WILMINGTON, Mass. -- This one was way too easy.
Following Springfield Cathedral's 10-2 dismantling of St. John's Prep Saturday at Ristuccia Memorial Arena, two things were learned. First and foremost, the sixth-ranked Panthers, a lock for Super 8 berth, have to be considered a legitimate threat for the state's most-esteemed high school hockey title. Secondly, whatever thread of hope the eight-rated Eagles had in securing an invite to the Super 8, are history. In fact, for a team on the verge of missing the postseason completely, this was hardly a performance to write home about.
Junior center Peter Crinella scored four goals and Devan Tongue, an eighth-grader, contributed three to lead Cathedral (13-2-4).
Leading by a goal after one period, the Panthers found the back of the net four times in the middle frame to run away with it.
"St. John's is obviously in desperation mode for a playoff," said Cathedral head coach Brian Foley. "They’re big and physical and came out hard. Coming out for the second period we hoped our speed and skill would take over as the game wore on. We've got some guys who can put some pucks into the net. The three lines we've settled in on just keep getting better and better. I think we are starting to gel at the right time."
The Panthers led 2-1 heading into the first intermission, as Crinella's power play redirect score at 12:58, as it turned out, put them ahead to stay.
Cathedral gained control during the middle period. Crinella bagged another at 6:27 with a short side wrist shot past freshman goaltender Zach Laramie. Two minutes later, Tongue got into the act after taking a clean pass from Johnny Leonard and finishing it off with a nifty back hand goal stick side, making it 4-1. Only 13 seconds later, D.J. Petruzzelli added to the Panthers' lead after sniping a 25-foot blast, thus extending the margin to four goals.
"St. John's is a very good team," Foley said. "As far as I'm concerned they're still a Super 8 caliber team. They can compete with anybody so coming into this game, this was big for us. Overall, I thought we got a complete team effort from everybody today."
At 10:12, freshman Dan Petrick managed to strip the puck away from new goaltender Brian Conry's catching glove and slip it into the net, giving the Panthers a commanding 6-1 advantage after 30 minutes.
Cathedral's offensive onslaught continued into the third period. An odd-man rush with Petrick and Tongue was finished with Tongue slipping a shot into the back of the net at 5:56. The Panthers weren't through. Petruzzelli, standing just outside the Prep goal crease, added his second tally, pushing the puck past Conry's reach. Less than a minute later, Crinella, conceivably the best player in the state, recorded his fourth marker on the afternoon after burying a hard wrist shot that Conry never saw. Tongue attained his first hat trick as a Panther moments later after stealing a pass inside the Eagles defensive zone and rifling a shot past Conry (3 saves), making it a 10-1 contest before Prep senior Zach Pearce managed a score in the game's final minute.
"We started moving the puck, especially in that second period and were getting some good shots on net," Tongue said. "For me, I just tried to get pucks on the net as best I could and fortunately some were able to bounce through. Our team chemistry is a lot better than at the start of the year. It is really showing and hopefully that will get us to the Super 8."
At the outset, Crinella (team-high 24 goals) wasted no time in getting the Panthers on the board. Just 2:02 in, the Holy Cross commit ripped a shot from just outside the left circle that sailed past Laramie.
Despite recent victories over Austin Prep and Arlington Catholic, Prep still had its back firmly are against the wall in its quest for a postseason bid. Late in the first, the Eagles (7-9-2) stormed back. Nick Latham, as part of a 2-on-1 break with Mark Etherington, beat freshman goalie Keith Petruzzelli (20 saves) to tie things at 1-1.
However, just moments following the score, Prep was whistled for a questionable too many men on the ice infraction. As a result, it would lead to Crinella's go-ahead score late in the frame.
"(The officials) really had no explanation for that call," said puzzled Eagles head coach Kristian Hanson, whose club sits four points out of securing a Division 1 North playoff spot, and must now win its final two contests in order to qualify. "Our captain was out on the ice asking one of the referees regarding the circles and the other ref turns and calls us for too many men on the ice. I don't understand it.
"Was it the difference in this game? Probably not. But it certainly changed the complexion at that time because we had just scored to tie it. Obviously we got a little rattled after that and so did my goalie. We tried to compete today but we just weren't getting it. It was a bad match up for us. Now it is up to us to step up and play a better game on Wednesday (versus Winchester) and on Friday (versus Wakefield) to get into the playoffs. Hypothetically the tournament has already started for us starting this week."