D1 Semifinal: St. John’s Prep Shuts Out Xaverian 4-0 to Reach TD Garden

Framingham, MA – The final game of the Final Four took place Sunday night at Loring Arena featuring the top two seeds still standing at the D1 level. The top seed St. John’s Prep Eagles were taking on the fourth seed Xaverian Hawks from Loring Arena to punch the final ticket to TD Garden on Sunday, March 17. The winner of this game would advance to face Winchester in the Final. Pregame, the parking lot felt a bit like Lord of the Flies, and we may have invented a new parking spot, but it served its purpose and once we entered the building there was not a seat to be found 25 minutes before the game: this joint was rocking. The Eagles Nest was decked out in all Hawaiian shirts and the Hawks Nest was clad in all white for a whiteout. Both were chanting cross-ice far before the game and they were ready to roll early. As was pointed out pregame in the press box the Eagles came out a few minutes delayed for their warmup – a bit of gamesmanship perhaps? Either way, we were ready to roll.

In the first period, right off the opening shift, the Eagles grabbed control as senior Caleb White absolutely decked a Hawks player to set the tone for the period to come. Both teams play heavy, physical hockey but the aggressor would likely be the victor tonight. In the first period, it was the Eagles who opened the scoring just under six minutes in. A slick feed by senior Brady Plaza landed on the stick of senior captain Jake Vana and he deposited it top shelf to make it 1-0 SJP. They were feeling the momentum and kept that advantage rolling all period. Just four minutes later they would double the lead as Vana found fellow senior Christian Rosa in the slot for fired it top shelf to make it 2-0 Eagles. The forecheck from SJP was fierce and unrelenting and the Hawks were on their heels for long stretches of the opening 15 minutes. The Eagles would add one more in the period as SJP went on the power play and cashed in as Wesleyan commit Jack Doherty flipped the puck to sophomore Cooper Hosmer who shot the puck low and it was tipped home bar down by senior Brendan Powers to make it 3-0 Eagles. That would be our score after one, with the shots 16-6 in favor of SJP after one. (Quick shoutout to the press box statisticians for confirming!)

In the second period, we felt like we had seen this movie before. From the drop of the puck, St. John’s Prep was simply relentless on the forecheck and super aggressive at taking away time and space in all three zones. They played fast, heavy and determined hockey, frustrating the Hawks at every turn. To the Hawks credit, while SJP had more possession in the period, they were able to break free a few times to create odd-man chances. In addition, goalie Cole Pouliot-Porter kept the Eagles at bay by making key saves throughout the period to allow his team the chance to come back. He was quick and athletic but he was taking on a bevy of quality shots from St. John’s Prep. The period moved ahead quickly as there weren’t a ton of whistles and the line changes were crisp and quick. We ended the frame still at 3-0 and the shots in the period were SJP 15 and Xaverian 5.

In the third period, it was a make-or-break effort for Xaverian and they emptied the tank throwing all they had at the Eagles. The Hawks changed up their breakout and found ways to break through defensive coverage, challenging junior netminder AJ Farese with multiple scoring chances. They entered the zone with speed plus they were throwing more pucks towards the net throughout the period. Credit to SJP’s defense as they were able to limit the shot totals by getting down to block shots and by taking away the shooting lanes. The frustration grew as the period wore on and with three minutes to go, Xaverian called their timeout, looking to set up a play off the draw to create a scoring chance and create sustained zone time. They would pull Pouliot-Porter a few seconds after the puck dropped but an errant pass at the blue line led to a steal by Eagles senior Johnny Tighe who cruised in for the empty netter with 2:31 left to seal this game: 4-0. The final minutes saw tempers flare from these Catholic Conference rivals but 4-0 would be our final score. St. John’s Prep returns to the Garden on Sunday for the second time in three years and will face Winchester in a private vs public school battle for the ages.

Three Stars:

  1. F Jake Vana, St. John’s Prep
  2. G AJ Farese, St. John’s Prep
  3. D Jack Doherty, St. John’s Prep