- Scott Barboza, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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MALDEN, Mass. –- Is No. 1 Malden Catholic hockey just hitting its stride now?
It’s hard to judge by a team that has averaged over six goals per game through 14 games this season. You might not be able to tell such a difference in the Lancers’ prolific 9-0 blanking of No. 11 Xaverian at Valley Forum on Thursday. It might just seem like more of the same from a talented offensive squad, but there was a marked difference. That was in the way MC started.
“I think we played pretty good hockey today overall,” Lancers head coach Chris Serino said, alluding to his team’s full 45-minute effort.
MC (10-2-2, 4-0-2 Catholic Conference) in recent weeks has made it a habit — a bad one at that — of falling behind early before kicking it into high gear to beat teams in the third period. The Lancers bucked that trend on Thursday, systematically deconstructing the Hawks (7-4-1, 2-3-0) for three periods.
Seven players scored goals for the Lancers led by sophomore center Ryan Fitzgerald’s hat trick. Eleven players cracked the scoresheet for MC and five players had multi-point games, including Brendan Collier, Nick Roberto, Mike Vecchione, Brendan White along with Fitzgerald.
“We know what’s at stake in this game, we’re just one step closer to winning the division and [Xaverian has] played well this season,” Fitzgerald said. “We came out firing on all cylinders and it worked out good.”
“We’re definitely a talented group, but I think we’re starting to find our work ethic right now. With those two qualities, we should be good.”
Garrett White got the Lancers going with a blazing wrist shot from the slot for a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the first. Collier netted another with 11 seconds remaining in the first.
The damage could have been worse if not for Hawks goaltender Austin Miller. MC placed 20 shots on goal in the first period alone and Miller made 34 saves in just two periods of duty.
The Lancers’ barrage continued in the second with three goals from Fitzgerald, the last of which was scored short-handed.
Vecchione, Bob Keough, Brendan White and Roberto rounded up scoring with tallies of their own in the third when play turned increasingly chippy.
Several players had to be separated following the postgame handshake when jawing turned into a shoving match. The skirmish was broken up by referees and the teams' coaching staffs.