Austin Prep secured the inside track on the Catholic Central Large championship, rallying for two third-period goals to tie St. Mary’s, 3-3, before an overflow crowd at Connery Rink in Lynn Saturday night.
St. Mary’s (6-1-2, 11-4-2) continues to lead the way with 14 points but the Spartans have just a single league game remaining against Archbishop Williams (Feb. 12) and can max out at 16 points. Austin (5-0-3, 8-2-4) trails by a point but has a game in hand with league games left against Archbishop Williams (Feb. 8) and Bishop Fenwick (Feb. 12) and could finish with 17 points.
With 1:36 remaining, Cougars’ defenseman J.J. Layton’s two-zone stretch pass found Cam Russo in stride at the offensive blue line. St. Mary’s goaltender Bailey MacBurnie (26 saves) stuffed Russo’s first shot but the junior jammed home the rebound for his eighth goal of the season and the tie.
The game was marred by a couple of third-period scraps, the first resulting in fighting ejections for Austin Prep’s star forward Bobo Carpenter and St. Mary’s defenseman Chris Price. If enforced, they carry automatic two-game suspensions.
It was the third time in eight days that Austin Prep rallied from two goals down in the third period, having done so last Saturday against Arlington Catholic (3-2 win) and earlier this week against Springfield Cathedral (3-3 tie). While coach Lou Finocchairo admires his team’s resilience, it’s not a trend he his fond of.
“We’re fighting it — every mistake we make winds up in the net. There’s no quit in the room, but we’re talking about it and know we have to get out of that funk. Eventually it has to turn in our favor. It’s a tough place to play and a hostile crowd and it’s a point — but we’re not content with it,” he said.
“We expected this type of [physical] game. I was happy with the way we played in the first two periods. We were very disciplined. Then we had a lapse and it cost us — they scored pretty quickly on the power play. Then we had the defensive breakdown at the end. But I’m very proud of my guys — we battled all night. That’s a great team we played,” said St. Mary’s coach Mark Lee.
St. Mary’s grabbed a 1-0 lead at 9:17 of the first period when sophomore Jackson Allard carried to the left circle, stepped inside an Austin defender and beat Elijah Harris along the ice from 15 feet for his team-high 11th goal.
Carpenter matched that 1:18 later when he slid the puck between the skates of a Spartans’ defender, stepped around a check and snapped his 12th goal of the season over MacBurnie’s glove for a 1-1 tie.
Dante Maribito restored St. Mary’s lead with a power play strike at 11:52. Team scoring leader Shawn MacBurnie (9-13-22) collected the rebound of Price’s initial shot and nicked the left post with a shot from the right side. The puck caromed to Maribito, who shoveled home the go-ahead goal.
MacBurnie stretched the lead to 3-1 at 3:23 of the second period, depositing the juicy rebound of Connor Foley’s initial shot.
It stayed that way until 3:07 in the third period when Austin converted a power play chance that resulted from the scrum that produced the Carpenter and Price ejections. Defenseman Andrew Cross’s slap pass from the left point found Ryan McDonough sliding in from the right circle for a weak-side re-direct that made it 3-2.
St. Mary’s killed off three more penalties in the period and seemed poised to take control of the league race until Russo altered the big picture.
Austin steps out of the league for games against Central Catholic Monday (Icenter, 5:30 p.m.) and St. John’s Prep Wednesday (Ristuccia, 8 p.m.). Ditto for St. Mary’s, which faces St. Peter Marian Wednesday (Connery, 7) then visits Marshfield Saturday (Hobomock, 5),