BOSTON -- Liam Coughlin doesn’t need much space to put the puck in the net.
The imposing senior captain for No. 4 Catholic Memorial is scoring at a prodigious clip this season, registering 17 goals in the Knights’ first seven games entering Saturday night’s game versus No. 7 Hingham.
So even as the Harbormen made it a point of emphasis – head coach Tony Messina said as much -- to take away time and space from CM’s big No. 7, it was only a matter of time before he broke through.
Coughlin netted two goals, both in the second period, as the Knights erased an early 1-0 deficit and skated past Hingham, 5-1.
“They scored [a] power-play goal, and then we got the two goals — bang-bang — and we’ve done that this year a couple of times, different occasions,” CM head coach Bill Hanson said. “After the first period, our energy level picked up, and we matched their intensity, and our skill level really took over.”
The Harbormen (5-3-0) found themselves on an early power play off a boarding call, when Sam D'Antuono took a pass in the slot and beat freshman goaltender Brendan Collett high to the glove side.
The lead was short-lived though, as CM’s John Maher intercepted a cross-ice pass at his own blue line, skated the distance of the ice, and deked Hingham netminder John Grenier, sliding the puck through his legs to tie the score.
Nearly two minutes later, the Knights (7-1-0) won a faceoff in the offensive zone, and Kevin Bletzer found the back of the net with a wrister to give CM a lead it would not relinquish.
“We came out strong,” Messina said. “I don’t know what it is; we did the same thing against a couple of other teams, too.
“I don’t know if it’s the letdown, but [Catholic Memorial is] a good team. They have three strong lines, and obviously a dynamic first line. When they start getting some possession on you in different spots, they’re tough to defend against.”
When CM really started to get things going in the second period, it spelled the end for Hingham. Coughlin found a loose puck after it took a fortuitous bounce of a referee’s skate, and split two defenders before roofing the puck. A few minutes later, he collected the puck behind the net, before powering his way out in front and stashing away his second to give the Knights a three-goal advantage.
“I noticed tonight that they were going to shadow me, and they did,” Coughlin said. “I tried to work my way about that, and I did a couple of times, but they did a pretty good job.
“I knew I had to step up my game. The first period wasn’t a great period for me, but the second period I knew I had to step up my game.”
Catholic Memorial sealed the deal in the third with its fifth goal. Coughlin led the rush, and slid the puck between the goaltender’s legs, before Kevin Hock banged it home for the game’s final score.
“They’re young kids,” Hanson said. “I’ve got a very young team if you look at our roster. The one good thing about them, the great thing about them, is they don’t get rattled, nothing fazes them. We give up a goal, no big deal.
“If we did that last year, we were panicking, because in 20 games, we only scored 39 goals. Going into tonight’s game, we’ve already scored 39 goals. So these kids know they can hit the back of the net.”
COUGHLIN ON A TEAR
It’s worth repeating, and only because he’s making it relevant with each game he plays, but Coughlin is scoring goals at an alarming rate. With his two goals Saturday night, the senior center raised his season total to 19 goals in eight games played.
In the postgame, a measured Coughlin said the hard work he put in during the offseason has been paying off.
“Everything is different,” he said. “I worked my [expletive] off this summer everyday. I would be up at seven in the morning, when everyone else was sleeping, working out with my cousins Thomas and Sean.
“I knew this year it had to get done. I’m a senior, and I came in my senior year to play for Coach Hanson and win a Super 8. And that’s where my mind was at, and I knew what I needed to get done.”
To his credit, Coughlin’s work ethic has spilled over to other elements of his game and Hanson pointed that he’s been instrumental in helping out his teammates.
“Now he’s playing both ends of the ice,” Hanson said. “He’s using his size better and he’s a real good team guy, he really is. He’s the whole package. He just brings everybody up around him.”