COOL CUSTOMER: Multi-sport standout Palladino stays even keel between the pipes for SJP | Sports

Data-obsessed sports analysts are always inventing new ways to quantify what happens during games. New statistics like “expected save percentage” and CORSI in hockey and defensive zone rating and on-base plus slugging in baseball, for example.

Donning a thinking cap to invent a way to quantify what senior Payton Palladino means to St. John’s Prep, you might call it BAPSP — or batting average plus save percentage. Palladino would have to rank about the best in all of Massachusetts in that category at 1.229.

That’s because he hit .313 for the Division 1 North champion Eagles baseball team last spring and sports a sterling .916 save percentage as the starting goalie for the Prep hockey team. The Eagles (21-3) will face rival Xaverian (20-3-1) for the Division 1 state title Sunday at TD Garden (7:45 pm) with Palladino leading his team out of the tunnel and protecting the same crease he and his teammates have seen on NESN hundreds of times.

“I try not to think about it too much because I don’t want to get inside my own head, but playing at the Garden is pretty surreal and crazy,” said Palladino, a Danvers native who has allowed 1.58 goals per game this winter and is even stingier in the playoffs at 0.98.

Interestingly enough, it’s not an advanced stat that reveals what makes Palladino special between the pipes but rather a classic, simple one: wins. A victory Sunday would give him a St. John’s single season record 19 victories, with his 18-2 mark having tied David Letarte’s record from the 2011 Super 8 runners-up.

It’s been a remarkable season for a goalie that played only one game as a junior (a shutout, one of his six in his career).

“He’s a great athlete, so he knew what it was going to take,” Prep goalie coach Scott Hentosh said. “Anytime he struggles, he puts it right behind him. He’s never rattled — up a goal, down a goal, it’s always the same. That poise is by far his best attribute.”

Tuesday night’s thrilling double overtime win over BC High in the state semifinals was a great example of that poise. Trailing 1-0 for much of the second and third periods, Palladino’s demeanor did not change. He made several key saves to keep his team’s deficit at only one goal, enabling Aidan Holland’s tying goal in the last minute and Christian Rosa’s winner in the second overtime.

“He made a couple of saves where if he doesn’t, we’re out of it,” said Eagles head coach Kristian Hanson. “He was really strong on his rebounds; there was a play in overtime where a puck got behind our defense and he shut it down. When Payton needs to make saves, here’s there.”

Given St. John’s Prep’s dominance on the puck throughout this season, Palladino’s saves have been more timely than voluminous. He’s made 326 saves this winter (57 in the playoffs) and has been tasked with making more than 20 saves in a game in only five of 20 starts.

“I try to stay engaged as much as I can, and once (opponents) start coming down towards the zone I can snap right back into it,” said Palladino, who loves playing behind such a puck-hungry group.

“The defense is amazing: they clear every loose puck, close every gap and keep everything in front of them.”

Moving to goalie full time when he was 11 years old, Palladino enjoyed the challenge of his new position. Since going to the Prep middle school in seventh grade, he always eyed the starting spot on the Eagles varsity as a long term goal. He’s grateful to have earned the opportunity to play and earn the trust of his teammates.

“Payton’s demeanor is the biggest thing. He plays baseball level where he’s never up or down, and he plays hockey the exact same way,” said Prep captain and defenseman Theo Vetere, who also plays baseball with Palladino.

“Even when something goes wrong, nothing changes and he’s ready to make the next save. That’s huge.”

The Prep’s baseball contingent may have a small measure of revenge on their minds, since they lost to Xaverian in the Division 1 state semifinals last spring. Palladino, a smooth fielding middle infielder who can play either double play position and is an excellent contact hitter and baserunner, will be playing baseball in college at Flagler in Florida.

The thing that translates most from infield dirt to the blue paint of the crease might surprise you: not the physical movement of sliding or the catching glove, but vision. Picking up the pick is a lot like finding the seams of the baseball from the batter’s box, Palladino says.

“Pitchers throw harder than most kids can shoot,” he explained. “So I think seeing as much fast pitching as we do helps a lot. I have experience with those high speed objects flying around me.”

Now the Eagles will skate against a familiar foe while looking to scale Massachusetts’ high school hockey mountain for the first time since 2015. They split two regular season meetings with the rival Hawks and will focus on playing their style of game and staying grounded Sunday night .

“Our speed and puck possession are two huge things that help us succeed,” Vetere said. “We’ve got some kids with some amazing stick skills. All of our top 12 forwards and all of our D can go out and possess the puck, move it quickly and efficiently. That’s when we’re at our best.”


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