BOSTON – BC High head coach John Flaherty has often talked about the importance of his upperclassmen playing a big role and stepping up to the challenge. Junior Tim Larocque did just that scoring both goals for the Eagles in a 2-1 win over Xaverian on Sunday at the TD Garden.
The Eagles, the top seed in the tournament, gained a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series between the two Catholic Conference rivals.
“The toughest game in most tournaments is the first one. We hadn’t been on the ice in 10 days so the fact that we bounced back the way we did and didn’t cave was something I’m happy about,” said BC High head coach John Flaherty.
Larocque drives the net: With his team down 1-0, Tim Larocque put the Eagles offense on his back and changed the outcome of the game. Larocque picked up the puck on the left boards and cut in towards the goal before patiently waiting to get Xaverian goaltender Aidan Murphy down and out. Once he had moved around the goaltender he strongly slammed the puck into the back of the net to even the score just 1:29 into the second period.
“I was thinking about dropping the puck back to my line mate [Chris Laliberte],” said Larocque, “but I ducked my shoulder and went in hard. I just went to the net. Coach has really been emphasizing that lately so I went hard to the net and it went in.”
“It was huge,” said Larocque when asked about the importance of swinging the tide back in the Eagles direction. “We came out a little slow, and after the goal we picked up a lot of momentum.”
Larocque scored the game-winning goal later in the period on a play where he crashed the net to clean up a rebound. Laliberte and Justin Fein were doing nice work down low when the puck squirted loose. With the majority of the Xaverian defense and Murphy focused on Fein and Laliberte, Larocque swooped in and jammed it home at the 11:18 mark of the middle period.
“Justin Fein was working hard down low,” Larocque said. “He went to the net and I had my stick down low to bang in the rebound.”
“Timmy Larocque stepped up today. We talk about seniors and juniors in this part of the season and this phase of the tournament stepping up and he did that,” explained Flaherty.
Payzant rescues penalty kill: Coaches will often say that their goaltender needs to be their best penalty killer. BC High sophomore goaltender Brandon Payzant sure was tonight, especially when his team was down a man two separate times in the final five minutes of the game.
“I’m very happy with my goaltender the way he played down the stretch, especially killing penalties,” said Flaherty.
“He’s huge. He’s been solid for us all year. He’s been making a lot of clutch saves,” added Larocque.
Even the opposing coach came away impressed with BC High’s sophomore goaltender.
“I thought he played well. He’s been pretty good for them all year. I thought tonight was one of his better games,” said Spinale.
Murphy mature and poised: Payzant wasn’t the only goaltender that impressed on the big stage. Murphy, Xaverian’s freshman goaltender, was also up to the challenge. He made several key saves to keep his team in the game and appeared to be much more confident and poised than he was in last Monday’s Super 8 play-in game.
“He was so mature tonight,” Spinale said. “He kept us calm and he was outstanding. It was one of his better games all year. You get your goaltender to play a game like that and you have to put up more than one goal.”
He added, “He gives you a chance to win every night. He certainly did that tonight. He just battles. He has the maturity of an 18 or 19 year old.”
Xaverian top line clicks: It took Xaverian’s first line just a minute and nine seconds to open the scoring. Senior Antonio Marini was able to get his stick on a loose puck in front of the net and deflect it past Payzant for the game’s first goal. The tally came after a nice sequence of Marini, junior Tim Sweeney and sophomore Jon Beniers cycling the puck down low.
“It was huge obviously, coming out here against the number one seed, anywhere you play it’s important to get the swing of the momentum,” said Marini.
That line has been terrific for quite some time and has been a driving force behind the success of the Hawks.
“Our whole line is rolling really good,” Marini said. “We’re playing our best of hockey of the year, which is good coming into the playoffs. We’ve been rolling all year. We’re putting the puck in the net and getting our chances.”
Spinale added, “That’s a great line for us. With Jon Beniers’ speed and vision that line hasn’t skipped a beat. We need them to finish for us. I love watching them play.”
Looking ahead: Spinale was happy with how his team competed and liked a lot of what he saw, but feels his team has the type of players who can score in the dirty areas and be more of a presence in the slot.
“We weren’t able to get shots through,” Spinale said. “They block shots really well. We have to be smarter to find seams and do a better job getting to the net. We didn’t have a lot of pressure. It was too much of one chance and out.”
Flaherty was disappointed with his team’s lack of discipline down the stretch, but was happy to be up in the series heading to Wednesday’s second game.
“The penalty kill got too much work,” Flaherty said. “We have to do better in that area. The guys that were out there killing penalties did a nice job, but we can’t be giving guys like Beniers, Marini and Sweeney chances with three minutes left in the game, never mind two chances.
“I’m proud of how my guys did, especially my goaltender, but we got to eliminate [the lack of discipline] the rest of the tournament.”
Game two is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Tsongas Center on the campus of UMass-Lowell.