Don’t look now but it seems those who counted St. John’s Prep out of the post-season picture may have done so prematurely.
In a span of roughly 40 hours, Prep has emerged from the glut of teams hoping to qualify for the tournament to one having a legitimate shot after defeating two of the Catholic Central Large’s elite teams.
The Eagles (7-8-1) followed Thursday’s shutout of Austin Prep by stunning Arlington Catholic, 3-2, Saturday afternoon at Ristuccia Arena on goals 50 seconds apart in the last two minutes by sophomore Seth Murray and junior Nick Latham.
Those transformed a game-long exercise in frustration – Prep hit three posts and a crossbar – into perhaps the season’s most memorable win, leaving St. John’s five points shy of qualifying with four games left. Three of those opponents – St. John’s of Shrewsbury, Springfield Cathedral and Winchester – visit Ristuccia before Prep finishes the regular season at Wakefield.
“I thought this was one of our most complete games of the season. Top to bottom, we got a great effort out of everyone. It would have been a shame to walk out of here without at least a point. We didn’t quit and you’ve gotta’ love that,” said coach Kris Hanson.
AC (10-4-1), which is tourney eligible, has had trouble closing out games during a 3-4-0 skid.
“It’s disappointing,” said coach Dan Shine. “We seem to be a little snake-bitten lately when we have the lead late. We can’t come up with the key play to close it. They (St. John’s) were playing with urgency and their goalie made some outstanding saves.”
That would be Eagles’ freshman Zach Laramie (16 saves), who twice stoned AC on glorious odd-man opportunities. He went post-to-post for a right pad denial of Ryan Tierney with 3:19 left in the first period; and moved with AC’s Jason Smith to smother his close-range stuff attempt with 45 seconds left in the second period.
“The hard thing for Zach is that he didn’t see a lot of shots but it seemed every one was a great scoring chance. This was a good win for his confidence,” Hanson said.
AC exited the first period with a 1-0 lead when defenseman Dan Needham’s shot struck a St. John’s player and sailed over Laramie’s right shoulder. The puck seemed to hit the crossbar squarely but was ruled a good goal at 6:01.
St. John’s knotted it at 10:24 of the second when Tyler Scearbo moved to the low slot then delivered a diagonal back pass to Teddy McNamara, whose screened shot from the left circle eluded AC keeper John Richard (16 saves).
With St. John’s carrying play, it remained tied until midway through the third when AC’s Ryan Spagnoli found Ryan Smith a stride clear of the Prep defense for a break-in and top-shelf backhand finish and 2-1 lead with 7:35 to play.
Prep tied it with 2:02 left when Scearbo carried deep to the right rear wall and shuttled the puck behind the AC net. Murray gathered it in, then beat Richard with a tuck at the left post to tie it.
Fifty seconds later Latham settled Mark Etherington’s two-zone lob at the AC blue line, veered right and pulled a backhander around Richards to win it with 1:12 to play.
Hanson called the two points “crucial,” but cautioned the Eagles can’t look beyond Wednesday’s game with St. John’s of Shrewsbury.
“The only two numbers that matter are seven (wins) and eight (losses). We haven’t qualified for anything yet. The only thing we’re focused on right now is Wednesday night,” he said.
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