It seemed an altogether innocuous play, almost a “What the heck, I’ll give it a shot” afterthought. It produced, arguably, the biggest win and seventh State Championship in Arlington High’s storied hockey history.
The second of senior Mic Curran’s two goals came just 15 seconds into overtime, lifting the Middlesex League Liberty Division champion Spy Ponders to a 2-1 win against Central Catholic in Sunday night’s MIAA Division 1A championship game at TD Garden.
Arlington (22-2-2) became just the fourth non-Catholic Conference school – and the third public – to win the D1A crown, joining Hingham (2010), Reading (2008) and Arlington Catholic (1997). It was the first time in the 27-year history of the event that a Catholic Conference team did not play in the final. Merrimack Valley/Dual County One champion Central Catholic concluded a 17-6-3 campaign in its first season under Kim Brandvold.
“In the pre-game we talked about how everyone decided to come (to Arlington). When the (nine) seniors decided to come to the high school, we weren’t so good yet. So those kids decided — and the young kids behind them decided – to come. We talked about that before they game, ‘That’s why you did it, that’s why you’re here . . . now let’s go get it done’,” said Arlington coach and former player John Messuri, the first coach to bring two programs (Winchester) to the 1A Tournament.
On the game-winner, Curran collected a loose puck on the rear wall, swung left to right behind the Central Catholic cage, and looked to backhand the puck through traffic, hopeful of finding a teammate crashing from the weak side. Instead, the puck heeled in off the left skate of Central’s sophomore goalie Matt Pasquale.
Curran, who absorbed a couple of huge hits during the course of the game and was visibly shaken by one of them, continued undeterred to ultimately deliver the biggest blow, settling a title game that was all that and then some. The game was dominated by the superb goaltending of Arlington junior Jack Pinard (21 saves) and Pasquale (24 saves). Both stood tall throughout the tournament with Pinard yielding but four goals and Pasquale just three.
Little of consequence occurred during the opening 15 minutes, which served as an extended feeling out period, but the pace picked up considerably in the second period and the Pinard vs. Pasquale dual began to unfold.
Central’s top scorer Eric Lester pounced on his own rebound and nicked the post to Pinard’s left at 3:19. Pasquale got his blocker on Curran’s dangerous mid-slot wrister at 8:50; Pinard flashed his glove to rob Central’s Cam Stanisewski on the doorstep at 9:38; and Pasquale used his glove to deflect Dara Conneely’s testing bid from the left circle at 11:53.
Arlington finally broke through with the teams skating four aside following penalties to Central’s Jack Gray at 12:38 and Arlington’s Peter Scheschareg at 12:47. Kevin Ouellette’s cross-crease pass from the right circle found Curran closing from the left side for an essentially open net finish and 1-0 lead with 2:01 left in the second period.
That evaporated just 49 seconds into the third period when Central’s junior defenseman Joseph Biddle stepped into an errant Arlington clear at the top of the slot and zipped a wrist shot over Pinard’s glove to tie it, 1-1.
Arlington had a couple of opportunities to end it in regulation but Pasquale turned back Anthony Messuri’s steal and turnaround shot from the slot at 5:56 and Scheschareg’s backhander off a faceoff at 11:46. At the other end, Ouellette twice sold out for key blocks of Central bids in the final minute.
The suddenness of Curran’s game-winner stunned the crowd and left Central still in search of the program’s first State crown.