Lowell, Mass. -- St. John's Prep's upset victory was so unexpected, longtime Salem News scribe Phil Stacey penned it a 'miracle.' On the other hand, Malden Catholic advancing to the final was just another ho-hum day in Massachusetts high school hockey.
Kristian Hanson's Eagles upset No. 1 Springfield Cathedral, 4-3, in overtime. St. John's, the No. 5 seed, wasn't expected to do much this season with a young defensive group and coming off a 500 campaign a year ago.Through the first half of the season, there were signs pointing to a better result, but nothing of this magnitude.
Since an ugly 6-0 loss at BC High, the Prep has gone 11-1-1 including a series sweep of those very same BC High Eagles to get to this point. Going up against six Springfield Cathedral, with six Division I commitments, was a daunting task, but Hanson's team was ready.
The Prep did all the little things. They blocked shots, they kept Cathedral to the perimeter. As they have done so well throughout the second half, the Eagles bottled up the middle and made it difficult for the Panthers to attack goaltender Kyle Martin in close.
St. John's got out to a 2-0 lead and also had a 3-2 lead that it lost late when UMass commit John Leonard scored with the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker. All the momentum was on Springfield Cathedral's side heading to overtime, but third liner Jeff Cowles slammed home a loose puck that had squirted to the left side of the crease. The goal, scored 1:12 into the extra session, set off a wild and well-deserved celebration.
Martin has been solid in net during the three-game run in the tournament, but the Eagles played as a team and Wednesday's win over one of the more dominant teams in the state's recent history wasn't about its goaltender stealing the show.
In fact, the Prep led throughout. St. John's was the first team to hold a lead on Cathedral after a period all season long. Third liner Sam Stone scored his third goal in the past two games to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead after one period. Senior tri-captain Tyler Scearbo scored a shorthanded breakaway tally in the second period to give SJP a 2-0 lead. The team's sixth defenseman, Josh Cole, scored on a wrister from the point to give the Prep a 3-2 lead.
It was certainly a team effort, but the play of two young freshman defensemen cannot go unrecognized. Paul Edson has the size and physical tools that make scouts and college coaches anxious to see how well he can develop. Fellow rookie Tim Usalis, who's a good skater, was outstanding on Wednesday night. He made a lot of smart plays with the puck and won a lot of battles along the wall.
St. John's will face Malden Catholic in Sunday's final, set for 7:45 p.m. at the TD Garden in Boston. The Lancers were 6-3 winners over Austin Prep on Wednesday night. It's the third year in a row MC has ousted the Cougars in the Super 8. The two previous occasions occurred at the TD Garden in the final.
MC defenseman John McLean and AP forward Mike Egan traded first period goals to leave the two teams tied, 1-1, after 15 minutes.
Junior Cam Walter showed off his speed down the left side and blew by an AP defenseman to give the Lancers a 2-1 lead 2:04 into the second period.
Austin Prep answered right back and took a 3-2 lead on goals from Egan and Eric MacAdams. Egan's second of the night came on the power play and MacAdams, the team's top player, scored on a rebound less than a minute later.
Northeastern commit Matt Filipe evened the score at the 9:40 mark. Big uncommitted winger Jack Adams gave MC the lead with 2:50 to play in the middle frame when his unexpected wrist shot beat AP goaltender Dylan Regan. The opportunity came from a failed clear by AP.
Adams scored his second of the game on a wraparound in the third period to give MC some breathing room and a 5-3 lead. Senior Jake Witkowski added further insurance with an empty net goal.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.