NORTH ANDOVER — Brian Pinho will be in the crowd at the TD Garden tomorrow night for the Hockey East semifinals and, with any luck, will be making the trip to Boston again on Saturday for the championship game, in what he dreams will be a preview of his future in hockey.
“I’ll definitely be there cheering on Providence,” said the North Andover resident. “I’ll just be in the stands, but it will still be awesome. If Providence wins, I’ll be there for the title game. Hopefully that will be me in a few seasons.”
After an outstanding career at St. John’s Prep, where he scored over 100 career points and led the Eagles to at least the Super 8 tournament semifinals each of the last three seasons, Pinho now has his eyes set on a year of preparation as he readies himself to play in Hockey East for Providence — where he committed in September — starting in the 2014-15 season.
“Brian has been the leader and the heart of this team for a long time,” said Prep coach Kristian Hanson. “He has done so much over the last four years.”
Pinho ended his high school career in style this season. He finished the year with 15 goals and 27 assists — including the series-clinching goal in the Super 8 first round victory over Central Catholic.
“It would have been nice to play in the championship game,” said Pinho. “But we won the Catholic Conference title for the first time since 1994 and had a lot of great moments. That Central series was amazing. (Central goalie Colin) Soucy robbed me a few times, so to score that winner was a great feeling for me.”
Pinho began to make a name for himself as a sophomore for the Prep squad that advanced to the Super 8 finals, losing in overtime to Malden Catholic in the first of its now three straight Super 8 titles. Pinho earned a spot on the second line and finished with a pair of goals and 13 assists.
He continued to emerge last season, setting career-highs in goals (18) and points (44), earning an All-Catholic Conference honors and leading the Prep to the Super 8 semifinals.
“I truly loved my time at St. John’s,” he said. “If I had it to do all over again I wouldn’t do it any other way. I’m proud of what I did and what we were able to do as a team. I was one of the captains the last two years, and I feel like that showed how much the coaches respected me. As the years went on, I really gained a lot of confidence and feel like my game grew.”
While his high school career is now in the books, Pinho won’t be hitting the ice for Providence right away. He is planning to spend a year playing junior hockey — a common practice in the sport — to prepare himself for the rugged Hockey East.
He is looking into playing in either the Eastern Junior Hockey League or possibly the United States Hockey League if he is selected in their draft in May. The USHL has sent 193 players to the NHL, including former Merrimack College legend and current Ottawa Senator Stephane Da Costa.
“I actually want to take the year,” said the 6-foot, 180-pound Pinho. “I don’t think I would be ready to play in the Hockey East right now. I want to improve my game. Become bigger and stronger and know I can do all the little things.
“I’ve been talking to (current Harvard forward) Colin Blackwell, who I played with in high school, a lot. He has been giving me advice on how to prepare. I have talked to some USHL teams, but the EJHL would be great too. I have also talked to a few NHL teams about possibly being drafted. I am ranked (117th) in American Central Scouting rankings.”
But his eyes are ultimately set on his future with Providence, and hopefully a few trips to the Hockey East finals — this time on the ice.
“Playing in the Hockey East will be such a dream come true,” he said. “It’s an honor to be going there, and I can’t wait to play for the Friars.”