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Winchester loses boys hockey title to St. John’s in disputed final goal

An image of the much disputed last shot between Winchester and St. John's Prep for the championship at TD Garden on March 17. COURTESY PHOTO

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The Winchester High School Red and Black faced off against St. John’s Prep Eagles at TD Garden in the 2024 Boys Ice Hockey Finals in March.

While Winchester lost the bout 3-2 in the final “second of regulation time” (footage revealed on social media afterwards proved that the final goal was scored after the buzzer went off), their efforts this season and in the final game against a tough opponent is worthy of a standing ovation.

On a brisk St. Patrick’s Day evening, TD Garden was packed with fans, the majority hailing from Winchester, to support the team at the final duel of a historically successful season.

This year, Winchester racked up 16 wins and was the only public school to make it to the final four. As a result of this, the slogan, “For the Publics,” became a sort of battle cry for the Red and Black in all of their playoff games.

In effect, WHS was championing all of the fallen public teams against the private schools known to dominate the high school sports scene.

At the game, many Winchester fans wore free-of-charge bright green shirts sporting this slogan, which was sponsored by Sogno, a local restaurant in Winchester.

Leading up to the big game, Winchester was definitely the underdog, being seeded 11th against a team that won the championship the year before. Nevertheless, Winchester did not buckle under the immense pressure that would have choked almost any team in their situation. Much to the contrary, WHS played brilliantly, both on the attack and defending.

Goaltender Aiden Emerick made 48 key saves throughout the night, while Junior Chirs McCarthy kept the pressure consistently on St. John’s side of the ice, scoring both goals.

Going into the final period of playtime, Winchester was in the lead and for many hopeful fans, it seemed as if history was going to be made in the matter of a few minutes. However, with 9 minutes and 26 seconds left on the clock, Prep scored the equalizer that instantly changed the triumphant wave in the arena that the Winchester side had been riding on.

Then, in the most controversial play of the game, with less than a second left in the game, Johnny Tighe (the same player who scored the equalizing goal) scored once more to the roar of the SJP side, and the jubilation of his teammates.

Upon realizing what had happened, the Winchester side erupted in protest. Essentially, they believed (and were right in doing so) that the winning goal was scored after the shrill of the buzzer, and thus the end of the game.

However, their protests were in vain as MIAA officials reviewed the footage for what seemed like a few seconds and upheld the original ruling, crowning SJP as the victor.

Later that night, users from Winchester and beyond re-posted the iconic image of the night, showing the buzzer light going off and the hockey puck still firmly placed against Tighe’s stick. The outrage was so intense that several notable sports channels on Instagram reacted to the image, voicing their sympathy with the robbed public school team.

Even if a miscall was acknowledged by the MIAA (which it wasn’t), Rule 17 of the MIAA handbook prohibits any amending of the final ruling made by match officials after the game concludes. That being said, Winchester residents are still immensely proud of the boys’ grit and determination that night, demonstrating the values held dear as a town.

Cameron Hopkinson is a student at Winchester High School.

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