STONEHAM — The last thing that anyone could call Central Catholic would be an underdog.
True, the Raiders were a No. 8 seed in the Super 8 tourney and taking on top rated St. John’s Prep, but there’s no difference to discern among two of the state’s best programs. The proof of that was in the play during a brutal, back-and-forth first round that wrapped up yesterday at Stoneham Arena.
At every level the teams were equal in the best-of-three finale. But in the final seven minutes, the Prep saw perfect positioning get rewarded with goals while senior netminder Billy Price was denying the Raiders on the other end. The Eagles (19-3-1) survived for a 4-2 victory and a berth in the semifinals against Austin Prep starting Wednesday at Tsongas Center.
“The first game (a 4-1 Central win) was ours and the second game (3-1 Eagles) was theirs,” said Central head coach Mike Jankowski. “(Yesterday) was nice, it went back and forth quite a bit. (Goalie) Colin (Soucy) made some nice saves that gave us some momentum and they did as well. Just a great game.”
The Raiders (15-7-3) never backed down, shaking off a pair of Prep leads.
Four minutes after Jimmy Currier’s second-period 180-degree spin and score in the right circle, Lloyd Hayes rewarded a patient Raider power play with a left circle laser that beat Price’s catching glove.
“Lloyd just competes,” said Jankowski. “Besides the goals (three in this year’s tourney), what he does in his own end, the open-ice hits, taking some hits off the wall ... he’s just a complete hockey player.”
And after Soucy’s four-star skate save on Justin Longo turned into a rebound goal for Paul Crehan late in the second, Billy Stahley’s dirty work in the right corner set up Christian Thompson for a perfect one-timer with 7:26 left in the game to retie the score.