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CATHOLIC CONFERENCE SHOWCASE

Catholic Conference hockey teams come together to showcase some of state’s best talent

Fans look out over the Red Rink of Canton Ice House during warmups between Catholic Memorial and Xaverian, the first of three games in Sunday's Catholic Conference Showcase.DebeeTlumacki

CANTON — What do you get when you take some of the top boys’ hockey teams in the state, put them under one roof, drop the puck and let them skate?

The Catholic Conference Showcase.

The first-time event, held Sunday afternoon at the Canton Ice House, featured a packed house, prodigious hockey and plenty of highlights, including an overtime period and nearly a buzzer-beating winner.

“Really fun, a lot of energy in the building,” Xaverian coach Dave Spinale said after his team played to a 1-1 tie with Catholic Memorial. “These guys are getting pulled in a lot of directions and at the end of the day you don’t get a do-over to play high school [hockey]. So to come here, have a wonderful experience, have everyone in the building, have coaches come scout them — whether it’s juniors, prep or colleges — and create a really fun experience? It was a great high school atmosphere.”

Xaverian's Nolan Dion (left) hugs Catholic Memorial's Nick D'Olympio after the teams' 1-1 tie.DebeeTlumacki

The idea of holding a league-wide showcase started with Malden Catholic coach Chris Kuchar, who said the rest of the league’s coaches jumped at the possibility.

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“The idea was formed last year when the kids got shut down and we wanted to have an event and a venue where we could showcase our kids and our conference in one day and people could come down and see some really good hockey,” Kuchar said. “I wouldn’t say it was my brainchild. It was my thought, but it was a collaborative thing.”

The pertinent question was — especially in the absence of a Super 8 Tournament — how to get more eyes on some of the best high school hockey Massachusetts has to offer.

“How do we showcase them? The idea was to put all six teams in one rink,” said BC High coach John Flaherty, whose team beat Malden Catholic, 2-1. “Our guys deserve it. We have good players in our league and we wanted to give them an opportunity to be showcased.”

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Of the six Catholic Conference teams facing off Sunday, five entered the weekend ranked in the top 12 by both the Globe and its unofficial power rankings.

“There’s definitely some great public school teams in the state of Massachusetts, but if you put six Catholic Conference teams in one venue, you’re seeing the best of the best,” Kuchar said.

Xaverian goalie Brendan Flanagan denies Catholic Memorial's Drew Mottau on the doorstep.DebeeTlumacki

No. 6 Xaverian (7-1-1, 3-1-1 CC), second in the power rating, opened the afternoon against No. 2 CM (6-1-1, 1-0-1).

“I’m really proud of their effort tonight,” Catholic Memorial coach Larry Rooney said. “We were shorthanded a few players, but I can’t focus on who’s not in the lineup. I have to focus on who is here today to dress and play. I’m really proud of the effort they put forward.”

CM’s Connor Fryberger scored the event’s first goal when he redirected a pass from Tyler Hamilton through the five-hole at the 11:22 mark of the second period.

“We really rallied behind the guys we have,” Fryberger said. “A couple younger guys who haven’t played varsity much stepped up and played as a team. We worked together through it all.”

Xaverian’s Joe DiMartino knotted the score at the 8:17 mark of the third period with a one-timer from the slot. Neither team managed a goal in the five-minute, 4-on-4 overtime period, although Fryberger batted a rebound out of the air and into the net on a 2-on- 1 break milliseconds after the final buzzer sounded.

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“I thought I had it in time, just adrenaline pumping, but I don’t know,” Fryberger said.

His own coach, however, admitted it likely came a beat too late.

“I think the buzzer went off,” Rooney said. “I’d like to think it didn’t, but I think the buzzer went off.”

BC High goalie Jack Burke and teammate Liam Kinneen kept close tabs on Malden Catholic's Will Fosdick in front of the net.DebeeTlumacki
Malden Catholic's Seamus Condon (right) and Joseph Gaffney (7) celebrates the team's lone goal in the loss to BC High.DebeeTlumacki

While Xaverian and CM were battling, Luke O’Sullivan staked BC High (3-4-1, 2-1) to an early lead when he scored off a turnover just 2:22 into the game. The No. 11 Eagles knew they were in for a dogfight against Malden Catholic (4-3, 0-2). The Eagles went up 2-0 in the second period when Aidan McDonnell scored and held on despite allowing a goal 23 seconds later from Malden’s Owen Keefe.

“It’s a typical Catholic Conference game,” Flaherty said. “Records get thrown out the window. It’s just a tough, hard-nosed game. It’s the team who makes the least mistakes who wins and today we were fortunate enough to come out on top.”

The last game of the day featured top-ranked St. John’s Prep (7-1) facing the league’s newest member, St. John’s of Shrewsbury (3-7, 0-2). Prep held a 7-2 lead early in the third period but watched as the Pioneers pulled within 7-5 in the final 90 seconds.

“I don’t think we were mentally prepared to play today,” St. John’s Prep coach Kristian Hanson said. “I take responsibility for that. We weren’t sharp. We made a lot of mistakes and got away with mistakes. Our offense carried us.”

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Of the 11 Eagles to record a point, Christian Rosa led the way with two goals and an assist, while Cam Umlah, Jake Vana and Will Sicklin each tallied a goal and an assist. St. John’s junior Zackary Jennings recorded the day’s only hat trick.

The league’s coaches agreed that Sunday’s success means the showcase will return next season, when it will likely be played in a northern location and with the addition of T-shirts and Player of the Game awards.

“It was great to see people come out and watch their boys play,” Hanson said. “I thought it was a great showcase event.”

St John's Prep's Cole Blaeser (left) battles for the puck with Zachary MacLeod of St. John's (Shrewsbury). DebeeTlumacki
Pierce Blaeser of St. Joh's Prep (right) skates up the ice while being checked by Jack Beauregard of St. John's (Shrewsbury).DebeeTlumacki