Stoneham, Mass. -- There have been many exciting Super 8 play-in games over the years, but Monday's first game between Xaverian and Archbishop Williams ranks right up there. Ricky Smith's goal 1:15 into the second overtime was the difference as the Hawks skated past the Bishops, 6-5.
Smith, a Merrimack baseball commit, missed much of his sophomore season due to an ACL injury, but wanted to come back and help the team in his final year of organized hockey.
"Ricky Smith is our senior captain. He's been a great leader for us this year. I'm really proud and happy for him," said Spinale.
For his take, Smith was surprised to be the man with the winning goal. "It's the biggest goal of my life. I'm not really a goal scorer. I'm more of an assist guy," said the star catcher on the baseball diamond.
The game-winner was a shot from the right side as he streaked into the zone. The puck glanced off the glove of Archbishop Williams goalie Steve Jenner before fluttering into the back of the net. "I just teed it up and it felt good coming off the stick," said Smith.
The Hawks had to rally from a two-goal deficit to force overtime, and will face the tournament's top seed, BC High, in the next round that begins Sunday at the TD Garden.
"Our team gained more confidence each period. We started pressuring them an it seemed like they started sitting back a little in the third," said Xaverian head coach Dave Spinale. "They were trying to play not to lose. We told our guys 'let's smell some blood, let's go after them, let's attack and throw everything at the net,'" added the coach.
The top line of Xaverian was creative offensive chances all night, but especially in the final period. Senior Tony Marini, the team's leading scorer, centers a line with hard-shooting junior Tim Sweeney and sophomore Jon Beniers who has terrific hands. The line logged a ton of minutes down the stretch because of the urgency of the game.
"We thought they were great. They had a lot of possession time, especially late. They're very skilled and always know where each other are. It's like they have eyes behind their head," stated Spinale. "They're fun to watch and we need them to produce. They've never played that much in their lives and hopefully they won't have to again."
"They have great chemistry. They're one of the top lines in the Catholic Conference and in the state," said Smith. "They've been doing a lot of the work for us. It's huge having them. They've stepped it up and came up big."
Another hero of the game was forward Jack Cook. The junior came into the game with just two goals on the season, but left with five after notching a hat trick.
"Jack is super fast. He's probably the fastest guy on our team. We like to use his speed. We try to play a fast-paced game," Spinale explained.
Aidan Murphy has been one of the better freshman goaltenders in the state, and despite giving up five goals, his play progressed as the night went along. He appeared to settle in and play with more poise in the crease.
"Aidan is pretty mature for a freshman. I give [Archbishop Williams] credit. They were picking corners, but I think Aidan definitely settled down. He knew he could shut the door and he did once we calmed down in front of him," said Spinale.
Archbishop Williams will now be relegated to the Division I Tournament where they will be the number two seed in the South in back of Monday's other loser, Braintree.
"[Archbishop Williams'] top six is as good as any we've seen all year. Ryan Dunn played fabulous all night for them. They're a good quality club. I give them credit and good luck to them," said Spinale.
XB - 4:13 Tony Marini (Tim Sweeney, Jon Beniers)
AB - 7:16 Ryan Dunn (Colin Boyle, Pat Twombly)
AB - 7:21 Mike Davis (Mike Jessman)
XB - 14:23 Jack Cook (Ricky Smith, Nick Colantuoni)
AB - 4:19 Eric Keefe (Nick Menzel, Ryan Dunn)
XB - 4:46 Andrew Durkin (Unassisted)
AB - 7:41 Garrett Foley (unassisted) SHG
AB - 10:30 Colin Boyle (Mike Davis) PPG
XB - 12:58 Jack Cook (Ricky Smith)
XB - Jack Cook (Unassisted)
XB - 1:15 Ricky Smith (Nick Colantuoni)
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.