WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (ESPN) — The contrasting styles in demeanor following Saturday’s 1-1 tie between No. 1 Springfield Cathedral and No. 2 St. John’s Prep was not hard to witness.
On one side, you had the Eagles visibly dumbfounded and discouraged. On the other side, the Panthers presented a look of sheer relief.
For all but the final two-and-a-half minutes of this battle played at the Olympia Ice Center, St. John’s Prep owned Cathedral. The Eagles suffocated the Panthers offense, giving them no time or space to generate the kind of offensive they are use to.
The one time the Eagles did give the Panthers a bit of room, it ended up biting them.
At 12:33 of the third period, Cathedral senior forward Dominic Blad was left all alone inside the right circle. His hard wrist shot through traffic beat Eagles’ goaltender Billy Price keeping the Panthers unbeaten as they improved to 15-0-4.
The Eagles (15-2-1) will come away from this one literally kicking themselves, knowing they let a golden opportunity at victory slip through their fingers.
St. John’s Prep proved the aggressor throughout, putting up 35 shots, while its defense blanketed the Panthers, holding them to a mere five over 45 minutes.
“We had a bit of a defensive breakdown with two-and-a-half minutes to go and it was the wrong time to have that,” Eagles head coach Kristian Hanson said. “Then we have Billy [Price] sitting there all day not facing many shots and he’s cold and it put him in a tough situation. We play strong team defense with our forwards coming back and our defense closing gaps. I thought we did a nice job with that. We didn’t want to give them room to move and fortunately for the most part we were able to do that but we just couldn’t get the win.”
Had it not been for the spectacular play of Cathedral goaltender John Liquori, who knows how many goals the Eagles might have scored. The junior, perhaps, played his best game as a Panther, finishing with 34 saves despite the consistent onslaught put forth by the Eagles.
“It kept me on my toes because I like a lot of shots,” Liquori said. “I was able to put the team on my back and ran with it. When you are getting that amount of shots you sort of get into a rhythm. Today the puck looked like a beach ball to me.”
Following a scoreless first period in which St. John’s Prep put up nine shots to Cathedral’s two, St. John’s Prep finally solved the Liquori puzzle in the middle frame.
At 7:30, senior forward Cam Sheheen, taking a centering pass from Paul Crehan, slipped a shot past Liquori to give the Eagles the lead.
Despite the many other chances St. John’s Prep had in the period, it settled for the one goal lead heading into the second intermission.
Realizing their quest to remain unbeaten was in serious trouble, the Panthers took their level of play up a few notches in the third. Even though it still had problems breaking free from the Eagles’ defense, Cathedral appeared to be doing a better job moving the puck away from its own zone. As a result it would pay off thanks to Blad’s goal to salvage the tie.
“St. John’s played real well and from a skating standpoint I thought this was the fastest tempo game we played this year,” Panthers coach Brian Foley said. “For whatever reason, we weren’t up for it during the first two periods, but the kids came back Liquori kept us in it. I thought we played with little more emotion in the third period and Dom [Blad] had a nice goal for us.”