No. 7 Pope Francis hockey’s Super 8 championship run ends in overtime against No. 2 BC High (photos)

No. 7 Pope Francis vs. No. 2 BC High in Super 8 championship – 3/18/18

By Conor Ryan | cryan@masslive.com |
Posted on March 18, 2018 6:21 PM | Updated March 18, 2018 8:47 PM

BOSTON — As the seconds ticked off the clock at TD Garden, everything was falling into place for the No. 7 Pope Francis hockey team.

Clinging to a one-goal lead in a heavyweight bout against No. 2 BC High, the Cardinals were within reach of capping a remarkable postseason run — culminating with the school’s first Super 8 championship.

The only thing standing in the way? Precious, precious time.

As the final minute drained off the scoreboard, time appeared to be on the Cardinals’ side — with the Eagles pulling netminder Luke Garrity in a desperate attempt for the equalizer.

By the time Garrity leapt into the Eagles bench for the extra skater, 59 seconds was all that separated the Cardinals for the top crown in the Commonwealth.

Nine seconds later, it was a whole new hockey game.

Batting a clearing attempt from the Cardinals down by the right circle, Eagles senior Joe Dragon knotted things up, rifling a shot past Pope Francis goalie Victor Larssen to force overtime.

Dragon’s last-minute counter put an end to the Cardinals’ title hopes, with BC High clinching the 2018 Super 8 championship just 1:30 into overtime — as Maverick Woods lit the lamp to close out the Eagles’ 2-1 comeback win Sunday night at TD Garden.

BC High’s rally extinguished what was a spirited surge to the Cardinals’ first Super 8 championship appearance.

Entering the Super 8 as the No. 10 seed and forced to skate in a play-in game, Pope Francis (21-5-3) fought its way through six postseason matchups — including five single-elimination scenarios — to get an opportunity to skate at the Garden.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” Pope Francis head coach Brian Foley said. “They work hard. I thought they really had a great stretch run there with those five games in the single elimination. I think they worked hard and developed a great bond and spirit within the team. They were really a tough out at the end of the year.”

With Sunday’s win, the Eagles clinch their first Division IA trophy since winning back-to-back tournaments during the 2006 and 2007 campaigns.

“Tonight was truly a microcosm of our season,” BC High head coach John Flaherty said. “We battled right to the end. Our guys, the bench stayed active — even in the second and third period — we were still fine.

“We knew that if we stuck with it and made the puck dangerous in certain times, we were going to have success. I’m proud of the kids. … I’m proud of how they responded.”

Despite entering Sunday’s contest with a 2-0-1 record against the Cardinals this winter, Woods noted that this was not the same Pope Francis club that they battled just weeks ago in the first round of the tournament.

“They went to the losers bracket but you just saw them knocking out huge teams,” Woods said. “Blowing them out. We knew this wasn’t going to be the same team that we were facing earlier in the season. We knew that we needed a new gameplan and a new strategy, because they were a much better team.”

Sure enough, the upstart Cardinals traded chance after chance with the Eagles throughout the night, with Larssen (32 saves) thwarting a stout BC High forward corps with a standout showing between the pipes.

“We got through that second period when they were bombing away,” Foley said. “Victor made some great saves. To come out of there with a 1-0 lead was great. I thought we played an awesome third period.”

Following a 0-0 opening stanza, the Eagles ramped up the pressure in the following frame — with BC nearly scoring off a shot from the point that bounced off the right post, behind Larssen and towards a lurking Eagle in the crease.

Larssen was quick to react, denying the skater with a frantic pad save to keep the Eagles off the board.

Minutes later, Pope Francis finally had the lead, with Max Cocchi feeding the puck ahead to Makem Demers on a breakaway. The junior center buried his chance against Garrity, wristing the puck past his glove to make it a 1-0 game with 2:52 to go until the second intermission.

A departure from the second period, the Cardinals largely limited the Eagles in the third, controlling the puck and nearly adding an insurance tally from Cocchi with 5:05 to go.

The insurance goal did not come, as Dragon’s heads-up play tied things up with just 50 seconds left in regulation.

“The thing that we were doing well all game was getting pucks out,” Foley said. “I thought we had two chances and we turned it over. A good team like that is going to cash in eventually. Tough to get to 50 seconds left and close it out – but I think it’s just more credit to them and their determination to keep going.”

Dragon’s goal was the backbreaker for the Cardinals, as BC High ended the extra period in short order off of Woods’ quick strike from the slot.

The Cardinals will presumably be back in the Super 8 picture next season — especially with juniors such as Larssen, Demers, Cocchi, Jon Tavella and many more back in tow.

Pope Francis has plenty to look forward to in the coming years, but Foley was quick to laud the accomplishments of his six-man senior class: Jake KingBrian CampbellBrendan NehmerTrevor CrawfordRyan Crawford and Brendan Maymon.

“They got us somewhere we’ve never been before,” Foley said. “They’re six great kids that are great hockey players. Their teammates love and respect them and they’re going to be missed.

“But they have a lot to be proud of.”

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