DORCHESTER, Mass. – When one of yours is down, you rally around the ranks.
No. 2 BC High did just that Tuesday night at UMass-Boston while facing Catholic Conference rival and statewide No. 1, Malden Catholic.
In the 24 hours leading up the Eagles’ bout, head coach John Flaherty had his mind elsewhere – in particular, with his mother who was hospitalized due to illness. That’s exactly when his BC High squad, in the words of senior captain Steve DeForge, told their coach they “had his back.”
And the Eagles backed it up, storming out of the gate and finishing strong while snatching a 5-3 victory over the Lancers.
“He’s back and forth, taking care of her and taking care of us,” said DeForge, who scored two goals. “We talked about it yesterday in practice, we need to pick him up, how he picks up every day. I think we did it today.
“She’s always there for us as well. She’s always looking out for us and I think we made her really happy and we made him really happy to get this win tonight.”
The matchup marked the second time in less than two weeks’ time in which the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in ESPN Boston’s statewide Top 25 have gone head to head. Following MC’s 4-1 win over former No. 1 Austin Prep a little more than a week ago, the Eagles (6-0-1, 2-0-1 Catholic Conference) became the second straight second-ranked team to topple No. 1.
That motivation, coupled with the inspiration of playing for Flaherty’s mother, who constantly keeps up with the team, proved enough.
“We wanted this win, they’re the top team in the state,” said sophomore forward Patrick Kramer, who led all scorers with four points. “We worked on trying to be better offensively because obviously we weren’t very good against Xaverian [Saturday].”
After a sluggish start against Xaverian in their last league game, the Eagles entered Monday’s action with a purpose. BC High outshot the Lancers 9-2 in the first period and took a 2-0 lead to the room at intermission on two goals set up on assists from Kramer.
Senior defenseman Chris Pekrul got the Eagles started in the right direction, scoring on a point shot off of Kramer’s dish at 4:49 of the first. The goal came with a sixth BC High attacker on ice, following a delayed penalty call against MC.
BC High struck again before the period was out with sophomore winger Kayser Raei scoring his first of the season at 10:43. Kramer picked up his second of four assists on the 3-on-2 break.
“First line through fourth line, we were rolling lines, everybody was working hard,” DeForge said. “We were getting clean break-outs, a lot of offense as well. Luckily, we put a few away and that’s just from getting traffic in front, digging down and working hard out in front of the net.”
But, as they have been known to do in recent years, the Lancers (5-1-0, 1-1-0) turned it up for the second period, upping their intensity and rattling off three straight goals.
MC sophomore center Matt Filipe continued his tremendous start in the new year with back-to-back goals within four minutes to tie the game, 2-2. The Lancers took their first lead of the game with 1:07 remaining in the period, as Ara Nazarian forced a BC High defensive zone turnover before finishing with a top-shelf wrister.
However, the Eagles pulled even before the stanza was out, thanks to their first of three goals on the power play (3-for-6). Kramer worked down low to find DeForge cutting toward the goalmouth. After a tape-to-tape pass, the Eagles had knotted it up again with six second remaining in the second.
“With six seconds left, it got the crowd going and gave us a little momentum to bring into the locker room,” DeForge said.
With all even, the Eagles turned their attention to their next task.
“Our goal in the third period is that we wanted to win 15 minutes in that last period and that’s what we did,” Flaherty said.
BC High capitalized on an early power-play opportunity with Connor Noonan ripping a wrist shot from the slot for what would prove to be the game-winner at 3:26, with an assist from Ryan Shea.
The Eagles capped scoring with 1:22 to play with DeForge tallying his second goal in the midst of a five-minute major power play.
“We got beat by a better team tonight,” Lancers head coach John McLean said. “They worked harder than us. They had a better power play than we did. They killed penalties better than we did. They had a better forecheck than we did.”
Much improved: After a lackadaisical start to Saturday’s tilt at Xaverian, Flaherty preached starting fast to his team.
“They’re a great team and we knew that if we were going to beat them, we had to start fast and capitalize on opportunities,” he said. “I thought we did that in the first. In the second period, we started standing around a little bit and, again, if you give some of their players the time and space, they’re going to burn you.”
While the Eagles’ key to success was the power play – while shutting out the Lancers on their three man-up bids – BC High helped its chances with a fast start, playing from ahead and setting the pace of play through the first period.
But what was most important is how the Eagles rebounded from a string of three MC goals in the second.
“If you’re given an advantage, you have to capitalize because they’re going to on theirs,” Flaherty said. “We knew the special teams were going to be huge coming into today, we talked a lot about it coming into today in practice – both the kill and the PP.”
With some undisciplined play, the Eagles were not only able to draw even but skate away with the victory.
“The kids compete, they play hard,” McLean said. “I told you before, I think some of [the penalty calls] were questionable. But we’ll take them. It is what it is. They’re on the scoresheet so we’ll take them. We got beat.”