DORCHESTER, Mass. – Entering this MIAA hockey season, the largest question surrounding No. 5 BC High was what was to be done about the Eagles’ goaltending situation. After graduating two-time ESPN Boston All-State netminder Peter Cronin, BC High lost its backbone.
The Eagles return a good majority of their forwards from last year, in addition to a deep stable of defenseman, but any hockey team can quickly falter without a dependable netminder.
Enter sophomore Brendan Payzant.
Despite not having played a varsity game entering Saturday’s season opener against New Jersey state power Don Bosco Prep at UMass-Boston, Payzant (Cronin’s back-up last season) showed he’s capable of shouldering the No. 1 load, turning aside 18 shots for a 2-0 shutout victory.
“A couple of times he made really big saves when we were having breakdowns,” Eagles head coach John Flaherty said. “That’s a great sign. The boys have to be better in front of him, I think, but as a young guy, he stepped right in, didn’t have any nerves, didn’t have any jitters. We knew that’s what he was capable of.”
Despite a somewhat flat-footed start, BC High (1-0-0) ratcheted up its compete level in the second period, owning territorial play and outshooting the Ironmen (2-1-0, ranked No. 2 in N.J.) by an 8-3 margin.
The Eagles also scored both of their goals in the second stanza, with senior captain and center Steve DeForge breaking the stalemate at 7:58, with an assist from Chris LaLiberte. DeForge’s wrist shot from the slot beat Alexei Masanko 5-hole after BC High had forced a turnover below the faceoff dots.
With less than a minute to play in the second, the Eagles extended their lead to a pair of goals, with senior defenseman Trevor Davis pinching in deep. After dipping below the left-wing circle, Davis picked up a loose puck and played what was intended to be a centering pass to the top of crease. However, after hitting traffic out in front of Masanko, the puck squirted through his shin pads and across the goal line. Davis, himself, was below the goal line while playing the puck.
The third period saw more wide-open action, but BC High remained strong on the penalty kill (5-for-5). The Eagles were nearly perfect on the man-down throughout, allowing just one shot to make its way through to Payzant during one of four Ironmen power plays during the final period.
“It’s a good way to start the season off, it’s a big win,” DeForge said. “I thought everyone played well all-around and the PK was great. We work on that a ton, and having so many guys back that are used to each other, our game plan from last year is the same. Nothing’s changed. That helps when you have a bunch of experienced guys back there.”
PK dominance: Any coach that’s been around the game for a time will tell you that attention to detail is the key to a quality penalty kill effort. And, in the last several years, perhaps no unit in the state has been as good at one of those particulars as BC High is in the art of shot-blocking.
The Eagles were able to smother four shots while on the penalty kill, while allowing just one shot to make its way to the cage in the course of five Don Bosco power-play chances.
Senior alternate captain and winger Chris LaLiberte led BC High with two blocked shots on the PK unit. It’s something Flaherty has come to expect from a cagy, veteran player.
“He plays with his heart on his sleeve,” Flaherty said of LaLiberte. “He takes a lot of pride in his game and trying to contribute to this team. He does it through leadership like that, he takes his role seriously, he works hard and he doesn’t get outworked on pucks.”
Yet, for BC High’s PK prowess, the flip side of the specialty team coin wasn’t so shiny. The Eagles were also shut out in five power-play chances of their own.
“We’ve got to clean it up, we need to be a little more disciplined,” Flaherty said. “We can’t get caught up in the nonsense we got caught up in. And then, on the power play, we had chances as well, up 2-0, to put a team away.”