LYNN, Mass. – It was rock 'em sock 'em Saturday night at Connery Rink as St. Mary's and Austin Prep scrapped, scored, and fought their way to a pulsating 3-3 tie.
The Cougars fought back from a 3-1 deficit to earn a point.
“There's no quit in our locker room and I'm encouraged about that,” Austin Prep coach Louis Finocchiaro said. “I'm proud of our guys for never quitting, but we also got to get out of that funk. Whatever we got to do. I just told them eventually it's going to turn around for us. We've got to stick together; we've got to stay together.”
Cam Russo snuck behind the St Mary's defense with less than two minutes to go, picked up an outlet pass, and put home his own rebound on the breakaway to tie the game.
“I tell people that I look at him as my Patrice Bergeron,” Finocchiaro said of Russo. “He's a kid that at the end of the year he was the one you least spoke to during the season; he just understands the game. He's fantastic defensively, he's smart, he's always in good areas, and he comes up with clutch goals.”
St. Mary's used the home crowd to its advantage early and rallied behind it. The Cougars pressured for much of the opening five minutes before Jackson Allard dangled around two Prep defensemen and buried a goal.
Just 78 seconds later Austin's Bobo Carpenter jumped in on the fun, finessing through the Spartan defense and slicing a shot just over the glove of Bailey MacBurnie.
On a power play 77 seconds after the Carpenter goal, Dante Maribito circled around the goal, spotted a rebound, and slid it in for a goal to put the Spartans ahead 2-1 after a period.
“We expected a game like this,” St Mary's coach Mark Lee said. “We're very happy with our play. We battled all night tonight. I'm proud that I think we're coming of age right now. Our guys deserve a lot of credit for this game.”
The St. Mary's defense clogged Austin in the neutral zone for much of the game, but was at its best in the second period. The Cougars registered 11 shots in the middle frame, but were unable to muster many good scoring chances.
“Our defense has been lights out from day one,” MacBurnie said. “Ryan McManus, Chris Price, [Andrew] DiMaiti, Joe Scalli, Max McKay all really did a good job tonight.”
MacBurnie had another quality game in net, turning aside 30 shots.
“Bailey was tremendous tonight,” Lee said. “He's a big-game goaltender and he showed it tonight.”
Austin Prep outshot St. Mary's 33-9.
PANDEMOUNIUM REIGNS: Early in the third period several players converged in front of MacBurnie. Pushes turned to shoves that turned into full on fist fights.
In less than a minute of hockey, which took almost 30 minutes of real time, two scrums broke out that resulted in nine combined penalties. The most flagrant infractions were committed by Carpenter and St Mary's Chris Price, who dropped the gloves and went at it. Both were ejected and will also be suspended from their team's respective next two games.
“I just think both schools and both teams knew it was a huge game,” Finocchiaro said. “Sometimes emotions get heated, things get out of control.”
MacBurnie, who was near the initial dust up, said that emotions had been simmering for a while and the pot finally boiled over last night.
“Our coaches said that if they're going to try to hurt your goaltender and our younger kids, we have a young team, we're going to take a stand and not get pushed around,” MacBurnie said.
THE OTHER MACBURNIE: Bailey gets the accolades with his star performances in goal, but the younger MacBurnie stepped up to the occasion like he has all season so far.
Junior forward Shawn MacBurnie, who is the Spartans' leading scored, scored St. Mary's third goal and added the primary assist on Maribito's goal.
“One's a defensive stud and the other's leading the team in points,” Lee said. “He's kind of following, unfortunately, in his brother's shadow, but he's putting up some points for us.”
Older brother Bailey summed up his brother's performance succinctly.
“He's been lights out,” Bailey said.