West Springfield, Mass. -- Thursday's game against Malden Catholic in the ninth annual Cathedral Hockey Classic was a game that Springfield Cathedral had penciled on its calendar for months. The Panthers wanted to exact some revenge for last season's three losses against the Lancers as well as state their case for belonging among the elite programs in the state.
Brian Foley's Springfield Cathedral team did just that on Thursday in front of a full house at the Olympia Ice Center as the Panthers skated past the three-time defending champions from Malden Catholic by a score of 5-2.
"It was a great game. It was the biggest game of the year coming at the end of the regular season. We hadn't won our tournament in at least seven years. Malden Catholic is the three-time defending champs and ranked number one so it was a great way to end the regular season," said Foley.
"We were really looking for that marquee victory. We've had a lot of good efforts, some nice ties, but the kids really wanted this game. They went out and fought for it," added Foley.
UMass Lowell commit Tyler Sifferlen gave Malden Catholic a 1-0 lead after 15 minutes when he connected on a beautiful feed from UNH recruit Ara Nazarian at the 11:25 mark of the opening period.
Springfield Cathedral wasted no time finding its stride after the first intermission. After picking up a drop pass from freshman defenseman Dan Petrick, Holy Cross commit Peter Crinella sent a laser past MC goaltender Alex Reissis just 34 seconds into the second period to even the score.
That goal was enough to give the Panthers some momentum and belief in their ability to knock off MC. As the game picked up in intensity UMass commit Johnny Leonard found the back of the net at the 6:06 mark to give Cathedral its first lead of the game. The sophomore waited patiently until he had drawn Reissis far enough out of the net to bury the puck into the back of the net.
Quinnipiac commit D.J. Petruzzelli scored a highlight reel goal a few minutes later to put Cathedral up 3-1. He dangled through a few MC defenders before backhanding the puck past Reissis.
The score remained that way until Cathedral struck again 2:08 into the third period. With two Malden Catholic players in the penalty box, the Panthers displayed some terrific puck movement. Riley Prattson sent the puck below the goal line to Leonard who found Crinella in the slot for a one-timer that whizzed into the back of the net for a 4-1 SC lead.
"That goal was a really nice play. They moved the puck really well. Pete is a leader, and it was great to see him get that goal. It was a key goal," explained Foley.
Malden Catholic senior defenseman Nick Rolli stepped into the zone and blasted a shot that cleanly beat a helpless Cathedral goaltender Keith Petruzzelli at the 9:08 mark of the third period. The goal that cut SC's advantage to 4-2 gave some life to the Lancers bench, but John McLean's team could draw no closer.
Leonard sealed the deal with just under a minute to play with an empty netter from deep in his defensive zone.
Cathedral has some big guns up front. Everyone has heard of Crinella, Leonard and Petruzzelli, the three forwards already committed to Division I schools, but the team also has some tremendous young talent that will likely find a college home someday as well. Freshman Riley Prattson and eighth grader Devon Tongue are two very skilled '99s who play poised beyond their years.
Another key to SC's success has been the improvement of the blue line and the sensational goaltending duo of senior John Liquori and Petruzzelli, the freshman who became the first '99 to commit to a college program when he chose Quinnipiac.
"Bryce [Peritz] had a great game," said Foley of his junior defenseman who had a terrific tournament. "I'm really proud of all our defensemen for the way they've been playing."
Petruzzelli, a technically sound goaltender who seems to always be square to shooters and in position, made several key saves, especially in the first period. He is extremely tall, but once he fills into his body, he could be an absolute monster between the pipes.
"Their goalie played great," said Malden Catholic head coach John McLean
For Malden Catholic, the result wasn't all bad for McLean who believes his team might have needed a little jolt before embarking on its quest for a fourth straight state title.
"[Springfield Cathedral] punched us in the face today. The issue is we've been on cruise control. When high school kids win and win easy, it's good for us. It's a wake up call. I'd rather lose now than in the tournament," said McLean.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.