WILMINGTON, Mass. – With zero room for error, St. John's Prep played as perfect a game as possible.
The Eagles jumped out to a lead in the first two minutes against Winchester and controlled the Sachems for much of the game en route to a 3-1 win at Ristuccia Arena. The win means that Prep will qualify for the Division 1 tournament with a win over Wakefield on Friday.
“Our tournament started about a month ago,” Prep coach Kristian Hanson said. “Tonight was absolutely do-or-die. The kids responded, they played a pretty solid game.”
Much of Prep's offense this season has run through its top line, but last night it was second-liner Ted McNamara who stole the show. McNamara scored two goals for Prep in the first period.
“Balance for team success is so critical,” Hanson said. “I didn't think our first line played well tonight honestly. They looked slow; they looked like they were off their game. It was nice to see the second line step up. We need other guys to contribute if we're going to win games. [McNamara] can definitely score goals. It was a big two he got tonight.”
For Winchester, Wednesday was another valley in an up-and-down season. Brendan Andrews scored the Sachems' lone goal with just more than two minutes left in the first period only to have McNamara answer with his second 61 seconds later.
Winchester coach Matt Spang was unenthused about his team's performance.
“We thought we had to buy tickets to the game and we played like it in the first two periods, we were just watching,” Spang said. “We decided to skate in the third, carried the play in the third, but we decided to watch for two periods. You can't watch for two periods and expect to win a hockey game.”
Ean Mendeszoon had St. John's third goal when he boomed home a shot from the point late in the second period.
LARAMIE RISES: For a first-year varsity player St. John's Prep goalie sure looked like a mature veteran between the pipes for the Eagles. The freshman turned aside 18 shots for Prep and looked smooth doing so.
“It was the type of game, especially late, where they got a lot of opportunities, and we were just sitting back,” Hanson said. “Zach had to make some big saves and he responded. That's what you need a goalie to do.
“I think tonight was a huge performance. That's what it's going to take for us to win games: goaltending. He was very solid tonight.”
When Winchester brought the pressure, Laramie sharpened even more, turning aside all eight shots he faced in the third period.
DEFENSE WINS: Winchester's top line of Brendan Greene, Nolan Redler and David Troiano is one of the most formidable in the state. Aside from Redler's secondary assist on the Sachems' goal, the Eagles were able to shut them down completely.
“All week we were emphasizing that line,” Prep defenseman Ryan Byrne said. “We just tried to shut down anything they had and we did basically.
“We knew they were tough. We just had to get on top of them and keep pounding them into the ground.”
The Eagles defense was at its best late in the third, giving up the body, dirtying up passing lanes, and pressing out to the blue lines. Prep's size advantage in the back allowed them to clog more space and suffocate Winchester.