LOWELL — Peter Cronin was stellar in goal for the Boston College High School hockey team as a junior, registering a .918 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average while backstopping the Eagles to the Super 8 championship game.
His challenge: getting better.
His answer: “PLIO.”
The acronym, inscribed on the inside of his blocker pad, stands for “play like it’s overtime” and represents the senior captain’s mindset this season, his last in the maroon and gold.
“Every step of the way it’s as if that shot gets in, it’s game over,” said Cronin, a Norwell resident who got his start skating for the South Shore Seahawks in town.
“If you play like it’s overtime, it’s going to be tough to beat you. Once in a while in a game I’ll look down and remind myself, ‘All right, focus on the next one. It could be the game.’ ”
The new philosophy has more than worked out for Cronin, arguably the best high school goalie in the state. His .949 save percentage and 1.31 GAA is tops among Catholic Conference regulars, and with a 14-3-3 regular-season record, the Eagles earned another Super 8 berth.
On Sunday, Cronin was as sharp as ever in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Super 8 quarterfinals against Catholic Memorial, making 23 stops in a 3-1 win, BC High’s third victory against CM this season.
No sequence was more impressive than the one five minutes into the game. With CM pressuring in the BC High zone, junior Kevin Bletzer fired a shot from the left circle, which Cronin deflected with his blocker. The puck kicked out to the slot for Knights captain Jack O’Hear , but Cronin again was up to the challenge, and made the glove save on his childhood friend.
At game’s end, the BC High student section rang out cheers of “All hail Cronin,” but coach John Flaherty’s reaction to his goalie’s stellar work was, well, ho-hum.
“That’s what we’ve come to expect from Peter,” Flaherty said straight-faced. “He’s an exceptional goaltender and when we needed him back there . . . Peter made save after save.”
For Cronin, though, treating each save as the biggest one is nothing new. That mindset comes in part from the coaching and guidance of his father, Dan , who was the one who suggested Peter create a self-motivating motto for his senior season.
Dan, who played for BC High in the 1970s before skating for a couple years at Saint Anselm College, worked with O’Hear’s dad, Tom, to coach the Boston Junior Terriers team while their sons were growing up.
Cronin played with the Seahawks until age 10, but got his goalie legs under him with the Junior Terriers. He is now grateful for the constructive criticism he received from his coaches.
“They held everyone accountable,” Cronin said. “They rewarded you when you worked hard and when you didn’t, they let you know about it. I think that makes for a hockey player and good hockey player development.
“Even that young. And that’s something that when they instill that in kids at a young age, it sticks with them.”
Cronin has also benefited from the tutelage of goalie coach Brian Eklund , a standout at Archbishop Williams and Brown University before playing professionally for four years, including the 2005-2006 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Providence Bruins.
He now trains aspiring goalies through his company, MassCrease, in Norwell.
“He gives me a lot of confidence,” said Cronin, who bounced from goalie coach to goalie coach before finding Eklund in middle school. “He’s not going to be the guy who tears you down. Everything’s trying to be positive.”
Flaherty pointed to Cronin’s ferocious competitiveness as the culmination of more than a decade of training — with the Junior Terriers, with Eklund, and at BC High.
Next year, Cronin will suit up for a Division 3 program or in the Eastern Junior Hockey League, with the latter option giving his 6-foot-2, 160-pound frame a year to fill out while he seeks Division 1 opportunities. But for now Flaherty is grateful to have him for these last few games as the Eagles make their Super 8 run.
“Those little things that he does, other guys feed off of and they see how focused he is, how prepared he is, how seriously he takes things,” said Flaherty, in his third year as head coach after joining the program in 1990 as an assistant. “Just by watching him, other guys are better players.
“It’s a mature approach that you don’t really see in a lot of kids at a high school age . . . His preparation, his focus — all those things are superior to any goalie that we’ve had.”
Trio heads to Harvard
after nabbing N.E. title
Brianna Laing of Marblehead, Natasha Rachlin of Brookline, and Robyn White of Weston will all play for the women’s hockey team at Harvard in the fall. But the Noble & Greenough seniors had a bit of unfinished business last weekend: winning a NEPSAC title.
Thanks in large part to Brianna’s sister, Lexie , a junior who copped tourney MVP honors (7 goals, 4 assists in three games), the Bulldogs skated away with their second New England title in a row and seventh in 12 years.
After a dominant 8-0 win over St. Paul’s in the semifinals Saturday, Nobles rolled to the title with a 4-0 victory over Choate on Sunday.
Nobles had to kill three first-period penalties, and while it tired the girls out a bit it also gave them confidence, according to coach Tom Resor .
With two goals and two assists, Lexie had a hand in every Nobles tally in the final victory, while Brianna did what she needed to in net by making 12 saves, including several of the flashy glove variety.
Junior wing Kenzie Kent , of Norwell, collected three assists.
The win was especially sweet because Choate was the only team to defeat Nobles (27-1) all season, a 1-0 decision back on Dec. 8.
“Being able to play Choate, the one team that had beaten us, the kids were looking forward to that,” Resor said. “It’s historically a great rival.”
The team capped the season having given up 13 goals in 28 games.
“They’re lucky we get kids who are great students and great players,’’ Resor said. “That makes for a great combination.”