ARLINGTON, Mass. -- The postseason is still a few weeks away, but Catholic Central League rivals Austin Prep and Arlington Catholic may have given the large throng of vocal fans inside Ed Burns Arena Saturday night a taste of things yet to come. We can only hope the dramatics that were on display will be seen again in late February.
Arlington Catholic was in control of a two-goal lead through the first 30 minutes only to watch in anguish as Austin Prep stormed back with three unanswered third period markers to squeak out a 3-2 triumph.
"It shows we've got some character," Austin Prep head coach Louis Finocchiaro said. "This is a tough building to come into and win a hockey game in. Not to mention going into the third period losing 2-0. The kids showed no quit and those are the type of kids you want on your hockey team. We played a God-awful second period but were able to rebound in the third. We just need to find it for three periods instead of one."
Sophomore winger Mike Egan's goal at 12:12 proved to be the difference as No. 3 Austin Prep, winners of five straight, improve to 8-2-2 and 5-0-2 in the CCL. Egan's tally was the pinnacle of a dominating closing period by the visiting Cougars. For the first two periods, Austin Prep's offense was at a standstill as ninth-seeded Arlington Catholic (8-2-1, 3-2-1) was in constant check mode, knocking Austin Prep off its skates along the boards and in the open ice.
In between, the hometown Cougars were able to find the back of net twice. At 10:05 of the first period, forward Ryan Tierney got a gratuitous bounce of the puck off the blocker of Austin Prep goaltender Elijah Harris and swiftly knocked it past the junior while on the power play. Despite being out-shot in the frame, Arlington Catholic dictated the tempo for much of it.
Junior Ryan Smith increased Arlington Catholic's lead to two goals at 8:40 of the middle period. The goal was set up by sophomore forward Andrew Somerville, who stole the puck along the left half wall, skated behind the Austin Prep goal and dished a pass to Smith in front of the net, who sent a one-timer past Harris (21 saves).
"During those first two periods I thought we played as well as we had in a long time," said Arlington Catholic head coach Dan Shine, who was denied career win No. 500 and will try again on Wednesday when Arlington Catholic travels to Archbishop Williams. "Credit to Austin Prep, they were down 2-0 and waited for their opportunities to capitalize. It was a great high school hockey event and obviously our kids are disappointed. I told them that we have to learn from this, be willing to accept what happen and move on from it. We can't do anything about tonight. It's over and we have to be ready for Wednesday. As much as we took it to them in the first two periods they obviously took it to us in the third."
Shine, who celebrates a birthday on Sunday, downplayed the quest for 500, stating he is more concern about his team attaining victories and doing well in the postseason instead of personal accolades.
Coming into the third, you had a sense that Austin Prep would not go down quietly. There is too much talent on this club for that to happen. Just 1:24 into the period, Austin Prep proved it. Ryan McDonough, a junior forward, was able poke in a rebound to put his team on the board.
A few minutes later, with Arlington Catholic defenseman Jon-Luke Dee sitting in the penalty box for interference, Austin Prep sniper Bobo Carpenter knotted things at 2-2 with a blast coming from just inside his own blue line that sailed over goalie John Richard's right shoulder.
Suddenly, every ounce of momentum inside this old barn had shifted to the side of Austin Prep.
But it didn't last long. Just seconds after Carpenter's goal, Austin Prep's J.J. Layton (roughing) and Anthony Cieri (interference) were whistled into the box simultaneously giving Arlington Catholic a 5-on-3 opportunity. Austin Prep did a yeoman-like job killing it off.
Then, moments later, Mike Disciullo was nailed for a tripping violation putting Arlington Catholic back on the power play. Once again, Austin Prep rose to the challenge, frustrating Arlington Catholic inside its defensive zone, blocking shots out front and allowing Harris to become a stop-gap between the pipes.
"Our penalty kill was phenomenal at the end," Finocchiaro said. "We rolled into a diamond defense and took the shooter away from the middle and we defended off of the shot. Decent teams will get shots off, especially in 5-on-3 situations. What you have to do is defend off the shot afterwards, clear out, pick up the rebounds and let the goalie get a clear look at the shooter.
“This is a big win for us because it is against a league rival and a big league game. We could've easily rolled over tonight and gotten blown out but we didn't."
With time winding down and all indications pointing to a well-deserved tie by these two state powers, Austin Prep had other ideas. Egan received a long pass from Andrew Cross at Arlington Catholic's blue line and out-worked defenseman Brian Goggin inside the zone toward the net before beating Richard (24 saves) with a backhand shot sparking a wild eruption from the Austin Prep bench. Arlington Catholic worked in vain to notch the equalizer but would be denied as time ran out on them.
"After the second period our coaches told us that we needed to pick it up," Egan said. "We needed to come out and play with more heart. We did that and we were able to finish. After Bobby's goal, the intensity off of that really carried us from there. We just need to continue to play hard from here on out and let things come together."