Boston, Mass. -- To be the best, you have to beat the best. That statement couldn't have been more accurate for St. John's Prep's run through the 2015 MIAA Super 8 Hockey Tournament.
St. John's Prep swept BC High in the quarterfinal series and upended undefeated and No. 1 Springfield Cathedral in the semifinals to advance to Sunday's championship game at the TD Garden against the four-time defending Super 8 champion Malden Catholic Lancers.
"There's no better way to do it. Go through all the best teams to win the state title," said junior defenseman Brian Groom, who scored the game-winning goal.
"We wouldn't have wanted to play any other team. They're the best team in the state and tonight we are," added St. John's Prep coach Kristian Hanson.
St. John's Prep was a team of on a mission. Hanson's team wasn't going to be denied. On Sunday, the Eagles won their first ever Super 8 crown with a 2-1 win over Malden Catholic to earn the school's first hockey state title in exactly 30 years.
"Fate and destiny brought us here tonight. We knew Malden Catholic was a tremendous team. We knew that in 2001 we helped start their run when they beat us. We knew back in 1985, the last time the Prep won a hockey title, was against MC. It just felt like it was meant to be," said Hanson.
The three teams St. John's beat in the Super 8 had a combined nine Division I NCAA commitments compared to no such commitments on Hanson's team.
"We knew we weren't going to lose this game. We're not the most talented team in this tournament. We just have so much heart and desire. It's incredible the way these guys played for me," said St. John's junior goaltender Kyle Martin, who was the undisputed MVP of the Eagles' post-season run.
Martin made several heroic stops to keep Malden Catholic at bay until the final minutes of the game, but by that time, the Eagles already had a 2-0 lead.
St. John's senior tri-captain Ted McNamara put the Eagles up 1-0 with 3:38 left in the second period. He found himself wide open on the backdoor where he fired home a pass from Tyler Scearbo on the opposite side. Fellow linemate Nick Latham picked up the secondary assist on the play.
The Eagles inched closer to the championship trophy 2:56 into the final period as they were killing off a Malden Catholic power play. Scearbo went in hard on the forecheck and caused a turnover. He slid a pass back to Groom who was just a few steps inside the blue line. Groom blasted a shot along the ice through the wickets of MC goaltender Kyle Casey for a 2-0 Prep lead.
"It was great work by Ty working down low on the penalty kill. The puck found its way out to the high slot. I just tried to shoot it as hard as I could at the net," said Groom of his fifth goal of the season.
That score stood until Jake Witkowski scored with 1:00 to go to draw the Lancers within one. The senior burst down the left side on an end-to-end rush before cutting into the middle and pushing it past Martin for the power play tally.
St. John's Prep kept MC out of the net the rest of the way, winning a key late face-off and holding on for the victory. Martin, who made over 30 saves, was terrific, but the young defense did a great job the entire tournament of keeping teams to the perimeter and owning the center of the ice.
"Tremendous," said Hanson of his team's defense. "All six of them did a great job of eliminating space. They did a great job of being physical."
The Eagles finished the season on a 12-1-1 run after a 6-0 loss to BC High that helped turn the season around.
"That was a wakeup call for us," explained Groom. "We started to get on a roll."
"It's surreal. I can't believe it happened. I'm so proud of everyone on our team. We came so far," said Scearbo.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.