LOWELL, Mass. -- A quick look at the Malden Catholic line chart and you might do a double-take.
Ara Nazarian is only a sophomore?
That 5-foot-10, 185-pound bulldozer is only a sophomore? The same player that dominated last night’s Super 8 semifinal, a 5-3 win for the Lancers, is only a sophomore?
Nazarian potted a hat trick, including his fourth shorthanded goal of the tournament, as the Lancers moved on to their third straight Super 8 final as the Tsongas Center.
“He’s not a secret to me,” said Malden Catholic head coach John McLean. “I’ve coached him since he was a Mite. He likes big games. He gets up for these games. He had a great Super 8 last year and he’s fun to watch.”
Nazarian skated as the Lancers’ top-line center between Division 1 committed wingers Tyler Sifferlen (UMass-Lowell) and Mike Iovanna (Massachusetts).
“Two of them are already committed and Ara [Nazarian] will have his pick of a Division 1 school when he’s ready to make that choice,” McLean said. “He has a bright future ahead of him.”
The Lancers took a 1-0 lead early in the first period when Sifferlen managed to sneak a puck by Catholic Memorial freshman goaltender Brandon Collett.
The Knights knotted the score a little over a minute later when John Maher snapped a shot past MC netmidner Connor Maloney.
Nazarian’s short-handed tally gave the Lancers the lead back later in the first, as the Malden Catholic sophomore powered past a CM defender and was able to dangle a backhander through Collett’s five hole.
But the Knights just wouldn’t go away, as Jack O’Hear, a senior captain, tied the game.
The Lancers took the lead a third time just 29 seconds into the second period when Nazarian skated into the zone and sniped a wrister from the right circle that dinged off the post and into the net.
After CM tied the score for a third time, Michael Iovanna gave the Warriors the lead for good with just minutes remaining in the third period.
“I just wanted to get it on net,” said Iovanna, who also scored the game-winner for the Lancers in last season’s Super 8 title game. “It was a lucky bounce, I guess. I skated into the zone and Sifferlen did with the puck. He dropped it back to me and I saw a guy in a blue jersey in front so I was just trying to get it on net and it banked off their goalie and went in.”
It was the 10th win in a row for the Lancers and just their second win of the season over a Catholic Conference team.
“I’m happy for our kids,” McLean said. “We had a tough year. He had that bump in the road around January and a lot of people were doubting us. I think the kids were doubting themselves a bit and we became a team and it’s carried on.”
He continued, “But we haven’t accomplished what we want to accomplish. There’s still one more game to play.”
MALONEY'S STELLAR PLAY UNDER-THE-RADAR
Malden Catholic goaltender Connor Maloney has been a bit overshadowed with the stellar play of Nazarian and the three Division 1 commitments on the team in front of him.
But Maloney has been one of the best goaltenders in the state down the stretch, including making several tough saves against a CM team that was doing a good job getting traffic to the net.
“He was here last year and I think that experience helped him a lot,” McLean said. “That second goal, I’m not sure if it went five hole because of where I was standing, but I thought he maybe should have had that one. But other than that, he had a great game.”
LAST HURRAH FOR COUGHLIN, CM
Wednesday’s game proved to be the final one for Liam Coughlin, a senior who is also CM’s leading scorer.
“Liam has grown,” said CM head coach Bill Hanson. “He has been great and it’s been great watching him grow for three years. He has really learned the game and learned how to play in all three zones. He’s an incredible leader. He could have gone anywhere this year or last year but he wanted to come to Catholic Memorial and play in the Super 8.”
On the other end of the spectrum, CM freshman goaltender Brandon Collett made 28 saves for the Knights.
“If we don’t have him we’re not here,” Hanson said. “I didn’t even know who he was until the first day of tryouts. I had no idea. For him to come in and play at that level, for a kid who is quiet and unassuming and he’s a 15 year old, I’ve never had a goalie that young carry that much responsibility.”
He added, “We re-established Catholic Memorial hockey tonight.”