NORTH ANDOVER — Malden Catholic continued its assumed run to Super 8 glory on Wednesday night, knocking off Catholic Conference rival BC High, 4-2, in front of a sold-out Lawler Arena crowd of 1,500.
The Eagles (15-6-3) nearly stormed ahead in the second frame, scoring once on the power play and winning the period shot total 11-6, but the Lancers (20-2-2) held on and will face St. John’s Prep (18-5-1) for the Super 8 title at TD Garden Sunday at 6 p.m.
MC coach Chris Serino said he thought his players were too offensive-minded in the first two periods and it nearly cost them the game.
“We’ve been doing this the whole tournament,” he said after the win. “We’re just looking to go for the offense, giving up too many scoring chances. Hopefully we have one more stored up in us because we’re going to need it the way we’re playing.”
The explosive offense of Malden Catholic was on display within the games first minute, when a few early shots on Eagles’ sophomore goalie Peter Cronin, who made 24 saves in the game, led to a loose puck that sophomore Ryan Fitzgerald poked in for an early lead.
Killing a penalty midway through the second period, MC senior captain Mike Vecchione intercepted a pass in his own zone to give the Lancers a shorthanded 2-on-1 chance. But Cronin made the initial save to send the Eagles back the other way, and Fitzgerald was whistled for a tripping penalty that gave BC High a brief two-man advantage. Just seconds into the 5-on-3, senior defenseman Jack Buckley ripped a slap shot from the point that snuck through Young’s legs to tie things up, 1-1.
“I know we’ve scored more goals shorthanded than we’ve given up on the power play, but sometimes it hurts you,” Serino said.
MC killed two straight power plays following the goal, eventually taking the lead back when junior Brendan Collier knocked in a far-side rebound off a Vecchione wrist-shot.
If the Eagles were going put pressure on the tournament-favorites, the second period might have been their best chance. They had four power plays and peppered MC senior goalie Patrick Young, but Collier’s goal with four minutes left in the period allowed the Lancers keep the lead.
“In the second period, we played well,” said first-year Eagles’ coach John Flaherty. “We out-chanced them. But they capitalized as good teams do. And we didn’t capitalize on our chances.
“That team down the hall is a very, very good hockey team. We made them fight for their life tonight and I’m very proud of our guys for that.”
The Lancers’ second line got in on the scoring in the third period, when senior Garrett White beat Cronin top-shelf with a pair of wrist shots that gave MC a 4-1 lead. BC High freshman Tom Besinger put one in with three minutes left, but it was too late as the Lancers held on for the 4-2 win.
“They were taking the momentum away [in the second period], really coming at us,” Serino said. “I thought we played really well after we got the 3-1 lead. That lightened things up for us a little bit and took some of the pressure off. Hopefully the way we played in the third will carry over into the Garden.”
Young made 20 saves for Malden Catholic.
“He played awfully good,” Serino said. “He’s played really well in the tournament, made crucial saves at times when we needed him. He might have won the game for us tonight.”
Regardless of Sunday’s outcome, the tournament crown will be back in the hands of a private school following a one-year hiatus – Hingham took home the title in 2010.
Both the Lancers and the Eagles will be playing for the first Super 8 championship in school history, but Serino knows his squad will be under the spotlight.
“There’s a lot of pressure on these guys,” he said. “They’ve been No. 1 since the beginning. Anything more than the state title is going to be a disappointment for everybody, that’s what they believe.”
End of the game: Malden Catholic 4, BC High2 — Malden Catholic continued its assumed run to Super 8 glory on Wednesday night, knocking out BC High in front of sold-out crowd at the Lawler Arena.
End of 2nd period: Malden Catholic 2, BC High 1 -- The Eagles had four power plays during the period and out-shot MC 12-5, including a goal with the extra man from senior Jack Buckley. But Collier put away a rebound off a Vecchione shot that allowed the Lancers to stay ahead entering the final period.
End of 1st period: Malden Catholic 1, BC High 0 -- The Lancers aren't the highest-scoring team in Division 1 for nothing. The top line of Mike Vecchione, Brendan Collier, and Ryan Fitzgerald peppered Eagles' sophomore goalie Peter Cronin with a few shots in the first 30 seconds, and Fitzgerald poked home a loose puck to give MC a 1-0 lead.
Shots on goal: MC 10, BC 9
Malden Catholic and BC High are warming up here at Merrimack, with the winner to play St. John's Prep for the Super 8 championship Sunday at the Garden.
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