Here we go again. No. 2 Pope Francis (18-1-3) and No. 1 BC. High (19-3-2) – which defeated Xaverian in the Elimination Round final, 7-4, after falling to Pope Francis in the semifinal round, 3-2 – square off Sunday evening for the 29th Massachusetts Division 1A championship at TD Garden (5:45 p.m.).
It is a reprise of last year’s classic when – depending upon your allegiances – BC High either executed one of the great escapes in tournament history or Pope Francis suffered one of the all-time crushing losses. The Cardinals led with less than a minute to play only to have the Eagles tie it in and prevail in OT, 2-1.
The teams stand all square (1-1-1) in three meetings this year, scoring nine goals apiece and will break the tie on the biggest stage.
BC High is seeking to become the 25th Catholic Conference program to claim the championship. A sixth title would push it past Malden Catholic into second place behind Catholic Memorial.
Pope Francis won three State titles in Divisions One and Two in its previous incarnation as Springfield Cathedral. Despite knocking on the door for a number of years now, it has yet to break through at the 1A level.
After ousting Marshfield, 4-2, and Arlington, 5-3, in the Winner’s Bracket, the Eagles was relegated to the Elimination Round. The Eagles survived that test by Catholic Conference compatriot Xaverian and stand at plus-6 (18-12) for the tournament and plus-74 (112-38) for the season. You can bet the number of goals allowed in this tournament is considerably north of where coach John Flaherty would like to see it.
This much is certain – the game will feature two of the most dominant and gifted first lines in the MIAA ranks.
The senior trio of Makem Demers (18-24-42), Max Cocchi (22-18-40), Tavella (17-20-37) powers the Cardinals. Tavella, in particular, has been on a post-season tear. Sophomores Brandon Spaulding and Evan Phaneuf are emerging supplemental options.
Senior Thomas Kramer (19-23-42) and his sophomore twin brothers Peter (15-19-34) and Joseph (15-16-31) set the Eagles’ attack in flight. Junior Matt Keohane (9-7-16), senior CJ Martin (3-16-19), senior Matt Lakus (9-9-18) and junior Aidan Carey (9-6-15) add to the mix.
Defense, as always, will settle it. Pope Francis has been solid in front of the sophomore Zaranek, anchored by seniors Zac Reiser (8-7-15) and Spencer Stewart (3-9-12) and sophomore Matt Burke. Conversely BC High’s deep and talented group of freshman Declan Loughnane (6-12-18), sophomore John Logan (3-11-14), senior PJ Donahue, junior Mike Dragon and freshman Chris Romaine will need to tighten it up a bit in front of senior goalie Chase Congdon.
Dec. 28: BC High 5, Pope Francis 4
Jan. 31: BC High 2, Pope Francis 2
March 11: Pope Francis 3, BC High 2
Pope Francis: Brian Foley
B.C. High: John Flaherty