BOSTON, Mass. -- It was an early season rematch for two of last year's Super 8 entrants when No. 3 Catholic Memorial and No. 12 Needham faced off at Walter Brown Arena on Saturday.
The Knights took a 4-1 victory on the strength of a hat trick from sophomore Liam Coughlin. The center, who played for the Walpole Express last season, scored the final three goals of the game, including a game-clinching empty-netter in the waning seconds of the third.
Knights senior assistant captain Dan O'Hear also logged a mutli-point game, scoring CM's first goal of the game and setting up Coughlin's first tally -- what would prove to be the game-winner -- in the second period for a 2-1 CM lead. O'Hear feathered a tape-to-tape pass across the goal mouth to Coughlin, who banked the pass home behind Needham goaltender Connor Murray (24 saves).
Coughlin struck again 8:39 into the second period before capping the hat trick with an empty-netter that came as CM (1-1-0) was shorthanded. The rangy forward also set up O'Hear's goal for a four-point game.
Tommy Knox stopped 28 shots to earn in the win in goal.
Needham (1-1-0) got its lone goal in the first period when D.J. Walsh tipped in defenseman Corey Hood's shot from the point to tie the game, 1-1.
Here's a couple of passing thoughts from the non-league battle:
After CM's season-opening loss to LaSalle Academy in Providence, Hanson ran his team hard through practice this week, stressing a full 45-minute effort. "We went for 45 minutes today, that's for sure. That's what we have to do to win. We have to be hard to play against and our go-to guys have go to get it done."
With only one defenseman returning from last year's squad -- senior captain Marc Hetnik -- CM was left a little green on the blue line. In an effort to get a little experience on the back line, Hanson moved forward Chris Stathopoulous to defense and is playing beside Hetnik on the Knights' top pairing. The inspiration to move the smooth-skater back to the blue line came from Stathopoulous' experience on CM's lacrosse team. He's a longstick defender in lax, so Hanson thought, why not in hockey, too? "The way his physical skills are, he can skate, shoot, why not move him back to defense? He's got that acumen." The transition has been hasty, however. "He only really has two weeks of coaching back there," Hanson said, "but he gets better every day." Yet, if Saturday's sampling is any indication, the Knights may have found a dependable component to their D. It's not the first time Hanson's tried it either. Hetnik also first played as a forward at CM before making the switch.
Needham head coach Bill Guisti has the benefit of having seven seniors on this year's roster and he's been encouraged by their play early on. Guisti said forward Sam Nickles and Scott Atkinson, both seniors, have been among his most consistent players through preseason and the Rockets' early games. Nickles seemed to have the puck firmly attached to his stick throughout and had several quality chances. Atkinson exhibited good vision and the ability to transition the puck out of his defensive end. "He rarely makes a mistake," Guisti said of Atkinson. In addition to senior captains Chris Joyce -- whom Guisti believes should be the best D-man in the Bay State Conference this year -- and Tom Coleman, Needham has an experienced nucleus. "We've got to take it one game at a time and we've got Wellesley next," Guisti said. "So that will be a good challenge, but it would've been nice to get out of here with a win."