NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- The one thing St. John's Prep forward Sam Kurker did not want to do following Sunday's Super 8 game against Springfield Cathedral was answer questions about how short-handed goals cost his team a victory.
Kurker committed a turnover that led to one of the two short-handed goals Springfield Cathedral scored Sunday, but he made up for that by netting the game-winning goal with 2:39 left in overtime as the Eagles prevailed, 4-3.
“On a play like that [the turnover] you have to put it behind you and keep on playing,” Kurker said. “I was getting a little worried about a shootout, so when I saw the puck go in it was just like, “Thank God it's over.'”
Kurker's goal was his team-high 29th of the season. He entered the game with 55 points.
“I don't think Sam had a great game today,” St. John's Prep coach Kristian Hanson said. “He'll be the first one to say that, but Sam's a competitor and he's had a lot more good games than bad games. When the chips are down and you need a big goal, he still came through. That's a credit to Sam.”
Brian Pinho scored two goals for the Eagles, who improved to 14-5-2. Andrew Brandano also scored for St. John's Prep.
Senior Frank Crinella scored twice for Springfield Cathedral, which also received a goal from Frank's younger brother Peter Crinella. The Panthers dropped to 10-7-6.
“The good news is now we can root for St. John's to win out, and hopefully we can win two games and advance,” Springfield Cathedral coach Brian Foley said. “I think it was a solid effort. The kids showed a lot of character by coming back twice. It was tight all the way. We had chances to win it.”
Both goalies – St. John's Prep's David Letarte and Springfield Cathedral's John Liquori – made 20 saves.
St. John's Prep overcame a four-goal deficit to earn a 5-5 tie when the teams met during the regular season.
Pinho broke a 2-2 tie with an unassisted power-play goal 3:28 into the third, but Springfield Cathedral pulled even Peter Crinella's short-handed goal at 5:41.
Brandano scored the only goal in the first period. It came 1:28 into the contest.
The Eagles doubled their lead when Pinho scored an unassisted goal 53 seconds into the second.
Springfield Cathedral tied the game on Frank Crinella's two second-period goals. He put the Panthers on the scoreboard when he stole the puck from Kurker in the Eagles' offensive zone and scored a short-handed breakaway goal at 7:44.
Crinella tied the contest at 9:57, when he was the first to a slow-moving puck in the slot and swept it past Letarte.
“We played well in spurts,” Hanson said. “Cathedral did a great job of capitalizing on our mistakes. In the end we were fortunate to get a bounce. It certainly could have gone either way.”
Hanson said Pinho, a junior forward, was the best player on the ice for his team. In addition to his two goals, Pinho collected an assist on Kurker's game-winning goal.
“Brian had two big goals,” Hanson said. “Brian played well defensively and gave a great effort today. As a team we chose him as our player of the game.”
Pinho entered the contest with 15 goals and 22 assists.
ON TO THE NEXT ONE
Both teams will be back in action Wednesday night. Springfield Cathedral will face second-seeded St. Mary's of Lynn at 5:30, and St. John's Prep will meet St. John's of Shrewsbury at 8. Both games will be at Merrimack College.
“I think the kids believe in themselves and they've proven that they belong here,” Foley said. “That's a big step mentally. We have a lot of confidence going into the next two games.”