Monday, March 13, 2017

Lowell Catholic Hockey Grinds Out Stoneham for D2 North Title

By Mike Abelson (@ABELS0N)

LOWELL, Mass. - March is a prime time for firsts in the world of sports, and the Lowell Catholic hockey team added its own bit of history to the annals of time.

The Crusaders got a goal from Connor Doherty in the second period that held up as the game winner in Lowell Catholic’s 2-0 win over Stoneham in the Division 2 North Sectional Final at Tsongas Center.

The win propels the Crusaders to their first ever state title game, where they will meet Scituate on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.

Much of Lowell Catholic’s success can be tied to the sterling play of senior goalie Stephen D’Urso. The co-captain stopped all 23 shots that came his way and looked his best when Stoneham pressed hard to start the game and in the final five minutes.

“He was unbelievable,” Lowell Catholic coach Thomas Curran said of his goalie. “We didn’t show up the first half of the first period, and he was nails. He was solid He had the angle the whole time.  We were flat-footed. If we were to beat them we needed to be quicker, and we weren’t the first half of the first period. It could have been 2-0 but it was 0-0 because of Stevie.”

The Crusaders righted the ship as the game went on, packed it in on defense, and picked their chances carefully on the offensive end. Eventually the puck wound up on the stick of Doherty who whirled around and whipped it into the top corner of the net. The goal was Doherty’s sixth of the tournament.

Anders Kulbis-Marino added an empty netter in the final minute of the game.

While the offense did what it had to do, the defense for Lowell Catholic was spread thin, yet never wavered. The Crusaders kept the Spartans to the outside and the prime offensive chances to a minimum as the game wore on.

Stoneham didn’t get the puck luck it needed as the Spartans hit the iron three times.

“Obviously we had a hard time scoring,” Stoneham coach Paul Sacco said. “We just couldn’t find the back of the net. Our kids worked extremely hard. They clogged it up pretty good in the middle. We were looking for a bounce, and nothing came our way.  It was a great effort by them. We played a good team tonight.”

The win sets up a showdown with Scituate in the state final. The Sailors will be the toughest test this season so far for the Crusaders. Scituate stormed through the D2 South tournament, beating its four opponents by a combined 24-3.

“It means a lot, but we’re not going to do anything different,” D’Urso said. “We’re going to come to practice, work hard, get the mind right, and hopefully play the best game of our season on Sunday.”

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