Taconic and St. Joseph are in each other's postseason way

Saturday February 9, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- Brian Bonacquisti would rather not be in this situation late in the hockey

With five games remaining, his Taconic team needs five more points to qualify for the Western Mass. Division III-A tournament. Their next shot at points toward qualification comes tonight at the Boys and Girls Club against St. Joseph.

Bonacquisti, though, would rather have the opportunity than not have it.

"It definitely puts the pressure on ... but it's good for your team," he said after Taconic's 3-2 win earlier this week over St. Joe. "It brings the best out of your team when you have to play for a win."

The Braves and Crusaders will get very familiar with one another this week. Tonight's matchup is the second of three consecutive games between the Hennessy League foes, separated by just two points. The third game comes Wednesday at 8:30, also at the Club.

While Taconic -- or "Pitonic," as the THS-Pittsfield co-op program likes to call itself -- needs five points to qualify for Western Mass., things are much tougher for St. Joe. The Crusaders must win out to make the sectional field.

St. Joseph coach Tim Kelly said he and his staff made corrections during this week's loss. Those corrections must go a long way against the Braves. Sweep the next two, and the Crusaders will only need to beat Mount Everett, a league foe they've beaten 6-2 and 7-0 this season, to make Western Mass.

"We made a couple of mental errors [with] a couple of breakdowns," Kelly said after the Taconic loss. "I'm not going to say both teams played perfect; they [Taconic] had the advantage."

Even so, it was just a one-goal advantage. The Crusaders came a long way from their first meeting with Taconic, a 7-2 loss on Dec. 19.

Ryan Bateman scored the eventual game-winner for the Braves this past Wednesday. One of the biggest challenges he, Bonacquisti and the Braves will face is getting the puck past Crusader goalie Andrew Leitch, a former All-Eagle MVP who has two shutouts and two one-goal games to his credit this season.

"I feel like we have to keep taking advantage of their defense," Bateman said. "If we keep on capitalizing on [mistakes], we're going to pull out a win."

The toughest tests for Taconic after the St. Joseph series will both come against two-time defending league champion Wahconah. The Warriors, already back in the Western Mass. Division III-A field, face Taconic next Saturday at the Boys and Girls Club, and again Feb. 19 at Williams College to end the regular season.

In between, the Braves have a very winnable game against Chicopee Comp on Feb. 18 in Holyoke. Don't tell Terpak, though, that it's winnable just because Comp is 3-11-2 this season.

"There's no such thing as an easy win," he said. "When you go into a game with that attitude, it bites you. We have to fight for every inch we get."

To reach Matthew Sprague:
or (413) 496-6254.
On Twitter: @EagleSportsZone.


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