MALDEN — A combination of penalties, turnover problems and some bad bounces all came together at once for the St. Mary’s boys hockey team Thursday evening. The end result was a 2-0 loss to Catholic Central League foe Austin Prep in the first round of the Christie Serino Christmas Classic at Valley Forum. Despite the uneven game, St. Mary’s coach Mark Lee didn’t have too many negative things to say.
“I thought when we were playing five-on-five, we were right with them,” said St. Mary’s coach Mark Lee. “We were able to create a lot of offense, but it just didn’t show up on the scoreboard. Then we got into penalty trouble, and I thought that was the difference in the game.”
Spartans goalie Joe Purtell had a solid night in net with 18 saves.
“It all starts with your goaltender, and he stood tall tonight,” Lee said of Purtell. “One of the goals was on the power play and the other was a result of a bad turnover in the defensive zone, so you can’t really put those on him. When the goalie only lets in two goals, you should be able to win. We just couldn’t make the most of our opportunities on offense.”
St. Mary’s actually had the upper hand for much of the first period, outshooting the Cougars 10-5 overall. But Austin Prep made its shots count. With just over four minutes remaining in the first, Peabody native Sullivan Marino (goal, assist) snuck behind the St. Mary’s defense just enough and hauled in a pass from teammate Max Pineo to earn a breakaway opportunity. He deked once and flipped a shot over Purtell’s shoulder to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.
The second period was much of the same, with the two teams going at it the whole time and St. Mary’s outshooting Austin Prep. But once again, it was the Cougars who were able to do real damage. This time Marino started the play for Austin Prep, finding teammate Joe Solimine for a power play goal to give the Cougars a 2-0 advantage.
Special teams really let the St. Mary’s down in this one, as the Spartans committed seven penalties and gave up a power play goal. On the other side, the Spartans had five power plays and couldn’t capitalize despite putting 11 shots on net.
“The penalties hurt, and until we become a disciplined team we’re going to lose tough games to good teams,” said Lee. “I’m proud of the way the guys fought all game, but we played most of the game shorthanded. You can’t beat a team like Austin Prep playing like that.”
St. Mary’s continued to try to mount a comeback in the third period, getting three power play chances and putting six shots on net. But Austin Prep goalie Rob Farrell (23 saves) stood tall the whole time to seal the shutout win for the Cougars.
Next up for the Spartans (4-1-0) will be the consolation game of the Christie Serino Christmas Classic against Malden Catholic Friday (5:30). The Lancers lost to Hingham in the first round.
“They’re a high quality team and we know we’ll have to come ready to play,” said Lee of the Lancers. “Hopefully we can clean up some of our mistakes, stay out of the penalty box and find the back of the net.”