It is no secret that Pope Francis struggled with BC High this winter. After the clubs played to a 3-3 tie in December, BC High posted a 4-1 regular-season win in February, then routed the Cardinals, 6-1, in the first round of this tournament on March 1, relegating them to the Elimination Bracket.
However, the Cardinals (21-4-3) – who won a play-in game to qualify after being dropped to No. 10 in the field due to a rules infraction – steeled themselves after that loss to the Eagles. They won four games by a combined 18-4 margin with each victory more impressive than the previous.
In the process, Coach Brian Foley’s Catholic West champions ousted 1A No. 1 seed Central Catholic, 4-1, snapping a four-game losing streak to the Raiders, and also eliminated Burlington, St. John’s Prep and Hingham along way.
While the Cardinals have needed six games to get to this point, No. 2 seed BC High (18-4-1) has played just three, squeezing past St. John’s Prep and doubling up Hingham following that opening decision of PF.
BC High, under the tutelage of coach John Flaherty is chasing its fifth 1A championship (sixth overall) but first since going back-to-back in 2006-07. The Eagles could become the 24th Catholic Conference team to claim the title in the tournament’s 28 years. Pope Francis (formerly Springfield Cathedral) is seeking its first 1A title and owns three previous State titles in two divisions.
With 123 goals (4.4 gpg), Pope Francis was the only D1 team in the state to eclipse the century mark. Senior Brendan Nehmer (29-29-58) led the division in scoring and scored his 100th career point in the 3-2 win against Burlington. The line of Makem Demers (22-25-47), Max Cocchi (13-33-46) and Jon Tavella (15-27-42) has been all but unstoppable in the tournament. Senior Trevor Crawford and junior Tyler Wilson have been steady contributors.
Senior Jacob King (6-16-22) leads the defense and adds to the offense. Joey Salvon, Zach Reiser and Spencer Stewart are key players on the blue line. Freshman Ben Zaranek and junior Victor Larssen have started two games apiece during the knockout round. Larssen had the shutout against Hingham.
Bigger and more physical, the Eagles are equally skilled and outscored opponents, 92-26. Central to their success on offense has been the Clan Kramer – junior Thomas (12-25-37) and freshman twins Joseph (6-13-19) and Peter (6-14-20). Senior Michael Grant has been especially successful against Pope Francis this season with four goals. Seniors Joe Dragon, Timmy Kelly, Danny O’Connell and Mav Woods and junior Matt Lakus add to a deep, talented group.
The defense of seniors Andrew McDonough, Owen Callow and Sean Healy and sophomore Mike Adamson has locked things down in front of junior goalie Luke Garrity, who had 17 saves in the 1-0 shutout of St. John’s Prep and needed just 11 in the 4-2 win against Hingham.