Defense the difference as BC High shuts out Needham
NORTH ANDOVER — As he fielded questions from reporters in a muggy, crowded hallway outside Lawler Arena’s locker rooms yesterday, BC High goaltender Peter Cronin mulled briefly the series of events that lead to his 14-save shutout of Needham.
The third-seeded Eagles had just beaten the Rockets, 2-0, in Super 8 round-robin action on a late goal by senior Mike Cashman. The gangly sophomore goaltender was asked about the handful of difficult saves he’d made en route to the shutout.
All Cronin could come up with was praise for the Eaglesdefenders.
“They were really keeping the shots to a pretty decent angle, so they were pretty easy to handle for me,’’ Cronin said.
That defense has been a focal point in BC High’s seven-game win streak. Including yesterday’s win, the Eagles have surrendered just three goals in their last five games, with Cronin earning three shutouts.
“You’re playing in the tournament and you have to be solid defensively,’’ BC High coach John Flaherty said. “Regardless of how good your goalie is, if you’re giving up so many chances and giving up Grade A-area chances, you’re going to get burned.”
The Eagles (14-4-3, 1-0 Super 8) were especially adept in the blocked-shots department, highlighted by a first-period penalty kill that featured four blocked shots and zero shots on goal by the Rockets.
When the defense did break down, Cronin was unbeatable as Rockets senior Sam Nickles found out when he skated in alone midway through the third period. Cronin aligned himself to Nickles as the Rocket charged, then made an athletic armpit save when Nickles snapped a shot from 5 feet out.
Despite a hefty time-of-possession advantage, the Eagles were held scoreless into the third period.
With 6:28 to play, the BC High power play changed that. The Eagles had gone 0 for 2 on the man-up through two periods, though they pelted Needham goalie Connor Murray (24 saves) with six shots during a power-play try early in the second.
Flaherty said his team had forced shots during the second-period power-play try, and instructed his squad to be more patient and picky during the third-period man-advantage.
The selectivity paid off. Cashman converted by taking in a pass from senior Terence Durkin between the right circle and goal line, skating a step toward the slot, and rifling a top-shelf bullet over Murray’s left shoulder.
“I had all day to walk, and the goalie was giving us that top shelf all day,’’ Cashman said. “He’s a big body, went down, and gave me the short side, so I took it.
“It was the first place I looked and it was there, so I put it there.’’
The sixth-seeded Rockets (12-7-4, 0-1), calling on a unique defensive set that left one skater cherry-picking at center ice to quell BC High’s relentless forecheck, put just three shots on net in the third period.
Eagles senior Andrew White slid home an empty-netter with 32 seconds to play to secure the victory.