Thursday, March 1, 2018

BC High Skates Away from Pope Francis in Super 8

Photo by Eamon Convey
 By John McGuirk (@patsfan1313)

Lowell, Mass. -
This wasn't how Pope Francis drew it up.

On the other hand, BC High followed the script perfectly. The Eagles started out strong and equally finished strong as they went on to punish the Cardinals 6-1 Thursday night in the opening round of the Super 8 tournament played inside Tsongas Center.

Following its one-sided display, there is no doubting BC High will be a force to contend with moving forward. The second-seeded Eagles, who have won four Super 8 titles in their history, toyed with the seventh-seeded Cardinals from start to finish, as they jumped out to a two goal first period lead and never looked back.

BC High (16-4-1) moves into the winner's bracket and will face No. 3 St. John's Prep (14-3-4) here on Monday at a time to be announced. The two teams battled twice during the regular season with each picking up a victory. Pope Francis (17-4-3) heads into the loser's bracket and will square off against No. 6 Burlington (19-4-0) at Chelmsford Forum Sunday at a time yet to be determined.

"We know there is not an easy game in this tournament," said BC High coach John Flaherty, who is 2-0-1 versus the Cardinals this season. "Every night is going to be a battle. We've got to get some rest and get ready to play a very good St. John's Prep team on Monday night. If you look across the board, we had guys in the backend that played well tonight. We also had good movement from our forwards. We play 13 forwards and six defensemen so everyone got on the ice tonight and everyone contributed."

Just 4:21 in, forward Aidan Carey put the Eagles in front after C.J. Martin's shot caromed off the far post as Carey charged the crease. In his pursuit of the puck, the sophomore was taken down. As Carey slid towards the goal mouth, the puck deflected off of his skate and into the net.

"Driving towards the net is something that we have been preaching all year long," Carey said. "It paid off tonight. The team chemistry is there and we felt ready to go and came out flying. From that, we were able to put pucks in. Getting ahead early was huge for us and we set the tone from there."

With BC High continuing to take control of the action, the Cardinals enveloped some mental lapses inside their defensive zone. Nobody picked up Michael Grant as the senior cut towards the net unscathed from the left side and proceeded to slip a sharp angle tally past starting goaltender Ben Zaranek, at 10:59, to make it a 2-0 contest.

"The hope was to jump on them early," said Flaherty. "We wanted to stake a claim early because historically in first games we have had some struggles. Once we were able to get ahead of them early, it allowed our confidence to get going, get our feet going and make plays."

Coming out for the middle frame, Zaranek was replaced by Victor Larssen in net. Pope Francis, playing a step behind for most of the opening period, finally struck gold just 1:42 into the frame. Spencer Stewart, taking a nice pass from Brendan Nehmer, wristed a shot from the high slot past Luke Garrity to slice the deficit to a goal. But that would be as close as the Cardinals would get as BC High's found another gear defensively, and Garrity stayed solid between the pipes stopping 19 shots.

Midway through the period, and with Pope Francis' Jacob King in the penalty box for tripping, the Eagles managed to capitalize. Just six minutes after Stewart's marker. Andrew McDonough, a senior defenseman, ripped a shot from the left circle that struck the back of the net, giving BC High back its two goal cushion heading into the final period.

Still within striking range, Pope Francis could not muster enough energy against a physical Eagles defense to rally back. Instead, BC High's offensive charge continued to move the puck up ice literally at will. Needing just 27 seconds, the Eagles added to their total. Joe Kramer put back his own rebound, upping the margin to 4-1.

Less than three minutes later, and the Cardinals surprisingly not attacking the body as they normally do, it allowed freshman Peter Kramer to send a one-timer, off a well-executed behind the net feed from Danny O'Connell, past Larssen to turn this one into a rout. With under five minutes remaining, and feeling though he had nothing to lose, Cardinals coach Brian Foley opted to pull Larssen (14 saves) for the extra attacker.

Unfortunately for him, it would end up leading to a McDonough score to close things out.

"BC High played great," said Foley, whose club won a play-in contest against Arlington on Monday night to get here. "They came out hard in the first period and put us back on our heels. We looked tired tonight. We just weren't as prepared as I thought we would be to play this game tonight. Now we will need to regroup and come back to play on Sunday. Honestly, I was surprised that they out-skated us as badly as they did. They looked so much faster and stronger than our kids. For whatever reason we just weren't ready to compete with them tonight."

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