As coach of the top-ranked hockey team in the state, John Flaherty knows that every time BC High skates onto the ice, the Eagles' opponent is going to give them all they can handle. In many ways, it's the curse that comes with being viewed as the best.
Saturday afternoon against No. 6 Springfield Cathedral proved to be no different.
Goaltender Brandon Payzant stopped 17 of 18 shots and defenseman Sam Topham scored with 6:13 left in regulation as BC High clawed its way to a 1-1 tie with the visiting Panthers in front of a raucous crowd at UMass Boston's Clark Athletic Center.
"They're a very, very good team," Flaherty said of the Panthers. "We knew we were in for a battle. To take a point, we'll walk away with that."
The tie keeps the Eagles (9-0-3) as one of only two unbeaten teams remaining in the state, along with Beverly (13-0-1).
Staring at a 1-0 deficit after two periods, BC High had a different target to shoot at to start the final frame. Following two periods of shutout hockey, Springfield Cathedral (10-2-2) elected to swap senior goaltender John Liquori for freshman Keith Petruzzelli, a move meant to spark the Panthers while giving the Eagles a different look in net.
"Keith is as strong a goalie as John Liquori," Cathedral assistant coach Mike Rousseau said. "Sometimes we just feel like [we need] a little bit of a momentum-switcher. BC had a little bit of momentum going after the second, so we thought maybe Keith would give us a spark, and I thought he did."
The 6-foot-5-inch, 160-pound freshman kept the surging Eagles off the board until midway through the third. BC High sophomore Kayser Raei beat Petruzzelli with a slap shot from the left-wing circle, but the puck hit the far post and ricocheted out.
With Petruzzelli out of place, Topham pinched in from the right point, took a feed from Patrick Kramer, and dumped the puck into a wide open net.
Though BC High held an 8-4 shot advantage through one, the Panthers had the best scoring chances through the first 15 minutes. Senior Pete Crinella outmuscled a defender en route to a breakaway, but his shot sailed wide of the net.
Minutes later, the Panthers broke into the offensive zone on a 4-on-2, but Eagle defenders Billy Roche and Trevor Davis stood their ground as they waited for their teammates to get back on defense.
The Eagles nearly took the lead early in the second. A shot from junior Justin Fein was saved by Liquori, but the rebound went airborne and landed behind the netminder, who was able to find the loose puck before it crossed the goal line.
The potent Panther offense finally clicked with 3:19 left in the second. Crinella raced through the right wing circle and carried the puck around the net before chipping a pass to DJ Petruzzelli for a successful one-timer. The goal was the 16th of the year for the state's leading scorer (16-22--38) and put the Panthers on top, 1-0.
BC High's offense began to find its rhythm late in the second. With less than 10 seconds left before the second intermission, Kramer found himself unmanned at the left wing circle. The junior wound up a blistering slap shot, but Liquori came out of the crease to make the save.
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our winter correspondents:
- Emily McCarthy | @EmilyMcCahthy | BPS correspondent
- Jake Fischer | @GlobeFischer | Boys basketball
- Michelle Fenelon | @michfenelon | Girls basketball
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Boys hockey
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls hockey
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.