With just about all of his roster returning this winter, Pope Francis coach Brian Foley knew his Cardinals would be pretty good this year.
“We pretty much had all of our top guys coming back so we were cautiously optimistic we could be here if everything fell into place,” said Foley. “There is so much parity in this state. A lot of good teams.”
Well, the Cardinals not only got here, they are heading back to Western Mass. with the MIAA Division 1 championship hardware.
Pope Francis defeated seventh-seeded Xaverian, 3-2, in dramatic fashion, as senior Josh Iby scored his second goal of the day with just 25 seconds left in regulation.
On the winning goal, Mossy Kearney rushed into the slot, was able to control the puck after the Xaverian defense broke up the play momentarily, and then slid a perfect feed to Iby, stationed just off the left post. Iby tapped it home to give Pope Francis its first stand-alone state championship (They were Super 8 co-champs in 2020 with Arlington).
Here is a look at Josh Iby’s winning goal:
“This is just an incredible feeling,” Iby said. “We knew we had this game in hand. I knew I had Mossy behind me. I thought he was going to take the shot at first. He beat the guy backchecking and the defenseman in front of him and slid it over. I had just enough room to tuck it in. And that’s game.”
It was a tough loss for Xaverian (16-9-0), which also fell in last year’s Division 1 title game (to St. John’s Prep). The Hawks held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in this one.
“We pretty much thought this was going to be a rebuilding year,” said Xaverian coach Dave Spinale, who saw 15 seniors graduate from last winter’s club. “We played really well. I am so proud of the effort and attitude. We played our hearts out today. We had the coverage adn the puck bounced the wrong way I fee so bad for these guys. I felt like they deserved a better fate. But give Pope Franics credit. They were oportunistic and well-skilled.”
The first period was kind of a defensive battle, with only nine shots on goal combined (5 for Pope Francis and 4 for Xaverian).
The Hawks got on the board first when sophomore Devin Gosciak made a nice redirection of a Jackson Morse pass. The goal came at 7:19 and was Xaverian’s first shot on goal in the game.
Pope Francis (21-2-4) tied it later in the period on a power play. Stationed in the left faceoff circle, Iby took a pass from Jake Jarrell and one-timed it past Xaverian netminder Cole Pouliot-Porter, who was outstanding again in the Hawks’ net.
Things opened up in the second period as the offenses got things going.
The Cardinals got a four-minute power play early in period two, but it was Xaverian that took advantage. Thomas Dunn broke in with Sean Connolly. Cardinals goalie stopped Dunn’s bid but the puck bounced to Connolly at the right post. His first shot went wide by he was able to collect the carom off the back board and slide it home.
Here is a look at Sean Connolly’s shorthanded goal for Xaverian:
At 12:21, Ryan O’Leary finished off a some great passing from linemates Jacob Petrin and Nick Petrovich to bring Pope even at 2-2 after two periods.
In the third period, Ritchie kept the game tied with a pair of glittering saves off Xaverian’s Gavin Moynihan.
Just when it appeared this one was going to overtime, Iby became the hero for Pope Francis.
“We won four one-goal games in a row in the tournament,” Foley said. “We showed that we belonged here.”
Pope Francis in succession beat Wellesley (3-2 in OT), Marshfield (3-2), St. John’s Prep (1-0) and Xaverian (3-2).