WILMINGTON, Mass. – Catholic Memorial and St. John's Prep were both in search of their first marquee win yesterday at Ristuccia Arena.
The Knights got it.
After an entertaining, back-and-forth affair, No. 8 CM escaped with a 2-1 win in the Knights’ Catholic Conference opener.
“We started off pretty slow,” CM's Mike Stathopolous said. “We kind of settled down between the first and second periods and then came into the second doing stuff with the system and kind of got after it.”
Stathopolous had a solid game that culminated when he fed sophomore Paul Hardiman, who buried it in the top corner above the should of Prep goalie Brian Conroy, early in the third to put CM ahead for good.
Before CM (6-1-0, 1-0-0) was able to score the go-ahead goal, it had to stave off the Prep attack that ambushed them in the first period. Prep outshot CM 12-2 in the first period and was able to solve Brandon Collett when Mark Etherington slid behind the CM defense and scored on a pass from Jim Currier with 10 seconds remaining in the period.
“They just jumped all over us, took the play away from us,” CM coach Bill Hanson said. “They won the battles along the wall and we just said settled down. Our goaltender kept us in the game, he was terrific.”
The Knights' offense shook off the bus legs in the second period and flipped the script on Prep. CM outshot the Eagles 10-5 in the second and every offensive line had quality scoring chances. None was better than Bill Czar tipping a shot into the top corner midway through the period to tie the game.
Collett buckled down in net for the Knights and finished the game with 27 saves.
“We had to grind it out and get the win,” Collett said. “That's how it's going to be all year.”
Prep (3-4-1, 0-3-1) had plenty of chances in the third period, the Eagles put 11 shots on goal, but they were unable to tie the game.
St. John's head coach Kristian Hanson gave credit to Collett in goal but also said that his team had to be more direct offensively.
“The guys just have to crash the net more, get some garbage goals, and play dirty,” Hanson said. “When I say dirty I mean go to the net, get in the dirty areas that no one wants to stand in. That's how you score goals. A lot of the stuff we're trying to do is too cute out there. It just doesn't work.”
MR. 600: Saturday's win was a historic one for Bill Hanson as it was his 600th win at the helm of the Knights. After all the years and all the wins, Hanson said he'd lost track.
“I had no idea,” Hanson said. “I knew it would be sometime this year, but I didn't know when.”
Hanson's teams have won 17 Super 8 titles and he's coached more than two dozen NHL draft picks. Even with the victories and accolades, Hanson said he was proud to achieve the goal with this year's Knights.
“The fact that I don't keep track of it tells you a lot,” Hanson said. “It couldn't have been with a greater group of kids too. You saw that game, they're a fun group to watch.”
EMPTY BOX: Catholic Conference rivalries run deep so it was quite a surprise that not a single penalty was called during yesterday's game. Apart from one or two moments in the third period there wasn't even a non-call that angered the fans.
Both coaches gave credit to their teams playing hockey within the rules.
“They let us play, but the kids to their credit, [at] the whistle stopped,” Bill Hanson said. “No one yaps. No high sticks … just real good disciplined teams.”
“I'd rather play every game without penalties,” Kristian Hanson said. “The refs did a good job today. It was a clean game anyways. I think we made their job easy.”
Stathopolous said that it was a pleasant difference to having a flowing game on the ice.
“The refs did a great job letting us play,” Stathopolous said. “There were some things that could have been called, but if you want to play a team you want to play them five-on-five. It was a good game.”