Pope Francis loses 2-1 overtime to BC High in Super 8 title game

Story and photos by Stephen Kiltonic

BOSTON – For 44 minutes and three rock em’ sock em’ periods, the Pope Francis High School Cardinals battled nemesis Boston College High tooth and nail and were less than a minute away from claiming their first-ever Super 8 and Div.1 championship.

As the TD Garden scoreboard ticked down, BC High pulled its goalie and added an extra skater in a desperate attempt to gain the equalizer.
With 50 seconds left, junior center Makem Demers, who scored the Cardinals’ only goal in the second period, tried to clear the puck but it ricocheted off an Eagles skater. Forward Joe Dragon circled back, picked up the loose puck and fired a wrist shot past two Cardinal defenders high into the upper corner of the net over the shoulder of junior goalie Victor Larssen.

The goal forced an overtime period, but the deflated Cardinals couldn’t hold off the resurgent Eagles and their season ended 1:30 into the extra period when Maverick Woods got the clincher.

For Pope Francis (21-5-3), getting to the Sunday 7 p.m. title game was no easy task. The Cardinals entered the Super 8 tournament as the No. 10 seed and was forced to skate in a play-in game against the reigning Super 8 champions, Arlington. They then had to fight their way past six opponents – including five single-elimination matchups – to get the chance to play in the Sunday night Garden finale.

A large contingent of Pope Francis fans made the trek down the Massachusetts Turnpike to cheer on their Cardinals in this historic match-up.

Along the way, the Cardinals knocked off the No. 1 seed, Central Catholic, No. 3 St. John’s Prep, and No. 4 Hingham by a combined score of 15-2 and seemed to be peaking as it entered the title game. But BC High held a 2-0-1 record against the Cardinals this season, including a 6-1 loss a few weeks before in the first round of the tournament. Pope Francis was the only team in the tournament from western Massachusetts.

During the title game, both teams had opportunities to score throughout the first three periods with one Eagle shot even hitting the post. After a first period 0-0 draw, Demers gave Pope Francis the early 1-0 lead when he scored on a breakaway from junior Max Cocchi setting up the stage for the dramatic third period. Goalie Larssen had a stellar night with 32 saves in net for the Cardinals but in the end it wasn’t enough to put away the Eagles. For BC High, it was their first Division 1A trophy since 2007.

For Pope Francis head coach, Brian Foley, the heartbreaking loss meant that the elusive Super 8 title would have to be put on hold for at least another year. While the Cardinals return next year with a strong group of underclassmen, the six graduating seniors – Brian Campbell, Jake King, Trevor and Ryan Crawford, Brendan Maymon and top Division 1A scorer Brendan Nehmer – will leave big shoes to fill as they have led Pope Francis to the Super 8 playoffs and semi-finals multiple times over the last four years.

A video version of this story will be featured in an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s weekly television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7pm

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