Every second counts as Prep wins D1 hockey crown

St. John’s Prep goalie AJ Farese celebrates after the Eagles won the Division 1 MIAA state championship game with a buzzer-beater. Photo by Spenser Hasak

BOSTON — The clock read 0:00 – something that doesn’t really seem plausible considering that in hockey, time expires when the clock hits 0:00 regardless of what happens prior to that.

But there it was. Zero-point-zero-zero. The four referees talked amongst themselves for at least a minute before declaring Johnny Tighe’s game-winning goal – his second of the game – good Sunday night, and St. John’s Prep skated away with a heart attack-inducing 3-2 win and a Division 1 state championship.

And speaking of hearts, it’s almost certain that the Winchester players who sat on the ice in stunned disbelief had theirs pierced with the sharpest of arrows. But nobody’s had to bleed more than goalie Aiden Emerick. The junior netminder had 42 saves, some of them defying belief, as he kept the Red and Black in the game, and allowed them to gain enough confidence against the No. 1 Eagles to actually have a lead, 2-1, early in the third period. 

However, Chris McCarthy’s second goal of the game only served to wake up The Prep.

St. John’s finished its season at 22-3, while No. 11 Winchester fell to 16-10-1.

The game was on its way to overtime when St. John’s struck with the game-winner. By then, the Prep was dominating territorially. With eight seconds remaining, St. John’s won a faceoff to Emerick’s left, but it wasn’t clean. Winchester was able to ever-so-slightly knock the puck into the neutral zone, where captain Jake Vana went out to reel it in.

Once all the Eagles cleared, Vana brought it back in and spied senior defenseman Brady Plaza down low. Plaza got it to Tighe, who knocked it home as the final siren sounded.

Jubilant Eagles streamed into the ice to celebrate as the four officials gathered by the scorer’s table in discussion, and for at least a minute, the ice was an eerie spectacle of an interrupted celebration on one side, and a glimmer of hope on the other. 

But the referee ruled that it was a good goal, and St. John’s had its state championship – the fifth in the program’s history and second in the last three years.

St. John’s grabbed a 1-0 lead with 2:49 remaining in the first period when Lynnfield’s J.R. Goldstein’s shot from the point eluded a screened Emerick. Carson Irving picked up the assist. 

McCarthy scored his first of the evening at 3:56 of the middle period to pull Winchester into a 1-1 tie. McCarthy was at it again at 4:48 of the third period to give Winchester a 2-1 lead. 

But that lead didn’t last long. Five minutes later, Tighe connected on the power play and St. John’s was back in it at 2-2, setting the stage for the frenetic final seconds.