HYANNIS, Mass. – With a new coaching taking over the reigns of a relatively young program, the Saint John Paul II Lions were bound to go through their growing pains.
But without question, the most impressive feat of the 2015-16 SJP squad is how quickly the roster because a cohesive unit, something that has been apparent in the second half of the season.
That upswing continued on Wednesday afternoon, as the Lions exploded for five goals over the final 30 minutes of play, downing Foxboro 5-2 at the Hyannis Youth & Community Center.
“When you are all new, we’re all trying to figure out each other, we were putting people in new places all the time,” SJP coach Chuck Jancaterino said. “But everyone is now in a comfort zone, they know where they are going to be, so we can focus on getting better, and we have a little bit of continuity now.”
With the win, the Lions improve to 11-6-2 and continue to rocket up the standings in the Div. 3 South. SJP has three games remaining on the season, beginning with Cohasset on Saturday, a team that defeated them 9-0 in the second game of the season.
With a five-goal performance, the Lions certainly looked sharp in the offensive end, but it wasn’t until the second period that SJP was able to open up the attack. While the Lions had nine shots on net to begin the game, a majority of them were flung on net on the rush, and easily turned aside by Foxboro goalie John Cronin.
With a few tweaks to the offense during the second intermission it didn’t take long for the Lions offense to settle into a groove.
Trying to sustain more offense and accumulate more zone time, the Lions needed just 3:39 of game time to find the net, when Brian Bradley skated the puck behind the net, found an open Jack Richards open at the point. The freshman defenseman fired a low slap shot inside the far post for his first career goal to open the scoring.
“We talked about coming in and taking shots from the outside,” Jancaterino explained. “Just trying to get into the zone and set something up, instead of going to the net and getting a bad shot, just curl up and wait for your help.”
While Foxboro also opened up its game, firing nine shots on net during the period, the most of any 15-minute span, Gil Bach kept the small lead intact until his offense gave him some insurance.
From behind the net, Pat Connolly sent a pass through the crease to Liam Gregory, who tapped in an easy one timer at 10:30 of the period.
Brian Bradley broke loose on a semi-breakaway at just over a minute, but as he closed in on Cronin, collided with the junior goaltender, and in turn knocking him out of the game.
On the first shot of the game on Cronin’s replacement, Clayton Leopold, Bradley welcomed him to the game by polishing off a feed from John Walden to give the Lions a 3-0 lead at the second intermission.
While each team scored twice in the third period, the Lions lead was never in question, as SJP grabbed a 4-0 lead when Connolly jammed home a rebound, and a 5-1 lead on a rifle from Sawyer Horan.
Freshman impact: Few teams have the mix of seniors, juniors and freshman that the Lions have on the roster, and depth is going a long way for SJP.
While the upperclassmen in Bradley, Connolly, Horan and Walden carry the team, the production from the freshmen has been impressive.
Jack Richards (1-8-7) has cemented himself as a top-four defenseman and Liam Gregory (10-2-12) and Christian Mulkern (7-8-15) are top-five on the team in points.
“Offensively, he’s got some talent,” Jancaterino said of Richards in particular. “Our freshman guys are getting some time, they are getting some experience, but when they get older, they are going to be really good players.”
Moving on up: The Lions continued their hot pace, improving their records over the previous seven games to 5-1-1 and into the middle of the pack in Div. 3 South with three games to play.
A combination of four or five points over those three games could move the Lions into a potential home-game scenario for the opening round of the tournament.
That task begins with Cohasset on Saturday, in a game that will truly measure the growth of the SJP squad on the season.
SAINT JOHN PAUL II 5, FOXBORO 2
Foxboro 0 0 2 — 2
SJPII 0 3 2 — 5
First Period: No scoring. Penalties: F-1; B-1
Second Period: 1. SJP-Jack Richards (Brian Bradley), 3:39. 2. SJP-Liam Gregory (Pat Connolly, Bradley), 10:30. 3. SJP-Bradley (John Walden, Connolly), 13:42. Penalties: F-1; SJP-1
Third Period: 4. SJP-Connolly (Richards, Gregory), 6:04. 5. F-Tim Luciano (Jason Galanta, Paul Vey), 7:15. 6. SJP-Sawyer Horan (Walden, Billy Dwyer), 9:40. 7. F-Tanner Kennedy (un.), 11:22. Penalties: F-0; SJP-0
Shots On Goal:
Foxboro 3 9 8 — 20
SJPII 9 8 6 — 23
Goaltenders: F-John Cronin, Clayton Leopold (11:45 second period); SJP-Gil Bach.