WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- When Peter Crinella knocked home his second goal of the afternoon very late into the third period to tie the game for Springfield Cathedral, there was more than a few heads bowing on the Archbishop Williams bench. The Bishops felt they played too hard and had come too far for them to earn just a measly point out of this contest.
With still a little time left, Archbishop Williams had a go-for-broke attitude. As the clock ticked down to under a minute, they conjured up one last rush down ice. With the puck on his stick, Eric Keefe let a shot fly which caromed off the left goal post. Fortunately for Keefe, the puck retreated directly back onto his stick and the junior was able slip it underneath Panther goaltender John Liquori for the game-winner with just 42 seconds left.
"After the first shot hit the post I was able to grab it,'' said Keefe, who also netted a second-period goal. "At that point I was just thinking I had to put it in. This is a huge win for us. We hadn't beaten [Cathedral] in my three years here. This certainly brings up our confidence to a high level. We have a solid goaltender and all three lines played their hearts out today and we were able to come away with the win."
Both programs lived up to the standards they've created for themselves over the years in this one. For the most part, things were evenly balanced.
No. 3 Cathedral (2-1-1) mustered 36 shots while the No. 7 Bishops (2-0-0) recorded 35. Archbishop Williams' defense throughout was solid led by Kenny Lofstrom, Colin Boyle, Kyle Leonard, Pat Wombly and Tyler Bradford. All played physical again the Panthers high-octane offense and sacrificed themselves on numerous occasions to dive in front of shots.
"We knew coming up here it was going to be a tough game for us," Bishops coach Derackk Curtis said. "This was an early test for us and the boys played real well. We've been putting a lot of work into this group. Tonight we started to see the fruits of our labor in terms of them being more physical, blocking shots, being aggressive and working their checks. I think all of those things are starting to come together and the kids are starting to identify what it takes to be successful."
Crinella, who leads the Panthers with eight goals, gave his club an early 1-0 lead at 10:09 of the opening period. Positioning himself just outside the crease, the junior took a pass from Devan Tongue and lifted a backhand past Matt McCaughey.
That lead lasted just four minutes. With Archbishop Williams on the powerplay, Ryan Dunn tied matters. The senior dragged the puck through traffic before slipping a shot between Liquori's pads.
Another power play midway through the middle period produced another goal for the Bishops. Archbishop Williams pressured the Cathedral zone. After two shots bounced off of Liquori's pads, Keefe made sure his didn't, finding an open left side of the net to slip the puck into giving his team a 2-1 advantage.
Things remained that way for the remainder of the frame. In the third, the Panthers showed much more aggressiveness on offense. A team literally made up of underclassmen, Cathedral didn't play like it for most of the final 15 minutes. The Panthers ambushed McCaughey (34 saves) with several shot early. But the junior blocked all of them. Then, after Cam Mariani was called for a hook, Cathedral had the opportunity it needed, working the puck methodically into the Bishops' zone, a couple of quick shots netted nothing. However, McCaughey couldn't control the rebound on one of them in which Crinella was in perfect position to poke it into the back of the net to knot this affair at 2-2.
"I thought this was a great game," Panthers coach Brian Foley said. "It was two good teams going at it. We're improving and we're young. Missing [forward] Zac Prattson (two game suspension) hurts us because they have a bunch of seniors, physically he brings a lot to the table for us. We felt his absence today. I thought [Liquori] had a great game in net as did their goalie. We came out on the wrong end today but we'll learn from it."
At this point, the Panthers probably would've settled for a tie and did everything they could defensively to block Archbishop Williams' passing lanes and breakaways. It seem to work until Keefe was able to squeeze through and finding himself in the right place once his initial shot bounced off the pipe and directly in front of him to slip his shot by Liquori (32 saves) for the game-winner.
"You get a little worried in those type of situations," Curtis said. "Cathedral seemed to keep missing the net high and we had some good, quality chances that were stopped. You get worried because you don't have a significant-enough lead in the dying seconds of the game. But we were able to bounce back late.
“Last year, I don't think we win this game. The other team would tie it up late and we might fold at that point. This year the boys are a lot more focused and you have to proud of the way they've played."