Newburyport resident Shane Eiserman decided to attend St. John's Prep last winter after attending a home hockey game against Malden Catholic.
"The atmosphere for a regular-season game was amazing," Eiserman said. "I knew I wanted to go where the best hockey was."
Eiserman, a freshman at St. John's Prep, can expect even higher stakes tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. when the Eagles (18-5-1) meet top-seed Malden Catholic in the Super 8 final at TD Garden in Boston. It will be St. John's Prep's first Super 8 final appearance in the 20-year history of the tournament.
Eiserman will follow in the footsteps of brothers, Billy and Chris, who played at the Garden as part of Newburyport High's state-title team in 2009. Billy, a senior, now plays for the Tri City Storm in the United States Hockey League. Chris, a junior, plays for the Valley Junior Warriors in Lawrence. Both players have committed to full collegiate hockey scholarships at UMass Lowell.
"My brothers say it's an amazing atmosphere playing at the Garden," Shane Eiserman said. "I'd love to follow in their footsteps and win a state championship."
Eiserman will follow in his brothers' footsteps in one respect: He will play a significant role in a state-championship game as an underclassmen. The first-line forward has tallied 50 points (24 goals, 26 assists) in his freshman campaign. In St. John's Prep's 5-1 victory over Weymouth in the semifinal Wednesday evening at Merrimack College, Eiserman scored two goals.
He opened the scoring in the first period by weaving through two defenders and tucking the puck between Weymouth goalie Brian Brady's pads. He also added a power-play slap-shot goal in the third period.
"Some kids, especially a freshman, might just dump the puck there and go for a change, but Shane saw an opportunity. He made a great individual move and got a shot on net," said John Farrow, Eiserman's linemate.
By comparison, Billy Eiserman was the top defenseman on Newburyport's state-title team as a sophomore. Chris was the starting goalie as a freshman. Both players left the Newburyport program following that season to play junior hockey.
Shane said he has no plans to leave the St. John's Prep program after this season.
"No, definitely not," Shane Eiserman said. "This won't be my last year. I'm getting recruited by a couple of teams, and the futures (USHL) draft is coming up. Hopefully, I'll get drafted, but either way, I'll be back at St. John's Prep."
Eiserman trained with Newburyport strength trainer Jason Beauparlant and at Hard Knocks Gym in Amesbury last summer. Heading into his freshman season, he expected to be a role player.
"I didn't think I was going to be a goal-scorer," Eiserman said. "I thought I'd be a power forward, but I changed my game to make it work."
Playing alongside seniors Farrow (31 points) and Harvard-bound center Colin Blackwell (64 points), Eiserman has found steadying influences on his scoring line.
"I get very nervous before big games," Eiserman said. "I get comforted by the seniors. They tell me it's just a game, and after the first shift, I start to play and stop worrying about the crowd."
Eiserman will likely play in front of the largest crowd of the Prep season tomorrow at the Garden. Malden Catholic swept a two-game season series with the Eagles during the regular season. However, the last loss to Malden Catholic dropped the Eagles to 5-4-1. They are 13-1-0 since.
"I don't think we were playing our best hockey back then," Eiserman said. "It's a big difference now, and hopefully we can come out on top."
Eiserman played in the Garden one other time, five years ago as a Mite for the Valley Junior Warriors.