The first half proved to be a tough defensive battle, as both team’s top attackers struggled to reach the front of the net. Austin Prep went into halftime leading 4-3, but then things began to open up in the third as costly mental errors started to impact the flow of the game.
The third quarter was nearly a disaster for Newburyport, as the Clippers spent most of the frame in their own defensive zone due to a series of ill-timed penalties. Austin Prep’s dangerous attacking line took advantage of its opportunities, scoring five goals in quick succession to take control of the game.
Newburyport was able to sprinkle in three goals of its own to keep within striking distance, but after Morgan scored again to open the fourth quarter, the Clippers found themselves down 10-6 and facing the real possibility that their tournament aspirations were about to go up in smoke.
Unwilling to see their season end, the Newburyport attack finally got itself going. Two minutes into the fourth, Kelleher and Shay each scored within seconds of each other to cut the deficit to 10-8, and after the Cougars got another goal from Sullivan, the Clippers ran off five unanswered goals to complete the comeback.
“I think we were sluggish in the first half, what killed us is in the second half we played that whole third quarter in the penalty box, so there was no momentum there,” said Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano. “We were able to survive that, stay close and we’ve got the offensive guys who can put that on in the fourth quarter, all we needed was possessions.”
After being held to just a single goal for most of the game, Kelleher finally found his groove in the fourth quarter and wound up scoring the game-tying goal with five minutes to play. Kelleher finished with four goals and an assist, JJ Bajko had two goals and Brendan Barraclough scored one.