LOWELL — The No. 8 St. John’s Prep hockey team saw its season come to a close Monday with a 4-1 loss to No. 3 Winchester in the Division 1 North final at Tsongas Arena.
The Eagles outshot the Sachems 28-21 but Winchester goalkeeper Robert Divicenzo was the difference with 27 saves.
“I thought their goalie played excellent,” Eagles coach Kristian Hanson said. “There’s obviously no question about that. Winchester was physical and they competed. We just didn’t feel like we had our best night. We still wanted to continue to compete and try to get that second goal. We just couldn’t seem to find a way to get it.
“We had some great chances, we hit two or three posts,” Hanson added. “I really just give all the credit to Winchester. I thought they worked really hard. I thought they outplayed us and they deserved the win.”
Both teams were evenly matched midway through the first period with just two shots each. With 5:32 remaining in the first the Sachems got on the board when Angelo Mario ripped a high shot that beat Eagles goalie Jackson Irving (18 saves) to give Winchester a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later Ryan Webb carried the puck into the Winchester zone and fired a hard slap shot that ringed off the crossbar to keep the Sachems ahead by one.
The Eagles came out firing on offense in the second period. St. John’s ripped five early shots but Divicenzo came up with the key saves to keep Winchester ahead.
After a Winchester tripping penalty, St. John’s finally cashed in on when Patrick Moran finished a rebound out front to tie the game at 1-1.
“The second period was our best period of the night,” Hanson said. “We had some great opportunities, hit a couple posts. If we could have found that second one in that second period it could’ve changed the game. But we didn’t and that’s just on us. We didn’t play well and it’s probably because Winchester did play so well.”
Any momentum the Eagles could have carried into the third period was quickly stolen by Winchester. The Sachems went on the power play less than two minutes into the third and Michael Martignetti dished a pass to Mike Drew out front who found the back of the net to put Winchester back ahead 2-1.
“They got that power play goal and that was the difference,” Hanson said. “You hate to take a penalty in the offensive zone. That penalty ended up being game-changing. That was the game- winning goal. We talk about being disciplined and not taking penalties because you don’t want to give them a chance on the power play. That’s exactly what we let them do in the third, but It’s not just one play. I just didn’t think overall we played that well and I thought Winchester played a great game.”
Less than two minutes later, Irving tried to play a loose puck up the boards outside of his net but Drew stole possession of the pass and scored an easy goal, bumping the lead to 3-1.
The Eagles got some pressure in the Winchester zone in the back half of the third period but Divicenzo continued his great night with eight saves in the period.
With 1:53 remaining the Eagles took their timeout and pulled Irving but it didn’t take long for Ryan McCarthy to ice the game with an empty-netter, ending St. John’s season.
While the loss stings for a young Eagles team, Hanson hopes that his returning players can learn from it moving forward.
“I just told them to kind of sit there at this point and soak this in,” Hanson said. “Losing is not fun and it’s really hard to get to this point. We’re young and we have a lot of guys coming back. You hope that they kind of take the feeling of this loss and realize what it takes to win and come out and compete next year right from game one.”
St. John’s ends the season 13-8-3.