Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Austin Prep Hockey Bests Archbishop Williams in Early Season Test

By Eamon Convey (@eamonconvey)

Braintree, Mass. - Just as turkey tastes better on Thanksgiving after a victory on the gridiron, so too does the “roast beast” on Christmas after a win on the ice.

Archbishop Williams Bishops (1-1-1, getting votes in Division I) welcomed in the Austin Prep Cougars (3-1-0, #4 in Division I) for a varsity hockey tilt on the eve of Christmas Eve. The Bishops got an early Christmas present with the return of senior forward Ryan Brady who made his impact immediately on the offensive end and battled with AP junior Nick Cafarelli.

“I thought we came out a bit sluggish early in the first,” first year Cougars head coach Bill Pappas said. “I just told the guys we needed to get our legs moving a little bit more and they responded.”

The Cougars broke open the scoring courtesy of Jeff Harding (2 goals) with an assist from each of his line-mates, Matt Sacco (goal, 2 assists) and Nick Cafarelli (assist). After a tripping call on the Bishops’ John Barry, the Cougars took advantage once again with another tally scored by Jake Thain (goal, assist) with Evan Rago (assist) putting it on a platter for his teammate.

Though the Bishops ended the first and began the second period on the power play, the Cougars were able to kill of the roughing penalty assessed to Aidan Elkins.

“We came out a bit better in the second period,” Pappas said, “The energy was up, guys were flying around, more like AP hockey. ”

Despite holding a two-goal advantage, the Cougars continued the offensive pressure in the second period, including a near breakaway by Nick Cafarelli and a big time save from Bishops goalie Cam O’Connor. The Bishops were not without scoring chances, as Ryan O’Connor had the best rush of the period for the Bishops, with a twisting move at the blue line and subsequent wrist shot from in between the circles that was saved by AP goalie Robbie Farrell.

“Robbie was unbelievable tonight,” Sacco said. “He’s been terrific all season for us. Any time we have a lapse he seems to be there for us, making big saves.”

From that point, it was (almost) all Cougars. Jeff Harding scored his second of the game from Thain and Sacco for the third AP goal.  After a Ryan Brady tripping minor assessed to the Bishops, the Cougars struck again, this time Sacco potted his only goal of the game with an assist from Anthony Cafarelli (assist), pushing the score to 4-0 with just 1:51 left in the second period.

“Our systems still weren’t being executed the way we know they can be,” Pappas said. “Thought we got back into the systems a little more in third period. Third man high, back-checking through the middle, things like that start to pay dividends when you’re doing them hard.”

While the Bishops came out in the third period with good energy, Farrell made every stop necessary for the Cougars in the early going. The best of those chances for the Bishops came from eighth grader Caiden Hess after he stole the puck at the red line and walked in on goal.

Despite the third period score of this game, the intensity from both teams never wavered. In fact, tensions got ratcheted up after a massive collision initiated by Nick Cafarelli on the Bishops’ John Barry in the neutral zone. According to Bishops’ fans, it was a hit to the head, but some felt it was just a good clean hockey play.

“It was a clean hit,” Sacco, Cafarelli’s linemate, said. “Might have been a little bit of redemption but, you know, that’s hockey. We know we have to keep our heads up especially in the middle of the ice.”

“I didn’t see the hit as it happened,“ Pappas added. “I asked (my assistants) and I think it was clean.”

Though Barry had to leave the game, the Bishops didn’t roll over. Ryan Brady put together a pair of toe-drags to get in on net, but Farrell was able to cover the puck. However, off the ensuing face-off, Nick Glass (assist) put the puck on net and Ryan Brady (assist) corralled the miss, feeding Matt Shea (goal) for his fourth goal of the season and the only Bishops’ tally of the evening.

Though the roast beast won’t taste nearly as good for the Bishops, they enter the holiday tournament circuit at full strength with Brady back in the mix at forward and Barry, who sustained a cut on his forehead but was alert and moving under his own power after the game, not likely to miss any games.

As for the Cougars, they’ll enjoy that Christmas meal even more knowing that they are a Top 3 team in DI going into the Malden Catholic Holiday Tournament, with a scheduled first round game against a familiar St. Mary’s of Lynn team.

“Looking forward to St. Mary’s,” Sacco said. “They are always a really good team and give us a battle. If we do what we need to do, we’ll have MC in the championship game of their tournament and that is another good team. We like the challenge of playing high-level competition.”

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