BOSTON – Every championship means something. But the Division 1A Super 8 crown won by Malden Catholic meant everything.
To players such as junior Mike Iovanna, whose game-winner helped push the Lancers past BC High, 3-1 at TD Garden.
And to Chris Serino, MC's cancer stricken head coach, who although too ill to perform his whistle-tooting duties, played a huge emotional role in Malden's second consecutive crown.
“You know what,” said Iovanna, whose backhander with 8:06 gone in the third snapped a 1-1 tie, “we did it for him. It's tough to see him like that. Our season was based on him.”
Senior defenseman Colin MacGillivray was in hearty agreement.
“Everything on that ice was dedicated to him,” said MacGillivray. “We just did it for him. We wanted it, and we did it.”
They did, but not without a struggle, after having spotted BC High an early goal.
The Eagles grabbed that lead on Sam Topham's tally, 1:59 into the contest.
Showing no reluctance to jump into the offense, Topham, a sophomore defenseman, took a feed from freshman Tim Larocque, barged to the bottom of the left circle, then threaded in his tight-angle shot which caught Lancers' junior goalie Connor Maloney by surprise.
“Those were all things we worked on this week in practice,” Eagles head coach John Flaherty said. “Driving wide. We knew where they were vulnerable.”
Matters opened up in the second period, which put both goaltenders on the hot seat.
BC High netminder Peter Cronin faced 17 shots in the second stanza, including Iovanna's sharp wrister which he gloved.
The Eagles missed out on a golden scoring chance a minute later, when Michael Brooks was set up by linemate Tom Besinger, but missed the open net.
“That wasn't the only one,” said Flaherty. “Three or four pucks that laid there for us to bury. When you're playing with the fire power of Malden Catholic, you need to be mistake free and capitalize on everything they give you.”
Instead, was the Lancers who exploited a BC High breakdown and used it to tie the contest, 1-1, at 11:28.
Brendan Collier, working a 2-on-1 with Ryan Fitzgerald, took Sifferlen's cross-ice pass, put a head fake on Cronin and tucked the puck inside the right post.
The stalemate continued until midway through the third, when an uncleared puck in the Eagles zone ended up on Nick Rolli's stick near the blue line.
Rolli saw Iovanna cutting to the net and deftly fed him the puck.
“We were really pressuring them down low,” said Iovanna. “They couldn't get it out. We kept banging on them.”
Iovanna finished the play by lifting a back hander over Cronin's shoulder from six feet away.
Lancers freshman Casey Fitzgerald put the game out of reach with 4.6 seconds remaining, when he sent a shot 150 feet into an open net.
By that time, the Malden faithful, including Serino who was in attandence, were able to celebrate this sweetest title.
“I've been there since my freshman year,” MacGillivray said. “We've basically been a family together. It sounds weird, but [Coach Serino] is like the father of the family. We did it for him.”
Said MCinterim coach John McLean, “It's mission accomplish. It's been a very long, tough season, mentally and physically. The kids dug down in the third period and did what they had to do.”
With hockey being such a close-knit fraternity, Serino, who is still Lancers athletic director, had a real presence in the Eagles' dressing room, too, one that was still grieving the in-season passings of the fathers of two BC High sophomores.
“We were playing for our own cause,” Flaherty said. “Two of our kids lost their dads. (But) I have the utmost respect for Chris Serino. He just came into my locker room and congratulated our guys. That's what true Chris Serino is. Here's a guy fighting for his life and he takes the time out of celebrating with his team to come into my locker room.
"That's what hockey is. It's a family.”