Winslow Towson/for The Boston Globe
NORTH ANDOVER Malden Catholic has not lost a tournament game since March 10, 2010, and Sundays effort should be an indication that the Lancers might have what it takes to repeat as Super 8 champions.
Defenseman Colin MacGillivray scored the game-tying goal 3:02 into the third period, and Boston College recruit Ryan Fitzgerald scored with 35 seconds remaining in regulation off a feed from Boston University recruit Brendan Collier to give the Lancers (16-1-4) a 3-2 victory over St. Johns of Shrewsbury at Merrimacks Lawler Arena.
Our leaders stood up when they had to, Lancers coach John McLean said. Fitzy and Brendan Collier have been carrying us all year and they went out and did the job. Theyre clutch players.
Pioneers goaltender Mario Pizzeri was brilliant in net against a Lancers lineup -- consisting of three Division 1 college recruits -- that lost only one game and put up a plus-66 goal differential in the regular season. The sophomore netminder finished with 34 saves on 37 shots, including 14 in the third period alone.
[The defense] played great, a lot of the shots were from outside the circles, Pizzeri said. They did a good job shutting down the first two lines, thats what we focused on in practice and I think they executed it great.
The Pioneers have not appeared in a Super 8 game since they entered the tournament with the top seed in the 2001-02 season. They made the cut this year by defeating eighth-ranked Needham in a play-in game, and after taking the top-ranked team in the state down to the wire, it is clear that they are here to stay.
The positives are we battled, we played hard, we gave everything weve got, Pioneers coach Brian Murphy said. Well see if we can just get a little more offense next time.
St. Johns struck on their first shot of the game when Connor Bertram pounced on a loose puck to the left of Lancers netminder Connor Maloney after a shot by Kyle Moss from the right point whistled wide and deflected hard off the end boards. With a handful of players jamming to Maloneys left Bertram was able to corral the puck and put a soft wrister into the other side of the wide open net.
Malden Catholics Ara Nazarian put a backhander past Pizzeri to pull the Lancers even with eight minutes gone in the period.
Vin DAmato, who entered the game second on the team in goals with 24, caught Maloney out of position and put a soft shot into the back of the net from the slot at 11:52 of the second period to put the Pioneers on top. It was their only shot of the second period.
The Pioneers were able to capitalize on the rare offensive opportunities they came across -- they took only five shots on net all night -- all the while weathering a relentless Malden Catholic attack.
Defensively I thought we played OK, McLean said. You got to give St. Johns Shrewsbury all the credit, I thought they played hard, they were smart ... but we just kept digging, rolling out three lines and told the guys to just keep getting pucks to the net, crash the net, do your job, and it worked out in the end.
St. Johns plays Hingham at Lawler Arena Tuesday night at 5:45, followed by Malden Catholic and BC High at 8:15.
Malden Catholic vs. St. John's of Shrewsbury; third period
14:25 3rd period: Malden Catholic 3, St. John's (S) 2 -- Ryan Fitzgerald brings the puck in along the right side of the ice and backhands the puck just over the pads of Mario Pizzeri. Fitzgerald's 27th goal of the season came from Brendan Collier and Mike Iovanna.
3:02 3rd period: Malden Catholic 2, St. John's (S) 2 -- Ryan Fitzgerald won a face off in the left circle and passed it back to Colin MacGillivray at the blue line. MacGillivray's slap shot through traffic found its way past Mario Pizzeri glove side.
Malden Catholic vs. St. John's of Shrewsbury; second period
8:00 2nd period: Malden Catholic 1, St. John's (S) 2 -- Vin D'Amato finds the puck in the slot off the stick of Kevin Emmerling and send it stick-side past Connor Maloney for his 17th goal of the season.
8:00 2nd period: Malden Catholic 1, St. John's (S) 1 --Ara Nazarian took the pass from Colin MacGillivray and sent a backhander from the bottom left face off circle past Pioneer goalie Mario Pizzeri stick-side. Tyler Sifferlen was credited with the second assist.
Malden Catholic vs. St. John's of Shrewsbury; first period
2:02 1st period: Malden Catholic 0, St. John's (S) 1 -- As Lancer goalie Connor Maloney attempted to gather the puck along the left side of his net, the puck went between his legs and out to the open slot, where Connor Bertram came in for a wide-open goal. Official assist is from Chris Adams.
We are live from Lawler Arena on the campus of Merrimack College for the first round of Super 8 hockey. In the nightcap, No. 1 Malden Catholic will take on No. 8 St. John's of Shrewsbury. We will be providing updates here throughout the day, so stay tuned for what is sure to be an intense day of hockey action.