CHELMSFORD, Mass. -- For the first 15 minutes of Burlington and St John’s of Shrewsbury’s Division I North first-round game at the Chelmsford Forum, the teams seemed as evenly matched as possible.
However, in the final 30 minutes of the game the momentum shifted in favor of the Pioneers who rode a two goal, two assist effort from sophomore Chris Stalmok and a 22-save performance from goalie Mario Pizzeri to a convincing 4-0 victory and will now face Arlington in the quarter-final round on Saturday (time and place TBD).
The Pioneers “second” line of Stalmok, Kevin Quinlivan (three assists), and Patrick Storer (goal and assist) created havoc in the Burlington end all night.
“We don’t actually have first and second lines,” quipped St. John’s coach Mike Mead. “Chris (Stalmok) had a great game. He is a young kid and to get a couple goals is a great thing for him but I thought all our forwards played well.”
In the second period, the forwards seized control of the game for St. John’s.
Less than a minute into the second period, Stalmok was in the right place at the right time when Quinlivan’s initial shot ricocheted off a Devils skate allowing Stalmok to send a backhand into an open net past a prone Mike Guleserian (30 saves).
Pizzeri came up with two big saves following the goal to quell any momentum the Devils were looking to recoup.
Early in the third period, Stalmok unloaded a slap shot that caromed off the back boards and sat behind the net where Storer wrapped it in at the left post for a 2-0 lead.
After a Burlington major boarding penalty, the Pioneers put the game away on power play goals from senior Chris Adams and Stalmok.
“It is a nice way to start the playoffs against a two time defending state champion,” added Mead. “They are a tough team to play and after a slow first period we started to come together. It was a good team win.”
Super Mario: Goaltenders need to have short memories and Mario Pizzeri certainly does.
In the Pioneers final game of the season, Pizzeri and his squad were on the wrong end of a 9-2 loss to Xaverian, not the way they wanted to head into the tournament.
The tournament is a clean slate for everyone and Pizzeri showed his true colors posting the shutout.
“It was a definitely a good game bouncing back,” said Pizzeri. “I think we were all playing with a bit of a chip on our shoulders because we know we let the Super Eight slip away in the last game. I have learned you just need to keep moving and keep an even keel. Even a game like this, it is just on the next one.”
St. John’s coach Mike Mead had no doubt his senior captain would have a bounce back effort.
“When you finish the season like that you want to make sure your next game is a little bit better,” said Mead of his senior goalie. “Mario’s focus was there and for him to come back with a shutout is huge for him and huge for his confidence and it is going to help us moving forward.”
Streak comes to and end: The Middlesex League acquitted themselves nicely in Division I North games Tuesday night winning five out of six. But it was the Devils with the league’s only loss, tasting defeat in the postseason for the first time in three years.
The two time defending champions end a run of eight straight postseason wins, their last loss, a 6-4 defeat to Central Catholic in the Super Eight play in game in 2012.
“It is an empty feeling when you lose in the tournament,” said Burlington coach Bob Conceison. “We have not felt this feeling in the tournament in a couple of years now and it is not a great feeling.”
Burlington struggled to score goals all season, scoring three or more goals just three times over their final 12 games.
“I thought we played real well for two periods but it has been our story all year,” added Conceison. “We just don’t bury the puck when we have chances. They hung in there but that second goal took the wind out of our sails.”