FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- Clinging to a one-goal lead heading into the final period, St. John’s (Shrewsbury) knew full-well Marshfield would throw everything but the kitchen sink at them over those last 15 minutes.
The No. 11 Pioneers were dead on in terms of their prediction. The No. 12 Rams opened up their offense in the frame, attacking the Pioneer zone with reckless abandon.
But when he needed to step up, St. John’s goaltender Mario Pizzeri did – meeting the challenge head-on. Pizzeri, a senior, was nothing short of brilliant, especially over the closing period, stopping all 11 shots he faced to preserve the Pioneer’s 2-1 victory in the opening round of tonight’s Silverback Hockey Classic at Loring Arena.
“That was a complete 45 minute game out there by both teams,” said Pizzeri, finishing with 28 saves. “I thought Marshfield kept most of their shots to the outside. I was seeing them pretty-well, but I still need to work on my rebound control a little more.”
St. John’s (2-1-1) will face Framingham in tomorrow night’s championship game beginning at 7:50 p.m. Marshfield (2-2-0) will take on Catholic Memorial in the consolation tilt starting at 5:50.
“Mario played very well,” Pioneers head coach Mike Mead said. “He really stood tall. Marshfield kept coming at us. We bent a little but didn’t break. We’re still continuing to learn as we go. We just want to get a little better with each game and hopefully a little tougher as well.”
The Pioneers grabbed an early 2-0 lead after dominating all but the final 20 seconds of the opening period, putting up 14 shots to the Rams’ five. Mike McGillicuddy, skating all alone along the right boards, put St. John’s up 1-0, launching a laser beam past Marshfield goaltender Connor Lemiuex just 33 seconds in.
The Pioneers continued to set up camp inside the Rams’ defensive zone and would add to their lead five minutes later when senior defenseman Bryan Nelson sailed a hard wrist shot through traffic that Lemiuex (30 saves) never saw.
It appeared as though St. John’s would head into the first intermission with its two-goal lead intact. But with 20 seconds remaining, an errant Rams shot deflected off the glass behind Pizzeri and landed onto the stick of junior Will Cole just in front of Pizzeri. The forward easily slipped the puck into the net to narrow the deficit to 2-1.
“Our kids played hard,” Marshfield head coach Dan Connolly said. “Mario [Pizzeri] played unbelievable for them in net. He made some big saves but Connor made some big saves for us too. We never gave up and had a couple of chances to tie it in the third but overall I thought our whole team played well tonight. We just couldn’t get the win.”
Both teams played evenly over during the middle frame, with each landing 13 shots on net but nothing to show for it. Marshfield’s offensive effort certainly looked to be much better in the period, but the Pioneers did a nice job clogging up the neutral zone and slowing the Rams rush up the ice. Likewise, Marshfield was performing admirably by taking away some of the passing lanes St. John’s had used effectively in the initial frame.
“We need to play more even-keeled out there,” Pizzeri said. “When you score two goals you should want to score two more. You don’t want to sit back and play just defensive because the other team can just start piling it up. That’s what they started doing in the third.”