HINGHAM, Mass -- Top-ranked Malden Catholic was supposed to come in and use Hingham’s Derek McInnis for skeet shooting practice firing pucks from every angle. Even Hingham head coach Tony Messina was joking post-game that ‘the NHL team was coming in.’
Well, the Lancers didn’t realize McInnis was up for the challenge.
The senior goalie stopped a career-high 33 of 34 shots on net as the No.4 Harbormen shocked everyone with a 2-1 victory at a sold out Pilgrim Ice Arena to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
Austin O’Connor put back his own rebound for the power play game-winner with 10:39 left on the clock as the penalties really hurt the offensive flow of the game for the Lancers.
The Harbormen rung up ghosts from the past as they sent Malden Catholic packing in last year’s Super Eight semifinals in their last meeting en route to the school’s first-ever Division 1A title.
“Probably the most saves [McInnis] ever made,” said Messina. “I said to our guys they are shooting a lot but we are getting sticks in the way, tipping the puck, blocking shots and you saw that.”
In total, Malden Catholic (7-2-0) peppered McInnis and out-shot the Harbormen, 34-21, in the game. Although the Lancers fired an amazing 64 shots toward net, they only had one goal to show for it.
After a scoreless first period, Hingham (6-1-3) hit the back of the net first as Alex Pompeo scored unassisted at 7:08 of the second period. But the Lancers were not rattled one bit as junior defenseman Connor Evangelista rifled one from the point just 2:22 later in the period off a simple assist from the right slot from BU-bound Brendan Collier to tie the score 1-1 heading into the third. The tying goal came on the power play as Dan Griffin’s second penalty of the period proved costly and Mike Vecchione set up a perfect screen out in front of the right post for Evangelista.
After Evangelista’s equalizer, the Hingham defense did an excellent job keeping the Lancers’ offensive juggernaut out along the boards and along the perimeter. The sold-out crowd seemed to come alive in the third realizing that Hingham has a chance in an arena that Messina likes to liken to Fenway Park. Great to play on, stifling home-ice advantage –- not so great to watch a game.
“It’s nice to have the home ice because you can change all the time and we can control that and keep them to the perimeter in this rink because it’s small but they still get a good shot off,” Messina said. “If we play them again down the road I’m not sure we will be able to control that.”
The Lancers picked up their third penalty as Ryan Fitzgerald headed to the penalty box and O’Connor made them pay. With only five seconds remaining on the man advantage, O’Connor was sitting on the doorstep of the crease when he wristed a shot that ricocheted right back to his stick for the put-back, rebound tally.
“I thought [Hingham] played hard the whole way, beating us to the puck, we were waving our sticks looking for the big play and it just didn’t happen,” Lancers head coach Chris Serino said.
When discussing the untimely penalties, Serino pulled no punches.
“You lose your best line and we lost our best line for the third period. And that’s our fault. No one else’s fault but ours. Just stupid penalties.”
Malden Catholic came this close to tying things up as Collier put an almost-perfect, opposite-post shot on net just outside the left point. Collier’s shot hit inside the post and O’Connor’s goal held up as the game-winner.
“[O'Connor has] come a long way, the first few years he didn’t play a lot and last year he contributed to the team on the defensive end and now we have him on the first line moving the puck around,” Messina said. “What can I say, he’s scored some big goals this year.”
Malden Catholic had one other loss coming into the contest, by forfeit, to Weymouth in a game they won 5-1 but turned over due to an ineligible player.
O’Connor’s game-winner keeps Hingham with only one loss, a 5-3 decision against Catholic Memorial.
“What a good hockey game,” Serino added. “But I really thought they outplayed us. They beat us to loose pucks, they forechecked harder than we did, they were in great position and were really well coached. We were probably out-coached, so we got out-played and we got out-coached. So they did a good job on us.”
MALDEN CATHOLIC - (7-2) 0 - 1 - 0 - - 1
HINGHAM (6-1-3) - 0 - 1 - 1 - - 2
FIRST - NONE
SECOND - H, Alex Pompeo (unassited), 7:08; MC, Connor Evangelista (Brendan Collier), 9:31 (pp).
THIRD - H, Austin O'Connor (unassisted), 4:11 (pp).