LOWELL — In the state’s most prestigious high school hockey tournament, in front of the bright lights and big crowd at Tsongas Center, all eyes were on the goalie who is supposed to make BC High the most dangerous team this postseason.
The Eagles weren’t supposed to be watching, too.
Patience, perhaps too much of it, and good goaltending was the recipe for BC High (15-3-3) on Sunday as the Eagles kicked off their Super 8 series against Catholic Memorial (12-7-2) with a let’s-take-it-and-get-out-of-here 3-1 win.
Peter Cronin’s glove was often flying in this one, his eyes keeping a close watch on CM’s 25-goal stud Liam Coughlin, who was lurking in the slot much of the afternoon.
Cronin made 23 saves, 19 through the first two periods when the Eagles appeared sluggish and content to have the state’s best goalie behind them.
“We did a lot of watching and we didn’t do a lot of initiating,” coach John Flaherty said.
Against a hot CM squad that has played inspired hockey since an 0-5-2 stretch from Jan. 12 to Feb. 2, the Eagles jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Adam Foley buried a shot from the slot.
But BC High spent much of the first two periods in their own zone, chasing the puck-carrier, often with three or four skaters, while the Knights worked it around the outside.
CM coach Bill Hanson, who put together a slightly-less rigorous schedule this season after his powerhouse program failed to qualify for the postseason in two straight years, wanted slap shots.
“You just get pucks to the net, try to get there and get the greasy goals,” Hanson said. “Because if you want to beat Peter, it has to be off rebounds.”
With a ferocious forecheck against the Eagles, who were in pack-it-in mode, CM got on the board in the second when Jack O’Hear poked in a rebound on a power play.
The Eagles, energized after intermission, took control in the third when Steve DeForge intercepted a pass in CM’s zone and sniped a top-shelf wrister. Hanson said there was some confusion on the Knights’ bench when O’Hear’s skate broke that led to the turnover.
Patrick Kramer finished things off with a rebound goal on the power play late in the game as the Eagles escaped with a win.
“In the third period, we got back to taking the play to them instead of being on the receiving end,” Flaherty said.
With Cronin in net, all the Eagles needed was one well-played period.
“If you win that game last year [against Malden Catholic in the Super 8 finals], win the state championship, maybe some of that drive is gone a little bit,” said the senior goalie. “But when you lose it, it just motivates you more and you say, ‘I’m not going to let that happen again.’
“It keeps you sharp and keeps you on your toes and helps you make some saves nobody expects you to make.”