The Springfield Cathedral Panthers are no strangers to the Super 8 boys’ hockey tournament, but this season they could be the favorite. Considering the number of players the Panthers graduated in 2012, coach Brian Foley is as surprised as he is happy with the results this season.
“We graduated a lot of kids last year. Now we’ve got five seniors, four that have played for us for three years. After that, we only have two juniors. With only six upperclassmen, we weren’t sure how we were going to be this year,” Foley said.
The best way to describe fourth-ranked Cathedral on the ice this season is downright dominant, with 60 goals scored and just 16 against. The Panthers have scored 40 goals in their past five games.
“I think in years past, it was always our struggle to score goals. We were in a lot of low-scoring games. This year, the difference has been that all three lines are scoring. We’re more skilled up front than in the past and there’s a lot of balance between those three lines,” Foley said.
Offense was what helped the Panthers edge BC High Jan. 12 in a hard-fought 3-2 victory. It was easily Cathedral’s hardest game of the season.
“We know BC High is a great team. We’ve been playing them for 20 years,” said Foley. “It’s always been pretty close games and they’re well-coached. It was a good defensive battle; the ice wasn’t really tilting one way or the other.”
After that victory, the Panthers had a week off before taking on St. Peter-Marian. The layoff did little to stunt the team’s momentum as Foley’s squad defeated the Guardians, 11-1, Saturday.
With just over a month left in the regular season, Cathedral is headed for a likely Super 8 berth. Last winter Cathedral finished 10-6-6 and earned the No. 6 seed in the tournament. But the Panthers lost all three games in its bracket, two by one goal.
“That’s a program goal to make the Super 8, that’s our goal every year,” said Foley. “We’ve played well but there’s a lot of season left. We’ve got to be careful and take every game very seriously. We’re just concentrating on the next game. If we do that, we’ll continue to play well.”
Cathedral will look to keep that attitude in mind this week, playing three games in six days, starting Monday against No. 9 Central Catholic at Holy Cross. Foley was optimistic that his team will meet the challenge.
“We haven’t had a poor effort yet,” he said.
Week for the strong
There’s never an easy stretch in the Catholic Conference, but this week will feature some tough battles. The No. 1 BC High Eagles take on No. 20 Xaverian Wednesday before their rematch with No. 3 St. John’s Prep Saturday.
The Hawks pulled out a 1-1 tie with BC High Jan. 5. They’ve since gone 0-2-1, skating to a 3-3 draw with Malden Catholic and losing to St. John’s Prep, 5-0.
The Prep takes on Malden Catholic Tuesday looking to build on a four-game winning streak. The Eagles defeated the Lancers, 3-2, Jan. 5.
Malden Catholic will battle Catholic Memorial on Saturday. CM, which lost to Barnstable Saturday in a shootout at the Nate Nickerson Invitational, hasn’t won in conference play since beating MC Jan. 8.