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Saturday, February 11, 2012
Recap: No. 3 St. John's Prep 4, No. 6 CM 3

By Tom Layman



WILMINGTON, Mass. -- It was a sequence that will probably haunt the dreams of Catholic Memorial and its fans, but will probably bring a smile to anyone wearing the blue and white of St. John’s Prep.

Mark Azarian came away with some late-game heroics to notch the winner with six seconds remaining to spring the Prep (11-5-1) to a 4-3 victory over the Knights Saturday in a matchup between Catholic Conference rivals at Ristuccia Memorial Arena.

Azarian will be the one with the game-winning goal always attached to his name, but the play wouldn’t have been made without the hustle, and patience, of Andrew Brandano.

Brandano got his body in front of a shot at the blue line, and raced out into the open ice down the right side. He got down to the right circle and had Azarian trailing on the play with a Knights defenseman in position in between the two.

Brandano looked to hesitate with the puck, but he was just debating on shooting it with only seconds to go until he saw his linemmate come into play in good scoring position. The junior forward guided the puck right to the tape of Azarian to grab two points, and keep a point away from the Knights in the process, with six seconds remaining in the game.

“The first thing on my mind was to block the shot,” Brandano said. “I noticed the 2-on-1 right away. I saw Mark from the beginning and was going to pass it, but he was behind the defenseman so I held onto it and waited until it opened up. … I just threw it at his stick and it went in.”

Brandano said he thought about shooting the puck at first with Shane Starrett in position, but he changed his mind when a passing lane opened.

“It was wicked long and it felt like it took forever,” he said. “But it was worth it.”

The Eagles’ defense prides themselves on being in position and blocking shots in their own end, and that was the first thing that Kristian Hanson noticed about the big play.

“What made that play was the block,” Hanson said. “He blocked the shot in an absolutely critical point of the game he sacrificed the body. It created the 2-on-1 and Mark just did his job by going to the far post. [Brandano] was very patient with the puck on that.... Obviously it’s a big win for us.”

KURKER COMES UP BIG AGAIN
Sam Kurker has become a force for the Eagles’ top-line against Catholic Conference foes, and he made a name for himself again with three goals to help fuel the Prep.

This was the second hat-trick for Kurker against Catholic Memorial this season, and he’s consistently wracked up multiple point games against familiar foes in the league.

“In the conference he’s scored two or three goals in virtually every conference game that we played,” Hanson said. “It says a lot about him as a player.”

Kurker got the Prep on the board in the first period on the first shot of the game, and he also tied things up at 3 on the power play with a slapper from the left point with 2:53 left in the game.

KNIGHTS IN TROUBLE
The road to the playoffs just got a little bit rockier for the Knights.

The Knights need six points in their last four games to be postseason eligible. Their last four games area against Rhode Island foes Bishop Hendricken and La Salle Academy, Connecticut's Fairfield Prep, in addition to No. 7 Central Catholic.

Catholic Memorial has been on the door step of crucial wins this past week, but coughed up one-goal leads in the third period in each of the last three contests.