MALDEN, Mass. -- Malden Catholic’s explosive offense was at work again Tuesday night against a red-hot St. John’s Prep team that had won their last five games.
During the win streak, No. 2 Prep had scored 27 goals against their opponents and had only allowed two goals in that span. The Eagles carried the play for most of the first period, and jumped out to a 1-0 lead after captain Sam Kurker fed the puck across the slot to forward Brian Pinho, who buried the puck into an open net.
However, four goals in the second period propelled No. 1 Malden Catholic to a 4-2 lead heading into the final frame. The Lancers played a strong third period and were able to protect their two-goal lead before potting an empty-netter, polishing off a 5-2 victory.
“When you’re playing [Malden Catholic], no lead is safe.” Eagles head coach Kristian Hanson said. “They score in bunches, they’re a really talented offensive team. You know, they’re difficult to keep off the scoreboard.”
The opening frame was indicative of how St. John’s Prep had played during their five-game winning streak. They incessantly closed gaps on the speedy Lancer forwards, forcing the league’s best offense to shoot from sharp angles outside of the high slot.
For the Eagles (8-5-0, 2-4-0) though, it was a game of missed opportunities. The offense was able to generate turnovers in the neutral zone, allowing themselves two early 2-on-1 opportunities where they failed to get the puck to the net and produce a shot on goal.
Malden Catholic (9-1-2, 6-0-1) head coach John McLean felt his team did a good job of taking advantage of Prep's failure to score goals.
“Because they score the first goal, it doesn’t affect us,” McLean said. “We just play our game one shift at a time, we know we’re gonna score goals, you just can’t get nervous. You gotta just keep playing your game and the goals will come.”
The goals came quickly for the Lancers in the second period. On the power play, sophomore Patrick Wrenn put a rolling puck in the crease behind the outstretched glove of goalie David Letarte, tying the game, 1-1.
The offense erupted from there for Malden Catholic as captain Brendan Collier netted two goals in under three minutes to put the Lancers ahead 3-1.
“On both goals, I just tried to get to the front of the net.” Collier said. “That first one, you know, we forced them to turn the puck over, Fitzy found me in front and I was able to put it past Letarte.”
The second of Collier’s two goals came off a slap shot from the point off the stick of Brendan White before being deflected past Letarte (31 saves).
“That was a great shot [White] took from the point, again I just wanted to get to the front of the net.” Collier said of his second goal. “I just tried to get a piece of it, I did, and it went in.”
The Lancers then found themselves in some penalty trouble. While on the power play, the Eagles began to shift momentum back in their direction. A cannon from blue-liner Nick Pandelena was deflected off the post, and the rebound was blasted home by Pinho for his second goal of the night.
The Lancers found themselves shorthanded shortly after Pinho made it a one-goal game. With a chance for the Eagles to tie it up, freshman Ara Nazarian created a turnover at his own blue line and cleared the puck up the boards. Nazarian won a race for the puck and spun to his backhand delivering a tape-to-tape cross ice pass to line mate Tyler Sifferlen, who made no mistake, ripping a wrist shot past the left pad of Letarte.
It was a tough blow.
“They get that goal to make it 4-2, you know, obviously we could have tied it at three potentially on the power play," Hanson said. “I thought we had a number of chances that we just didn’t finish on. We could have made it a 4-3 game and anything could happen down the wire. Bottom line is we didn’t finish, we didn’t execute like they did. And we had a very poor second period.”
McLean felt the shorthanded goal was a turning point.
“I think it hurt them… they had a little momentum on the power play.” McLean said. “Shorthanded goals are tough to give up. But we have guys that can score shorthanded, and that’s a bonus for us.”
The third period saw both teams exchange chances up and down the ice, but neither team would budge. The score remained the same until the Lancer’s iced the game with an empty-net goal.
For the Eagles, one bad period and an inability to finish allowed MC to skate off the ice, victorious.
“It’s tough to keep them off the board for too long,” Hanson said of the Lancers' offense. “But you know we did have some breakdowns defensively. I thought we played a pretty solid system the first and third period but, for whatever reason in the second we kind of got away from that and they capitalized on it.”
The loss was Prep's first since Jan. 13, when MC defeated the Eagles, 5-3.