The Catholic Central League title was on the line.
But the chatter was about hockey before last week’s lacrosse showdown between the Austin Prep boys and host Archbishop Williams in Braintree?
Forget his 57 points this spring, in his first season on the varsity lacrosse squad. His speed. Or his prowess on the field.
No, all the talk was about Prep sophomore Bob “Bobo” Carpenter recently making a verbal commitment to attend Boston University on a hockey scholarship.
The North Reading teen, the son of “The Can’t Miss Kid,” Sports Illustrated cover boy BobbyCarpenter , and the younger brother of Alexandra , the state’s all-time leading scorer now starring on the ice at Boston College, has been heavily recruited for his promise on the ice. He helped propel Prep to the Super 8 final this past winter.
Despite the whirlwind, his focus was on the task at hand.
So after a two-plus-hour drive to Braintree, and listening to more than a few taunts from the opposition about his hockey commitment, and questioning his ability on the lacrosse field, Carpenter went to work.
“It didn’t really work out well for them,” said Austin Prep senior captain Will Kramer with a laugh.
In a game that lasted well into the night, Carpenter buried the Bishops, tiring defenders with his meticulously planned dodges en route to four goals, including the game-winner in overtime.
“I’ve never seen a kid who just kind of listens to it and takes it,” said senior captain ChristianRappa, a long stick middie.
“It just doesn’t faze him at all. I’ve never seen such a thing.”
There are other sophomores on the team, including assistant captain Matt Morgan, who played his eighth-grade and freshman seasons on varsity for the Cougars — Carpenter is one of the newest members, but he hasn’t missed a beat.
His 47 goals lead the team, and add in his 10 assists for a team-leading 57 points. More important is his ability to play in the moment.
Carpenter registered 25 points in his team’s first 10 contests, in which Prep won nine of its first 10 games.
Since the Cougars suffered their first loss, however, Carpenter has a team-leading 32 points in six games.
“My dad has taught me everything I know,” said Carpenter.
“I look up to him for everything and can go to him for anything. He always taught me to never stop trying and work the hardest at everything you do.”
His attitude and play have resonated with the rest of the team.
Morgan (37 goals, 15 assists) has teamed with Carpenter to form a prolific 1-2 punch. Morgan’s older brother, Sam (16-18-34), a junior, is seeing the field better than ever. Another sophomore, Kevin Kiley , has contributed 26 points. Junior Brett Mazza is winning 75 percent of his faceoffs and triggering the transition attack.
“There’s definitely a Morgan-to-Morgan connection out there,” said Kramer, noting the formidable tandem of brothers that complement Carpenter.
And don’t forget the stellar play of senior Luke Tetrault in net.
The Cougar defense has only allowed 80 goals all season, good for an average of five per game.
Against Archie’s, Tetrault made an incredible, game-saving stop that led to a transition break and the game-winner for Carpenter.
It was only fitting.
“Luke makes every save he’s supposed to make, and then makes saves he has no business making. He keeps us in games like that,” said Kramer. “We play with a lot of confidence in front of him. We know that if we play good defense and don’t allow any high percentage shots, that he’s going to make the saves and keep us in games.”
But just like Carpenter, Tetrault does not let anything faze him and stays focused on the game, and his next stop.
“The coaches tell us ‘he forgets about the goals before they’re even scored on him’ and they’re right,” said Rappa of his easygoing goalie.
“He’s one of the most consistent goalies we’ve had in a while, which is huge, but he’s also the best goalie we’ve had in a long time at Austin [Prep]. He just shakes things off and plays, so we do the same in front of him.”
“I asked them to do one thing before and during lacrosse, and that one thing was to stay focused and give everything they have. I can’t say enough about this team and their focus,” said third-year coach Peter Smyth .
Carpenter said the Cougars’ motto is “Heart, hustle, and have fun.
“Always bounce back and never give up if we’re losing. We’re just a great group of hard-working boys.”
Five boys’ teams to watch in the tourney:
Pentucket (12-5): The Sachems lost three of their first five games but bounced back with 10 wins in their next 12 games.
Whittier (13-5): The Wildcat defense has allowed double digits in goals just three times this season. Combined with a decent offensive attack (8.5 goals per game, 14-plus three times), they could make some noise in Division 3.
Billerica (13-5): The Indians stole the Merrimack Valley Conference crown with seven wins in their last eight games. And after pre-state tourney tuneups against BC High and Xaverian, and with All-American goalie DJ Smith in net, they are poised for a deep run.
Andover (12-4): A loaded schedule included wins over powers Dover-Sherborn and Lexington, and the Golden Warriors ripped off 10 straight victories before falling to Billerica last week.
Newburyport (10-3): The Clippers have quality wins over Austin Prep, Pentucket, and North Reading (twice) and appear poised to make a quiet run in the tourney.
Five girls’ teams to watch:
Westford Academy (19-1-0): The Grey Ghosts handed New Hampshire juggernaut Souhegan its only loss and suffered their own on Monday, with a 13-5 defeat to Needham, one of the favorites in Division 1.
Winchester (15-3-1): After a 19-1 campaign and a trip to the EMass Division 2 final last year, Harvard-bound Megan Hennessey and Sachems are geared up for another run.
Bishop Fenwick (12-6-0): After a three-game losing skid at midseason, punctuated by a 22-20 loss to Austin Prep, the Crusaders won eight straight to qualify for the tourney.
Manchester-Essex (14-2-0): The Hornets have wins over Ipswich and Newburyport, and lost a one-goal decision to Marblehead (14-2-1).
Haverhill (10-6): Clearly a sleeper in the tourney, the Hillies snuck in with a dramatic overtime win over Pentucket.
Pat Bradley can be reached at email@example.com.