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Central Catholic 6, St. Mary's 5

Raiders win in shootout

Merrick ends Spartans’ 21-game unbeaten streak

Central Catholic’s Steven Merrick is pumped up after scoring in Round 4, the only goal in a shootout against St. Mary’s. Central Catholic’s Steven Merrick is pumped up after scoring in Round 4, the only goal in a shootout against St. Mary’s. (Winslow Townson / For the Boston Globe)
By Ryan Mooney
Globe Correspondent / March 5, 2012
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NORTH ANDOVER - Central Catholic narrowly made the cut for the 22d Super 8 tournament by winning a play-in game against seventh-ranked Burlington, but it made a strong case as to why it belongs on Sunday at Lawler Arena.

The Raiders (14-3-5) gave up a two-goal cushion in the third period and survived an onslaught from St. Mary’s in overtime, then found a hero in senior forward Steven Merrick, whose five-hole finish in the fourth round of the shootout snapped the Spartans’ state-best 21-game unbeaten streak, 6-5.

“I usually go five-hole when I get in on a breakaway,’’ Merrick said. “So I had it in my head I was going for it and he left it open for me.’’

Central Catholic goalie Kyle Williams (36 saves) was perfect in the shootout, stopping all five shooters, including with a stick save on Connor Parent in the final round.

“I think he’s one of the best goalies in the state,’’ said Raiders forward Ryan Daigle, who tied the score at 3 with a second-period goal. “Everyone’s overlooked him because he had a little slow year, but he’s kept us in these games and we’ve prevailed.’’

Central Catholic entered overtime looking tired, while St. Mary’s dialed up the pressure, crashing the net and playing largely in the Raiders’ zone. Twice in overtime, Spartan shooters rang posts.

“We don’t play much overtime anymore, but we worked on a lot of conditioning in the week and a half we had off between games,’’ said St. Mary’s coach Mark Lee. “I was extremely proud at the effort in the overtime period.’’

After a loss to Central Catholic in last year’s play-in game, the Spartans (18-2-3) entered their first Super 8 with redemption on their minds.

“It was a point of emphasis that we talked about briefly,’’ Lee said. “That we’d like to get a little bit back at them for last year.’’

Tied, 3-3, in the third period, Central Catholic took their second lead when Corey Webber snuck a rebound past Bailey MacBurnie (16 saves) at 4:01 after a shot by Alex Lester. Christian Smith upped the advantage to two with a power-play goal from in close, deflecting a Zach Cote wrister from the right point with Thomas Braswell in the box for tripping.

Brendan Mageary responded with his second goal of the game at 8:09 off a brilliant feed from Jarrod Fitzpatrick from behind the Central Catholic net. Mageary didn’t get a lot on the shot, but it was enough to trickle between Williams’s legs and cut the deficit to 5-4.

Braswell pulled St. Mary’s even with a little less than three minutes remaining in regulation after a great play by defenseman Andrew Markham, who saved a goal by laying out to take away the pass on a two-on-one break, leading to a two-on-one the other way. Fitzpatrick took a shot from the left of Williams, and Braswell was there to put away the rebound.

“You know no lead is safe in this tournament,’’ Raiders coach Mike Jankowski said. “You know these guys can put a lot of points on the board in a hurry, but we were able to be resilient enough to get through.’’

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