|Malden Catholic 3|
|Austin Prep 2|
Austin Prep tallied the first score of the Super 8 final Sunday night at TD Garden against Malden Catholic, but that didn’t scare off the two-time defending tournament champions.
The Cougars’ Nolan Vesey scored just 14 seconds into the game but that would turn out to be one of the team’s only true offensive chances, and the Lancers knocked off Austin Prep, 3-2, to win its third straight Super 8 title.
“You know what, first-shot goals happen,’’ Lancers coach John McLean said. “Last year, BC High scored on their first shot. It happens, you can’t worry about it. The kids dug down, did what they were supposed to do.”
The young MC team — just four seniors — didn’t get rattled by Vesey’s goal and put two of its own on the board before the end of the first period.
Tyler Sifferlen put the Lancers’ first goal on the board after passes from linemates Mike Iovanna and Ara Nazarian. Austin Goldstein gave MC its first lead with two minutes remaining in the first.
MC goalie Connor Maloney also got settled down and stymied the Austin Prep attack.
“That’s definitely not the way you want to start off going down a goal but I don’t think we were too nervous about it,’’ he said. “[The defense] has been great the whole tournament, blocking shots, clearing the puck out after I make the save. [Nick] Rolli, [Casey Fitzgerald], they’ve been great the whole tournament.”
Austin Prep goalie Elijah Harris also buckled down in the second period, stopping 12 shots, but he couldn’t do the same in the third. Nazarian gave the Lancers a two-goal cushion with a strike 2:24 into the final period.
The Cougars struggled to get close to Maloney all game, but Vesey halved the deficit with his second score of the game with 22 seconds remaining in regulation.
“They’re good, they’re tough for anybody to contain,’’ Austin Prep coach Louis Finocchiaro said of the Lancers. “They transition well at center ice and it all stems from their defensemen pushing the puck up the ice pretty well.”
In January, Malden Catholic did not appear as if it would make a run through the Super 8 tournament, losing five of nine games in the month.
“I was nervous,’’ McLean said. “It’s a new team and when we got to [six losses] I was concerned. I’d say right around Central Catholic [Feb. 6] that was a big win for us, then we went down to Springfield [Cathedral] and Springfield always works for us and we’ve been on a roll ever since.”
Nazarian believes part of the reason for the team’s turnaround was building team chemistry.
“After we had a couple of losses in the beginning of the year we got together after practice and said, ‘What do we have to do here, boys,’ ’’ he said. “We started having team dinners and had bonding time. That’s when we really started to come together as a team.”
Another big part of the Lancers’ midseason resurgence was the work of their first line of Sifferlen, Nazarian, and Iovanna.
“Towards the end of the season, we really came together as a line,’’ Nazarian said. “We started making plays and we really got together and got some nice goals.”
After what McLean acknowledged to be an “up-and-down year,” the Lancers not only appeared in the Super 8 final for the fourth straight year but won their third straight title.
“We knew we had the talent, we just had to get the kids on the right page and get them to believe in themselves as a team,” McLean said.