Quick starts are just enough
St. John’s (S), Central Catholic win
NORTH ANDOVER - Early leads led to big comebacks that ultimately fell short as St. John’s of Shrewsbury and Central Catholic escaped with victories last night in the Super 8 boys’ hockey play-in games at Merrimack College’s Lawler Arena.
It had been nine years since St. John’s made it to the Super 8, but a four-goal first period signaled the Pioneers’ return in a big way and they needed every bit of their firepower to hold on for a 5-4 victory over Needham.
Vin D’Amato wristed a shot past Connor Murray just 44 seconds into the game to get the Pioneers rolling, and Bryan Nelson, Mike Brown, and Kevin Emmerling followed suit, leaving the Rockets dazed after one period.
When Jay Duquette (one goal, three assists) put the Pioneers ahead, 5-0, with less than five minutes to play in the second period, all hope seemed lost for Needham, even after D.J. Walsh put the Rockets on the board with five seconds left in the period.
The Rockets did not go down without a fight as Brendan Joyce, Lucas Davis, and Walsh scored three quick goals in the third period, cutting the deficit to a goal with seven minutes to play.
“This year we’ve lost by spotting other teams leads,’’ Needham coach Bill Guisti said. “We had a couple of chances there at the end. It was a good effort.’’
The Pioneers, the eighth seed, advanced to face Malden Catholic Sunday at noon to kick off pool play.
The nightcap was a battle from start to finish that saw Central Catholic grind out a 6-4 victory over Burlington.
A seven-goal second period featured a natural hat trick by Michael Kelleher that put Central Catholic up, 3-0, eight minutes into the period.
The Red Devils got goals from Brien Diffley, Steve Mattos, and C.J. Grinell in the span of 56 seconds to even the score.
After a diving glove save by Burlington’s Derek DeCasto, Central Catholic’s Michael Hovnanian scored off the ensuing faceoff with 16.7 seconds left in the period to give the Raiders a 4-3 lead.
The teams traded late goals in the third, but the Red Devils were unable to tie the score after pulling their goalie for an extra attacker in the final minute. Central Catholic scored an empty-net goal to seal the victory.
The seventh-seeded Raiders will play No. 2 St. Mary’s Sunday.