NORTH ANDOVER - Central Catholic got a late third-period goal to send its game against Springfield Cathedral to overtime, where Jake Donahue won it for the Raiders, 5-4, at Lawler Arena Sunday. Central advances to face Malden Catholic in the Super 8 semifinals Wednesday.
However, confusion reigned when the Panthers pulled their goalie in the final minute despite having a 4-3 edge, because they required a two-goal victory if they wanted to advance.
“If not for the format [of the tournament] we wouldn’t have been alive today, so we can’t complain about that,’’ said Springfield coach Brian Foley. “Needing to win by two, it’s definitely a different way to approach the game.’’
The Panthers came out of their cage with purpose and DJ Petruzzelli came through just 56 seconds into the game as he skated up the middle all alone, faked right, and deposited the puck in the open left side of the net for a 1-0 lead.
They continued to ratchet up the attack and Jordan Kozub stuffed home a rebound at the 11:44 mark of the first, followed by Frank Crinella doing the same less than a minute later for a 3-0 lead.
After sleepwalking through the first period, Ryan Daigle breathed life into the Raiders when he picked off a pass in the neutral zone, skated in on the right wing, and ripped one past John Liquori for a shorthanded goal to make it 3-1.
Central goalie Andrew Robbins replaced Williams to start the second and the senior showed no rust, stopping nine shots to keep the Raiders within two after two periods.
“Spotting them three goals early was not what we expected at all,’’ said Central coach Mike Jankowski. “Coming back with Robbins in net sealed the deal. It’s been a pretty special season.’’
The Raiders trudged on in the third, gaining momentum on another early goal, this time from Christian Thompson, who fired one home from the left side to make it 3-2 at 1:30.
Less than two minutes later, Nick Gorski got off a slap shot from high in the slot that sailed past Liquori to pull the Raiders even.
Midway through the third, Crinella potted his second of the game as the Panthers seized momentum again.
In one of the crazier finishes in recent memory, Springfield pulled Liquori with less than a minute to play, while Central left Robbins in.
“They needed to win, so I was expecting them to pull their goalie,’’ said Foley. “They never pulled their goalie, which surprised me.’’
Central’s Michael Kelleher picked off a pass and netted the tying goal with 13 seconds left in regulation, setting up the sixth overtime of the Super 8.
In overtime, Donahue collected a loose puck and skated in with a defender draped on him, but managed to get off his shot as he was going down to the ice, scoring 4:20 into the extra frame.