew he was going to try and maybe sneak one high glove side and I just threw up the glove. I might have gotten a little bit lucky but when a kid comes down like that you have to expect him to shoot."
BC High tacked on one final mark, showing a little bit of stick-to-itiveness by running the same play twice in succession. It's a backdoor play where defenseman Sam Topham fed forward Patrick Kramer down low. Kramer fanned on the initial attempt but when Topham fed him once again, the sophomore did not miss, giving the Eagles a 3-1 lead with 2:39 left to play.
At the other end, Collett proved himself more than capable in his debut on the state's biggest stage. The freshman made nine of his 17 stops in the first period, and it's hard to find fault with him on any of the three Eagles goals.
"On the first goal, they won the faceoff and our guy skated right by him and they had the shot," recalled Knights coach Bill Hanson. "Theres nothing [Collett] could do there. On the second goal, we preach all the time, chip it up the boards, don't make cross-ice passes in our end. It goes right on [DeForge's] stick and bang.
"Our goaltender played well. We didn't lose the game because of our goaltender. When you score one goal in a game, you're not going to win many games. Especially against a team like BC High with the way they play defense and eventually the way they have the goaltender back there in Peter [Cronin]."