LOWELL, Mass. – The tone outside the two locker rooms was vastly different than it was a few months ago.
On Jan. 17, St. John’s Prep took one on the chin to BC High. It was a 6-0 white washing at UMass-Boston’s Beacon Rink.
Thursday at Tsongas Center, the tone was quite different as St. John’s Prep completed the Super 8 quarterfinal series sweep over BC High with a 5-2 win.
Advancing to the Super 8 semifinals to face Springfield Cathedral, the state’s lone unbeaten team, was the culmination of a second half turnaround that saw a young team unexpectedly come together.
“Since that time we’ve gone 10-1-1. We’ve been able to build some confidence. We’re getting some great goaltending,” Prep head coach Kristian Hanson said of the difference that a little over a month has been made.
“After that 6-0 loss we took a step back. We really started working hard. We were going to make that not happen again,” said Prep goaltender Kyle Martin, who indicated his team used it as motivation for this series.
The Prep’s top line is made up of all seniors, but the majority of the team is younger players who had little to no varsity experience prior to this season.
“We primarily play with three to four seniors. These younger players have gained more varsity experience and gotten more comfortable out there,” explained Hanson on his team’s improvement.
A late goal in each period really helped St. John’s keep momentum in its favor. After giving up an early first period power play tally to BC High senior Pat Kramer, St. John’s came back to take the lead heading to the first intermission.
Jack Montesanto’s point shot was stopped, but it fell to the ice for Sam Stone to bang home the rebound at 10:01.
The Prep took advantage of a miscue by the BC High defense to take a 2-1 lead with 25 seconds left in the opening period. Tyler Scearbo waited for both BC High defenders to over-commit to him before sliding a perfect pass to Ted McNamara who wasted no time burying it into the back of the net.
Kramer appeared to swing the tide back in favor of BC High with 1:06 left in the second period when he evened the score with his second goal of the game.
However, the BC High momentum was short lived. Sophomore Kyle Hentosh picked the pocket of a BC High defender before zipping the puck past Brandon Payzant for a 3-2 lead with 31 seconds left in the middle frame.
“That goal by Hentosh was the biggest goal in the game. They scored late to make it 2-2. Hentosh comes right back, steals the puck and puts that goal in. It gave us the momentum and confidence back going into the third period,” said Hanson.
St. John’s added two goals late in the third period to salt away the victory. Sam Stone picked up a loose puck in the slot after trailing the initial rush that was stopped to give his team a 4-2 cushion with 3:28 to go.
Defenseman Brian Groom added an empty net goal with 1:58 to go to finally allow the visitors some breathing room.
Martin the Backbone: As he has been for much of the season junior Kyle Martin was a game changer for St. John’s Prep. There are quite a few new faces that have helped Hanson’s team elevate its place in the state, but none more so than Martin, a transfer from Westford Academy.
With his team up 3-2 entering the final period and on the verge of a semifinal berth, Martin made two huge stops on two of the premier players in the state. He robbed Kramer 45 seconds into the period on a breakaway. Then he let his helmet keep the puck out of the net with 5:44 left with Ryan Shea zeroing in on the Prep net.
“There are going to be breakdowns. It sure is nice to have someone like Martin back there back-boning it. He was great. He really frustrated them. He was making some great saves,” said Hanson. “He is a difference maker for us.”
Martin had the help of a young defense that played exceptionally well and did a good job of executing the game plan.
“They’re a fast team overall, a good skating team. Our goal was to just plug up the middle, keep them to the perimeter and let [Martin] do his job. We wanted to prevent second chances and it worked,” Hanson explained.
Green Light District: Fresh off a big goal and solid outing in the first game of the series, St. John’s received yet another clutch performance out of its third line. Stone had two goals and the line did a nice job of cycling and keeping the puck hemmed in the BC High zone.
“They got that first goal of the game for us which was a big goal to break the ice. Stone got that fourth one to give us a little cushion late. Green has stepped up in the tournament,” said Hanson, referring to the color of jerseys the line wears in practice. “They’ve given us a little added element that we maybe didn’t have in the regular season.”
“Everyone has to do their job in the game. We all have our certain roles. Everyone has to step up once in a while and tonight I came up and stepped up,” said Stone.