STONEHAM — In a moment of desperation, BC High goaltender Peter Cronin went into a split, sealing off the left post in an attempt to deny Catholic Memorial’s Liam Coughlin the wraparound goal.
All Coughlin had to do was aim high and he would be heralded a hero, and the senior captain never hesitated to deliver.
Coughlin snapped a wrist shot into the top right corner, past an outstretched Cronin, with just 22.5 seconds remaining to lift Catholic Memorial to a thrilling 3-2 win over BC High in the deciding game of their best-of-three Super 8 first-round series Sunday at Stoneham Arena.
The Knights will face Malden Catholic in the semifinals Wednesday at Tsongas Arena in Lowell.
“ ‘Exaggerate high,’ is what our coaches tell us and it ended up going in and it was awesome,” Coughlin said.
On the play, the net shook from its moorings, but the officials convened and decided the puck crossed the line before the net came loose.
“It definitely came off, but the referee was in good position and his explanation was that in the act of shooting, if the net comes off, it’s a good goal,” BC High coach John Flaherty said. “I have to trust that.”
It was a storybook ending to this year’s chapter of one of the most riveting rivalries in high school hockey. BC High got the better of CM in two Catholic Conference matchups, and won the first game of the series, 3-1, last Sunday.
Catholic Memorial (14-7-2) evened the series with a 3-2 shootout victory Wednesday, forcing the third game.
“In games like this, big-time players have to step up and get the job done for you,” CM coach Bill Hanson said. “Liam just showed what kind of hockey player he is and what kind of character he had.”
With the game tied at 1 entering the third period, sophomore Alec Flynn snapped a shot past Catholic Memorial freshman goaltender Brendan Collett (29 saves) to give BC High a 2-1 lead at 5:24.
Nearly three minutes later, CM’s Kevin Hock corralled a loose puck and started a two-on-one break with fellow freshman Aaron Clancy. Hock dished it to Clancy, who kissed a shot off the post and past Cronin to tie the game.
“[Hock] made a really nice pass under the defenseman’s stick, and I knew I had to have a quick release because Cronin is one of the best in the state,” said Clancy.
In the first period, BC High (15-5-3) jumped to a 1-0 lead on Patrick Kramer’s power-play goal.
The Knights, who committed four penalties in the first period, settled down. In the second period, on a delayed penalty call, Coughlin scored the equalizer on a pass from Clancy.
“We took a couple of needless penalties,” Hanson said. “But we’ve killed penalties all year long and we survived it.”