Perhaps Peter Cronin was destined to be a goaltender.
The Boston College High School senior netminder didn’t plan for a career between the pipes after taking up hockey at the age of 6 in his hometown of Norwell, Mass.
“I started like every kid does, learning to skate,” said Cronin.
After being chosen to play on a youth team — the ’94 Kings — Cronin attended his first practice, but no goaltenders made it to the rink that day. No problem. Cronin threw on the goaltender’s equipment and took his place between the pipes. He never left. “Ever since then I was a goaltender,” Cronin said. “Ever since I was 6.”
Who knows where Cronin’s hockey career would have led him had he not taken his spot in goal that day. What we do know is that he has become one of the premier netminders in Massachusetts and a mainstay for the Boston College High School program.
“Peter has been an excellent four-year player for us,” BC High coach John Flaherty (South Boston, Mass.) said. “He joined us as a freshman and split time and has played every game since his sophomore year. He’s one of the reasons our program is back as one of the top teams in Massachusetts.”
After missing the playoffs his freshman season, Cronin and the Eagles advanced to the Super 8 semifinals in 2010-11 and reached the Super 8 title game a year ago, falling to rival Malden Catholic, 3-1.
As a freshman, Cronin made eight starts, compiling a 2.74 goals-against average with shutouts in his first two varsity contests, with both games ending as scoreless ties. Cronin posted a 1.87 goals-against average as a sophomore. He had a .910 save percentage while making 24 starts for the Eagles. Last year, as a junior, Cronin had a 1.97 goals-against average with four shutouts and a .921 save percentage.
Midway through his senior season, Cronin has a 1.18 goals-against average with four shutouts and a .962 save percentage. Flaherty said Cronin combines technique with athletic ability to form the basis of his goaltending style. “He’s positionally sound,” Flaherty said. “To watch him is to appreciate what he does. He’s in good position and he’s athletic. When pucks hit him (through traffic) it’s by design.”
“I think I’m a pretty athletic kid,” said Cronin, who is 6-foot-2. “I move pretty well from side to side.”
Along with technique and athleticism, Cronin has a third weapon in his goaltending arsenal: preparation. “His preparation and his focus and his drive make him the goaltender he is,” Flaherty said.
For Cronin, ice time in practice is crucial to success in games. “The way you practice is how you’re going to play in the game,” he said.
Flaherty said Cronin’s intensity is evident every moment he’s on the ice. “He competes on every shot,” he said. “It shows the competitive drive he has.”
As a result of his intensity and preparation, Cronin has become a natural leader for the Eagles simply through his day-to-day actions. “His approach to the game feeds off on the young guys,” Flaherty said. “He’s the first guy to give accolades to his teammates. He never likes credit. He’s a great leader. He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does his teammates listen. They want to play well for him.”
“I’m very (focused) on game day,” Cronin said. “I think my intensity does kind of filter down to the other guys.”
That intensity is needed at BC High, a Catholic Conference program that faces Massachusetts’ elite teams on a game-by-game basis.
“Our schedule is such that you can’t get too high with a win or too low with a loss,” Flaherty said. “We don’t have any games off or easy wins. It’s a mental grind. Even the non-league games equate to a Stanley Cup game for the other teams. They want to beat us. It’s challenging, but that’s what makes our team successful.”
“At BC High when the playoffs come we’re conditioned to play in tight games,” Cronin said. “As a goaltender you don’t want to lose any confidence. We only play (about) 20 games so it’s always a playoff atmosphere. I try to play every game like it’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I don’t want to lose.”
Cronin’s drive to succeed is also fueled by a commitment to his teammates. “That’s one of my great fears, letting my team down and thinking I could have done more,” he said.
Flaherty said Cronin has the ideal mental approach for a goaltender. “His make-up is perfect,” Flaherty said. “He likes the pressure. He thrives on the pressure.”
During BC High’s run to the Super 8 championship game a year ago, Cronin posted back-to-back shutouts in the tournament, against Woburn (1-0) and Needham (2-0). “I think the goalie dictates a lot of how a team is going to play,” Cronin said. “You’ve just got to give your team a chance to win. I’m going to go out there and if I play the best I can we’re probably going to win.”
Flaherty said Cronin also is blessed with a goaltender’s best friend: a short memory. That short memory was on display during a January game against Catholic Memorial. Catholic Memorial took a quick 1-0 lead just 12 seconds into the game, but that was all Cronin would allow as he turned in an outstanding performances with 35 saves in a 5-1 victory.
“When something doesn’t go right, you have to let it go and it doesn’t rile him; he comes right back,” Flaherty said. “You have to have a short memory.”
“If you let up a goal you say, ‘OK, it’s over and I’m going to stop the next one,’ ” Cronin said.
BC High has had some talented goaltenders through the years, and Cronin is carrying on that legacy, Flaherty said. Former Eagles netminders still plying their trade today include Joe Cannata (Wakefield, Mass.), who went on to play at Merrimack College and is a member of the Chicago Wolves, the Vancouver Canucks’ American Hockey League affiliate; and Sam Marotta (Bridgewater, Mass.), currently a junior goaltender at Merrimack. “We’ve had some great goaltenders,” Flaherty said. “Peter falls in line with those guys.”
Flaherty said several New England Small College Athletic Conference schools have expressed interest in Cronin, and he also is drawing attention from Division 1 programs that would like him to play junior hockey before college. “He’ll do well (with whatever decision he makes),” Flaherty said. “He’s a very bright kid and a great student. As a coach I’m very fortunate because at BC High we have kids who are committed academically as well as athletically.”
“I have a lot of options,” Cronin said. “It’s all about finding the right fit and the right school.”
For now, Cronin will be at the heart of BC High’s playoff surge. “He’s a great kid,” Flaherty said of Cronin. “He’s the complete package. He’s a competitor. He wants to do well.”