By David Willis
---- — STONEHAM — Central Catholic goalie Colin Soucy did everything he could to hold off the St. John’s Prep onslaught.
The North Andover resident made saves standing up and sitting down. He made butterfly saves and stops from his stomach, and even took a shot square off his mask in a 39-save gem.
But despite Soucy’s brilliance, the No. 8 Raiders will be playing for their tournament lives tomorrow.
Top-seeded St. John’s Prep controlled the pace of play from the opening faceoff, tallying up a dominant 42-12 shot advantage on the way to defeating No. 8 Central Catholic 3-1 and tying their best-of-3 Super 8 first round series at 1-1. The third goal was an empty net score.
The two teams will play the deciding game of the series, with a trip to the Super 8 semifinals on the line, tomorrow night at 6 p.m. back at the Stoneham Arena.
“St. John’s Prep is the No. 1 team for a reason,” said Raiders coach Mike Jankowski. “We got away from some of the things were doing in Game 1 of the series (4-1 Central win). But Soucy gave us a fighting chance. He was fantastic.”
The junior netminder faced an intense Eagles attack from the start, making 14 saves in the first quarter alone.
One save, a highlight-reel sprawling stop was so impressive that even the St. John’s Prep fans treated the opposing goalie to a round of cheers.
“Soucy was tremendous,” said Prep coach Kristian Hansen. “Some of those saves were the best that I have seen all year. He stopped a one-timer on the power play and a few breakaways. He is legit and he is going places.”
Along with the slap shot he took to the face, Soucy also had his helmet knocked off as he was sent crashing into the net while making a stop on a Prep player that slammed into him.
He remained on the ice for a moment, but bounced up, put his helmet back on and shook off the hit.
“A few of the saves he made we should count two or three times,” said Jankowski. “He made some amazing stops to keep us in the game. The backdoor stop he made in the second period was amazing. He gave us the chance to stay in this game as poorly as we played.”
Thanks in large part to Soucy’s play, Central was able to grab the lead 1-0 with 6:53 to go in the second period.
Alex Lester played the puck into the net, and Lloyd Hayes was able to haul in the bouncing puck and stuff it into the net for a goal, his second of the Super 8 and third in three games against the Eagles including regular season play.
“We got that first goal and we were excited,” said Jankowski. “But it would have been nice to be able to build some momentum off that. We had a little momentum, then we gave it right back and we were right back on our heels again.”
Just 22 seconds after Hayes’ goal, the Prep struck right back when a deflected puck eluded Soucy into the goal. The Raider goalie was able to hold the Eagles in check of the rest of that period, but St. John’s scored the go-ahead tally 5:20 into the third. The Eagles then locked up the victory with the empty-netter with 1:06 left.
The Raiders now hope to regain some of the magic from their Game 1 upset victory and earn their second straight trip to the Super 8 semis.
“We’re going to be ready,” said Jankowski.
“We need to get back to what we did in our first game. We can’t allow so much pressure in our zone. We need to have that jump and execute.”
agateHed:St. John’s Prep 3, Central Catholic 1
agateText:Game 2, Super 8 first round series
St. John’s Prep (18-3-1): 0 1 2 — 3
agateText:Central Catholic (15-6-3): 0 1 0 — 1
agateText:Goals: CC — Lloyd Hayes; SJP — Conor Murray, Nic Gianelli, Cam Shaheen
agateText:Assists: CC — Alex Lester; SJP — Sheehan, Paul Crehan, James Currier, Evan Dinu, Brent Murray, Brian Pinho
agateText:Saves: CC — Colin Soucy 39; SJP — Billy Price 11