Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hingham Stuns Central Catholic in Super 8 Winner's Bracket

Photo by Eamon Convey
By John McGuirk (@patsfan1313)

Lowell, Mass. - For a team that has had a difficult time putting pucks into the back of the net, Hingham has relied heavily on a systematic defensive approach in which it limits opponents from finding easy paths into the offensive zone. It is that style which has gotten the Harbormen a chance to win their second Super 8 title. With their forwards continuously skating back to assist the defensemen, Hingham, which won a Super 8 crown in 2010, has seen that formula work quite effectively all throughout this season.

Monday was no different.

Staking claim to an early lead, the Harbormen spent the rest of the evening frustrating Central Catholic with a solid mix of forechecking and backchecking. Refusing to allow the Raiders to gain any steam, Hingham made its one goal lead stand up and went on to blank Central Catholic, 1-0, inside the Tsongas Center in a winner's bracket showdown.

"I think we played very good team defense tonight," said Harbormen coach Tony Messina. "We had a good forecheck and we also did a good job in the neutral zone by stopping their speed. Our five man teams were relentless on the puck. We played our positioning the way we wanted too, and didn't make many mistakes which was the key. You don't expect to shut that team out but I'm really happy with the way it all turned out."

No. 4 Hingham (14-4-6 and 2-0 in tournament play) will face BC High, who defeated St. John's Prep 1-0 in Monday night's other winner's bracket contest, on Saturday at 8 p.m. in a semifinal contest at Chelmsford Forum. The top-seeded Raiders (22-2) meet No. 7 Pope Francis (18-4-3) on Wednesday at Chelmsford Forum in an elimination bout at a time to be determined. Central Catholic is 2-0 against the Cardinals this season.

At 3:19 of the opening period, Hingham senior Jake Quilty, controlling with the puck from the left corner behind the Central Catholic goal, was left unguarded as he cut toward the front of the net before lifting a backhanded shot past Raiders goaltender Matt Pasquale to give his team the early lead.

As it turned out, that was all the offense Hingham would need. For the remainder of this contest, the Harbormen, who lost to Central Catholic 4-1 back on December 20th, were unrelenting in their attempt of swarming any Central Catholic player with the puck on his stick. The Raiders were often knocked off their passing lanes by the more-physical Harbormen. When Central Catholic was able to get the puck inside the attacking zone, many of its shots were blocked out in front.

Despite the Raiders out-shooting Hingham 26-17, Harbormen senior goalie Robbie Kornack was stellar between the pipes. The senior made a couple of terrific saves, including a brilliant stop of a Will Winship backhand attempt just in front of the goal mouth with 1:21 remaining.

"I think we earned this and I feel we have a very good chance to win it all," Kornack said. "Our defense and forwards played great. The forwards were coming back and backchecking pretty well. That is something we work on all the time in practice. Tonight it really paid off. I know playing against a very good goalie like (Pasquale), it is going to be a tough game. I knew I had to let in zero goals to win this. It was tough but in the end, it was all worth it."

Said Messina, "Robbie made some great saves at key times. He's been doing it all year and that is his ninth shutout on the year which is pretty good for a team like us with the schedule that we have."

For a club which tallied 93 goals on the season, the Raiders continued to see their offense stymied by energized Harbormen squad that stuck to a game plan of locking down the defensive zone. In the waning seconds, Central Catholic had a couple of other chances to notch the equalizer after winning a pair of faceoffs inside the offensive zone that were redirected towards the Hingham net. But Kornack's keen alertness to turn them aside prevented the Raiders from sending this game into overtime.  

"They just played harder than us," said Central Catholic coach Kim Brandvold. "They are a very good team and it wasn't like we were that much better than them. If you don't compete you don't win these type of games. To play these really good teams, you have to match their energy and we didn't do that."

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