NORTH ANDOVER -- BC High didn’t make it through group play in the Super 8 hockey tournament unscathed, but the Eagles soared when it mattered most.
BC High’s 3-2 win over St. John’s Prep at Lawler Arena Wednesday gave the Eagles (13-6-5) the season series with their Catholic Conference rivals, and, more importantly, their first trip to the TD Garden and the Super 8 finals since 2007.
“These kids are spoiled,” joked BC High coach John Flaherty. “They played at Fenway this year, now they get a chance to play at TD Garden ... and they earned it. We knew what the prize was, we knew the opportunity to play there, we had to get by this team, and our guys earned it. They worked hard and now they get to reap the rewards.”
St. John’s (16-6-2) didn’t look like the team that entered the crossover round undefeated in tournament play. Muddled play in their own zone led to turnovers and opportunities for BC High.
“We had a difficult time handling the puck tonight,” St. John’s coach Kristian Hanson said. “Mishandled it quite a bit ... we just weren’t as crisp and smooth as we have been throughout the entire tournament.”
Evan LeClerc pulled St. John’s even at 9:04 of the third period, only to have Chris LaLiberte put BC High back on top and provide the final margin 29 seconds later by getting his stick on a loose puck after a chaotic scrum in front of St. John’s netminder David Letarte (13 saves).
“You have to strike right back,” Flaherty said. “And when we did that I felt good about how the game was going.”
“We weren’t content with a one goal lead,” said senior captain Matt Sullivan. “They scored another goal, which we were expecting, and Chris LaLiberte did a great job, he kept at it and scored the game winner for us.”
Lucky to be scoreless after St. John’s defenseman Nick Pandelena put a rocket off the left post, Tom Besinger gave BC High the early lead with a wraparound at 7:26 of the opening period. Besinger came out of a scrum in the corner, carried the puck behind the net and popped it in to the right of Letarte.
The St. John’s power-play unit went to work for the first time with just under five minutes remaining in the first. With Ryan McDonough in the box for tripping, Pandelena went top shelf on BC High goalie Peter Cronin (18 saves) from the right circle after a brilliant setup from Sam Kurker and Brian Pinho.
BC High took its second lead of the game late in the second period. Letarte caught a Steve DeForge shot from the slot with his stick, sending it wide to the end boards. After a short battle, Tim Larocque came up with it on Letarte’s left. His wraparound bid was deflected, but ricocheted up and over the sprawling Letarte with less than two minutes remaining in the period.
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