Sunday, March 16, 2014
Super 8 final: Malden Catholic 5, Austin Prep 3
By Mike Abelson
BOSTON – Wash, rinse, repeat.
A four-goal second period, including three goals in a 2:50 span, powered Malden Catholic to a 5-3 win over Austin Prep and its fourth straight Division 1A championship at TD Garden.
The Lancers opened the scoring in the final minute of the first period when Tyler Sifferlen put home the first of his two goals. MC put on the burners in the second, jumping out to a 4-0 lead before AP's Cam Russo responded to make it 4-1.
Sifferlen's second goal with just under two period left in the second made it 5-1 at the break.
The five goals scored by the Lancers was the most in a Super 8 final since Catholic Memorial scored five on Burlington in the 2009 championship game.
“I think we came out and were ready to go right off the bat,” Malden Catholic's Ara Nazarian said. “We shut down Twitter for the whole Super 8 [tournament]. We see all the stuff on social media and it gets us fired up. They got a goal on the first shift last year and we weren't going to let that happen this year. They're a good team, worked hard; it was a good, hard battle.”
Battle back the Cougars did. AP outshot the Lancers 7-5 in the third period and blitzed the Malden defense. Bobo Carpenter scored a pair of goals midway through the third to give the Cougars a renewed sense of energy.
Mike Egan had a point-blank chance to make it a one-goal with four minutes but was unable to corral a pass.
“It just makes you think you could do something more to get the team going,” Carpenter said. “I know my team gave it their all; that's all I could ask for. Great season with the team and I loved every second of it.”
AP's swoon lasted for only five minutes, but the damage was done.
“I thought we played pretty well in the first period except for that goal,” AP head coach Louis Finocchario said. “For whatever reason, all year long, we've had four or five minutes in the second where we just totally collapse. Against a good team like that you can't do that. They're talented. We needed to keep the game closer than that.”
For Nazarian, and the Lancers, the feeling of victory remains sweet no matter how times MC experiences it.
“It feels the same as the other three years; it's a feeling you never get sick of,” Nazarian said. “You strive for that feeling and once that buzzer rings, and you realize you won the game, it's a special feeling. Especially after the past three years, it's been a special three years I've been a part of. I wouldn't choose another bunch of boys to play with.”
THREE AMIGOS: The Lancers first line of Jake Witkowski, Nazarian, and Sifferlen combined for eight of Malden Catholic's 14 points. Sifferlen had the Lancers' first and fifth goals.
“I take that [it's] three great players who put aside their egos and individual abilities to put team goals first,” Malden Catholic coach John MacLean said. “That's what helps us win. Ara's a great player, Siff's a great player, Jake's a great player, but they play as a unit most of the time. When they do it works.”
Witkowski shined with three assists, including the primary on the Lancers' third and fifth goals. Nazarian scored a goal and added a pair of assists.
“[Witkowski's] an outstanding player, very skilled, very smart,” MacLean said. “They're a great combo line. I thought they had some pretty tic-tac-toe goals tonight, but what matters to me is they played defense at the end when it mattered and that's what got us the win.”
While Witkowski had only nine goals this season, his 21 assists and soft hands made him an X-factor when he was on the ice.
“He's a great player,” Sifferlen said. “He's got good hands and good eye coordination. He's a good help with this team and this line. He's a good player.”
For the line, which combined for 131 points this season, Sunday was its last hurrah. Sifferlen will graduate in June and go on to play at UMass-Lowell.
Nazarian said he'll always remember his time alongside Sifferlen and Witkowski.
“It's a great feeling with Siffy,” Nazarian said. “I've been playing with Siff since freshman year, and Jake fit right in with us. His hands are ridiculous. I think we work hard in practice and are really quick out on the ice.”
RIDING THE WAVE: AP was a piecemeal team for much of the season. As injuries piled up, Finocchario was constantly tasked with assembling new lines and putting new faces in new places.
After a 1-1-2 stretch at the start of February, the Cougars finally returned to full strength, thanks in part to the return of Eric MacAdams, and rattled off eight straight wins to get to yesterday's title game.
“Obviously there's nothing you could say right now that's going to please any of us, but we had a lot of adversity this year,” Finocchario said. “We had guys chip in all season long and fill in when guys were out. Everyone did a nice job at one point or another throughout the season. A lot of kids were proud to be here, but our goal was to go out there and win.”
AP should return all but two players from this year's squad including eight of their nine double-digit points scorers.
“We had a lot of injuries, a lot of differentiation you could say,” Carpenter said. “We just came together at the end of the season; it was a blast no matter what. Big family now. We'll be there for each other for years to come.”