No. 17 Cathedral wins battle of Western powers

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The No. 17 Cathedral High School boy’s hockey team has had a lot of tests on the ice so far this season. On Thursday night at Olympia Ice Center, it was more of the same, as the Panthers had to face off against the reigning Division III state champion Longmeadow Lancers, who also boasted an undefeated record.

However the tests that Cathedral has faced so far this season have only made the team stronger, and the Panthers proved once again who is the boss in Western Massachusetts hockey, handedly taking down the 18th-ranked Lancers, 6-2.

“I really have to just hand it to our kids,” Cathedral coach Brian Foley said about his team’s intensity. “Every day they work their tails off in practice and we haven’t had a bad practice all year -- and I’ve never had a team where I could say that.”

The Panthers displayed hustle all game, but in the third period, their conditioning and grit showed through.

“They played a very good third period, we were close going into it, but they finished every single one of their checks,” Longmeadow coach Jim Joyce said about the Panthers. “They were physical so they outplayed us in the third period big time.”

In the third period, senior Dante Christofori had one goal and two assists to spark the Panthers. Cathedral scored four goals total in the final frame, securing a win and redeeming themselves from three-straight losses.

“We’ve been a little snake-bitten,” Foley said of his teams momentum. “It was really a good reward tonight to see them get six goals.”

The scoring was opened in three minutes, 15 seconds into the first period, when Cathedral defenseman Sean Kavanagh sliced his way through the Longmeadow defense untouched, and beat Longmeadow’s Tom McCarthy one-on-one to give Cathedral the early lead.

“I saw the lane in the open ice and I knew if I had one guy beat, hopefully I could beat the other guy,” Kavanagh said of the goal. “The goalie committed so I knew I had the net and I buried it.”

After the first intermission Longmeadow came onto the ice with a renewed intensity. Co-captain Mike Ratner was more active defensively, and delivered a few big hits in the second period to try and rally the Lancers.

Panthers’ junior Kemo Williams countered that 6:16 into the second, when the Longmeadow defense stepped up and broke up a Cathedral attempt in the post. Cathedral’s Griffin Foley lost the puck close to the Longmeadow net, but Williams was there to finish the play and put Cathedral up 2-0.

Down by two goals, Longmeadow’s Joe Stasiowski put the Lancers on the scoreboard by launching a shot from just inside the blue line on a fast break. Stasiowski’s shot ricocheted off of a Cathedral defender, and jumped past goalie Zac Rondeau for a goal.

Rondeau would let up another goal in the third period but played well and solidified a defensive unit that has been solid all year.

“We knew we needed a game to get our momentum going again, and this was the way to do it,” Rondeau said of the effort.

Both teams’ schedules do not get any easier from here. On Saturday, Longmeadow faces No. 22 Hudson in a crucial Division III matchup.

“Last year, we played them in the semi-finals and beat them, so I guess this has been circled on their calendar the whole year,” Joyce said about the game against Hudson. “They are undefeated, so they’re the best team right now in Division III.”

Also on Saturday, No. 10 B.C. High will venture to West Springfield to play Cathedral. Earlier in the year, the Eagles defeated the Panthers 2-1.

“That’s possibly the biggest game of the year so far for our team,” Kavanagh said about Saturday’s importance. “It’s alumni day so we have all the alumni coming back, and that is going to be a huge game.”