MIAA Boys Division 1 Semifinals: Pope Francis, Xaverian Head To State Final With Nail-Biting One Goal Wins

Gary Demopoulos
Gary Demopouloshttp://www.hnibnews.com
Gary Demopoulos has been covering prep school hockey for the HNIB News for over 30 years, and has been the editor of the HNIB News since 2005. A former sportswriter and news editor at the Woburn (MA) Daily Times Chronicle, he has been the HNIB News' key reporter for Mens Prep School hockey since 1988, as well as womens hockey, both at the prep school and high school levels. for almost 20 years. Gary also helps organize and oversee HNIB's many summer tournaments and festivals for scholastic players.

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Reading netminder Chris Hanifan keeps puck out of net with plenty of action in front. The Reading defense takes care of Xaverian’s Devin Gosciak

Goals were certainly at a premium in Sunday’s two MIAA Boys Division 1 semifinals at Tsongas Arena. In fact, just two combined goals were scored in a pair of 1-0 games.

In the opener, #4 Pope Francis denied top-seeded St. John’s Prep bid for a repeat title.

In the nightcap, a chess match between Xaverian and Reading went scoreless into overtime, before “Playoff Joe,” Xaverian senior Joe DiMartino, whistled home a wrist shot 3:13 into extra time to end it.

Check out Joe DiMartino’s overtime game-winner here:

“I think in the first period we both were figuring out who is who,” said Xaverian coach Dave Spinale, who has his Hawks in their second straight finals appearance. “Things opened up in the second period, which had its ebbs and flows. I think Reading outshot us by a pretty wide margin in the second period (12-5). We were flat and had some chances. We bore down in the third, and in the, 4-on-4 and you have Playoff Joe. He always scores the big ones for us. We want the puck on his stick.

Xaverian’s Joe DiMartino, who scored the game-winner in OT, tries to elude Reading’s TJ Michel (5) and Cam Fahey in first period action.

In the overtime, defenseman Cole LeBlanc headmanned the puck to DiMartino, who swept into the Reading zone, and, using Rockets defenseman TJ Michel as a screen, fired a wrist shot just under the cross bar for the Xaverian win.

It was the first goal that Reading netminder Chris Hanifan allowed in 155:48 of playoff action.

The Rockets had plenty of chances in this game, but could not solve Xaverian netminder Cole Pouliot-Porter, who made 33 saves.

“Cole was outstanding in net,” Spinale said. “He is just seeing the puck well. The guys are battling in front of him. He gives us so much confidence to rely on him. He has been nothing short of amazing.”

After graduating a bunch of guys from last year’s final game appearance, the Hawks entered this year with a young team, playing 10 sophomores and freshmen. So, a return trip to the Garden has been quite the feat.

“Honestly, in the pre-season, going to the Garden was probably a dream,” Spinale said. “We got hot at the right time in the second season. The guys have battled all year. I’m so glad they get to go back. The senior class won the Catholic Conference as sophomores, and were in the finals last year.”

Pope Francis goaltender Nick Ritchie makes one of his 15 first period saves to rob St. John’s Prep’s Jake Vana from in close. Cardinals went on to win, 1-0

If the Hawks are to get their first state title, they will have to knock off #4 Pope Francis, which dethroned top-seeded St. John’s Prep, 1-0.

This game also went into the third period scoreless.

The Cardinals would score the game’s only goal when Ryan O’Leary intercepted an errant St. John’s Prep clear-out pass, moved in and slid a neat, no-look pass to Nick Petkovich in the left circle, and he was able to beat Cronin at the 8:47 mark, the puck just making it over the goal line as Prep netmider Brian Cronin got most of it.

Prep pulled Cronin with 1:12 to go and had lots of O zone time 6-on-5, but couldn’t get many clean looks at Cardinals netminder Nick Ritchie.

Richie was outstanding the entire game for Pope Francis, especially in the first period, when he turned aside 15 St. John’s Prep shots.

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  1. Gee, who has a better chance of winning? A public school limited to players solely within it’s town or a private school with the ability to recruit from multiple towns and larger geographic area?

    A public school should not be playing private schools for any tournament championships. Another example of how horrible the MIAA truly is in giving advantages to one group over another.

  2. That’s 100% not true. A few years ago the public schools voiced their opposition to the fact that they never had a chance to play in the Super Eight. They felt that was unfair and now we have the current playoff system. It’s not unfair in any way, shape or form. Public schools have the same chance as the private schools and I have seen some very good teams from public schools.


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