BILLERICA — Central Catholic fell victim to seven tough minutes.
"I don't know if it was nerves, but we came out flat," said Raiders head coach Mike Jankowski. "It took us a while to get in the groove, and in the end we just couldn't recover."
Central Catholic was whistled for three penalties in the first 7:04 of play, which resulted in two power-play goals and the Raiders never recovered in falling to Arlington Catholic 3-1 in the Division 1 North semifinal last night at the Chelmsford Forum in front of approximately 700 fans.
The Cougars, who Central defeated 1-0 in the regular season, advance to the Division 1 North final to face St. Mary's of Lynn on Saturday.
"Some of it might have been butterflies," said Jankowski. "We have a lot of young players. But penalties were an issue out of the gates and they made us play. But we straightened things out and we were great in the second and third quarter."
Following that rough first period, in which they were outshot 15-5, the Raiders grabbed control of the game.
"We got screamed at a little between periods," said junior Nick Leonard. "Then we picked it up. We did all we could and went all out."
The Raiders fired 15 shots on goal in the second period and limited Arlington Catholic to just six on goalie Kyle Williams.
Tommy Evangelista finally cut into the lead 6:04 into the second, hauling in a rebound off a slap shot and firing it home for his team-high 20th goal of the season. Leonard and Johnny Daniels notched assists on the play.
Daniels then nearly tied the game at the end of the period, taking a pass and sliding the puck into what looked to be an open net. But Cougars goalie Cam Kelley (26 saves) was able to just knock it away with his skates.
The Raiders continued to apply that pressure in the third, and for a moment it looked as if they had that long-awaited score.
Leonard fired a shot on goal that was stopped but came loose in front of the net. Both Central and AC players pounced on the puck and after an extended scrum the puck squirted into the goal.
The goal light flashed, but the referees immediately waved off the score. According to an MIAA official, the referees ruled a Central player had knocked the puck in with his glove.
"I couldn't see what was going on in the scrum," said Jankowski, whose club went just 3-4-2 over its final nine games. "They were battling in front and it went in. I hope they made the right call.
"It was tough because we had some good chances. We almost had the one with Johnny, then the one that was disallowed. We had out chances, but we just couldn't find the back of the net."
Following those two quick goals, Williams excelled. In the second period he wowed the crowd with a big stop with his chest, then going to a butterfly stop for the rebound. Then, in the third, he made a butterfly stop on a 3-on-1 break.
But after a few decent chances for the Raiders after pulling the goalie, Arlington Catholic iced the game with an empty net goal.
"I am proud of the guys," said Jankowski. "They turned the game around and did a great job. We'll have to suffer through a few days of pain and suffering, but they did all they could."
Arlington Catholic 3, Central Catholic 1
Division 1 North semifinal
Arlington Catholic (13-7-4):2âÇ0âÇ1 — 3
Central Catholic (15-6-3):0âÇ1âÇ0 — 1
Goals: CC — Tommy Evangelista; AC — Michael Settipani 2, James Murphy
Assists: CC — Johnny Daniels, Nick Leonard; AC — Paul Kehoe, Niko Rufo, Andrew Crawford
Saves: CC — Kyle Williams 28; AC —Cam Kelley 26