Boston High School: Chris Serino

Serino Scholarship Fund hosts golf outing

August, 27, 2013
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SerinoJack Adams and Maiden CatholicMalden Catholic hockey players Brian Cameron, Tyler Sifferlen, Jack Adams and Pat Wrenn took part in a golf outing to benefit the Christie Serino Scholarship Fund, which was established in memory of the late Lancers coach and athletic director.
The Christie Serino Scholarship Fund hosted its inaugural golf outing at Turner Hill Country Club in Ipswich on Monday.

Members from across the Massachusetts hockey community attended the event including Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask and notable Malden Catholic alumni.

The scholarship, which was established in October, following the former Lancers head coach's death, will be awarded annually to a Malden Catholic student who, according to the fund, is in good academic standing, demonstrates leadership skills, possess a strong commitment to the community, and is immersed in Malden Catholic extra-curricular activities.

Some parting thoughts on the hockey season

March, 25, 2013
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Flanked by a swarm of reporters, Sean Murphy’s eyes darted about as he searched for the words to say. The Burlington senior forward was never the center of attention during his high school career, so he didn’t have much experience in such a setting. He scored two goals at the TD Garden last week as the Red Devils’ repeated as Division 1 state champions. It was his first time playing at the Garden, having watched last year’s final unfold from the perspective of a fan. This was the first year Murphy made Burlington’s varsity hockey squad.

As Murphy responded to questions, teammates and members of the Red Devils’ coaching staff ribbed him. Their good-natured jabs caused Murphy periodically to break down and smile while he tried to maintain focus on the interview. They all knew the circumstances surrounding Murphy’s accomplishment. He’d done from off the team outright to hero.

During freshman year, Burlington didn’t host a freshman team. Murphy failed to make the junior varsity squad, so he went a year without playing for his high school. In sophomore year, Murphy earned a spot on the J.V. team, but it was the Red Devils’ lower team (the J.V. had been split into two teams). The next year, he moved up to the higher J.V. team, as many of his classmates won their first state crown. Finally, as a senior, Murphy made the varsity team.

He only scored one goal during the regular season, but Murphy broke out in the tournament, scoring five goals in the postseason, including two in the championship game.

When Murphy attracted the attention in the postgame following the Red Devils’ 4-2 victory over Marshfield on Sunday, Burlington head coach Bob Conceison watched a few paces away. He beamed and was eager to tell of Murphy’s story of stick-to-itiveness.

“That’s the kind of story that makes high school hockey great,” Conceison said.

A SORT OF CHANGING OF THE GUARD
As Malden Catholic won its third straight Super 8 championship, it would seem as though the Lancers simply picked up where they left off. But anybody who watched the defending champions’ season unfold would tell you this most recent run was anything but a sure thing.

In many years, this year’s MC model was uncharacteristic from the previous. Yes, the Lancers still had more top-end talent than anyone, with three Division 1 college recruits (and counting). But this was in broad strokes a young team and, more so, one that lacked experience in a Super 8 environment. Building on the contributions of talented senior leaders (Mike Vecchione in 2011 and Brendan Collier in ’12) in the last two years, the Lancers had to learn to do it on their own this year.

Helping to bridge the gap was senior captain Mike Iovanna, one of a handful of seniors on MC’s roster this year. Iovanna is self-described as someone who leads by example. The soft-spoken UMass commit has been a key cog in the Lancers’ run all along, but took on a greater role this year, inheriting the “C” on his sweater.

“You know what the expectations are,” Iovanna said of taking on the role of captain. “Knowing what Mike [Vecchione] and Brendan [Collier] meant in the room, I was able to learn from them.

“But I also know that I’m a different person from them. I’m a pretty quiet guy, but I knew I could set an example for the younger players as they had done for me.”

Iovanna combined with junior left wing Tyler Sifferlen and sophomore center Ara Nazarian to tally nearly half (113) of MC’s points on the season (245) on its top line. Aside from creating the Lancers’ scoring punch, Iovanna also contributed intangibles on MC’s top penalty killing forward unit beside Nazarian — who changed the face of the tournament with his four short-handed goals.

But aside from the first line, the Lancers relied on a new wave for contributions.

“They have their own identity, but it’s a new core,” Lancers head coach John McLean said. “It’s young, very talented players, with [Austin] Goldstein, [Matt] Filipe, [Jake] Witkowski and [Will] Lawrence on D, I thought John [McLean III] played well.”

Nothing was handed to this MC group; it was earned. Sitting a 5-6-3 as the calendar was about to flip to February, the Lancers had to learn on the fly.

“Right around Central Catholic, that was a big win for us and the kid’s became a team,” McLean said. “We went out to Springfield and, for whatever reason, Springfield always worked for us. We went on a roll.

Of course, none of that reflects the emotional component that followed MC hockey this year. Former head coach and athletic director Chris Serino succumbed after a long fight with cancer shortly before the season began.

His imprint remained in MC’s three-peat.

“It’s still Chris’s team a little bit,” McLean said.

COMINGS AND GOINGS
Here’s a look at some recent updates in where some of the state’s top players are headed next year:
  • One of our favorite players to watch during the last couple of years was Burlington forward C.J. Grinnell. Grinnell led the Red Devils again in scoring (13-19-32) and is considering prep and junior options for next year, with Connecticut’s Canterbury School as a leading candidate. Just a thought that some college coach out there is going to get one heck of a player in a couple years.
  • Springfield Cathedral wasn’t able to get over the MC hump in the Super 8, but will more than likely have several of its graduating players skating on past this year. First-line winger Dominic Blad is heading to South Kent while defenseman Matt Foley is weighing options between Phillips Exeter, Choate Rosemary Hall and Berkshire School, along with college choices for the following year. All-State-caliber defenseman Jack Williams and center Artie Potter are also exploring options for next year.
  • The Woburn girls’ hockey program had perhaps the greatest collection of talent in the state this year. Case and point were made last week as two of the Tanners’ top skaters announced their college plans. Forward Kayla Smith gave her commitment to Salve Regina while defenseman Cassandra Connolly will be headed to the University of New England.
MR. AND MISS HOCKEY AWARD FINALISTS
We’ll be handing out our awards Monday when we name our Mr. and Miss Hockey Award winners, as the best players in MIAA hockey this year. Here’s a look at our four finalists for the honors, in alphabetical order:

Mr. Hockey:
  • Liam Coughlin, Sr. C, Catholic Memorial: The rangy pivot helped lift the Knights to the Super 8 semifinals, leading the team with 28 goals and 20 assists for 48 points.
  • Peter Cronin, Sr., G BC High: Undoubtedly, the state’s best goaltender for two years running. The three-year starter posted a 94.6 save percentage along with seven shutouts this year.
  • Ara Nazarian, Soph. C, Malden Catholic: Led the Lancers in scoring (26-20-46) during the regular season in addition to leading all players in Super 8 scoring, while tallying an unheard of four short-handed goals for the three-time defending champions.
  • Brian Pinho, Sr. C, St. John’s Prep: A natural playmaker with vision, the Providence College commit led the Catholic Conference champions with 12-24-36 totals.
Miss Hockey:
  • Alison Butler, Sr. F, St. Mary’s (Lynn): Among the leading scorers in the state (37-25-62), Butler saved her best for last, netting the game-winning goal in the state championship game.
  • Hannah Murphy, Sr. F, Duxbury: The Dragons captain capped her prolific career with the program’s third straight state championship win, scoring 29 goals and adding 24 assists.
  • Shannon O’Neil, Sr. G, Austin Prep: Led all Division 1 starting goaltenders with a 1.08 GAA and eye-popping 96.8 save percentage to go along with 10 shutouts.
  • Kayla Smith, Sr. F, Woburn: Perhaps the most feared scorer in the state, Smith finished with 34-29-64 totals for the Tanners.

Super 8: Austin Prep 2, St. John's Prep 1

March, 14, 2013
3/14/13
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LOWELL, Mass. -- Entering the season, everyone knew that Austin Prep a serious collection of talent. The knock against the Cougars was that they were very young, and that their defense might not be up to par with its offense.

As the winter progressed, those blueliners have vastly improved and grown into their roles, and because of how that unit performed in the postseason, the statement "AP is maybe a year or two away" no longer applies.

Led by senior Zach Fuller and junior Andrew Cross, the Cougars defense turned in perhaps its finest performance of the season and were a key factor in Austin's 2-1 victory over St. John's Prep in the second Div. 1A semifinal at Tsongas Center Tuesday night.

"Our defense the second half of the season has really turned it up,' praised AP head coach Louis Finocchiaro. "Andrew Cross has been playing phenomenally all year. Zach Fuller over the second half of the season has really come up big for us a senior defenseman. J.J. Layton, Matty Morgan, Leachy [Brendan Leach] and Kevin Kiley... they're playing well on that back end and no one gave them any credit in the beginning of the season. They said we couldn't win hockey games because we weren't good defensively but you know what? They're proving some people wrong and doing a fabulous job."

Throughout the Super 8, most of the focus in Austin's victories has been on goalie Elijah Harris, and rightly so. Harris was nothing short of spectacular in the two victories over Reading, and it was assumed that for Austin to have a chance against the top-seeded Eagles, Harris would have to steal it.

Instead, the defense made his life easier. Harris made 27 saves in the game but he didn't have to be spectacular like he was against Reading thanks to his defense. They did a terrific job of limiting the Prep from home run chances, they cleared the puck out of the zone often and kept the shooting lanes free and clear for Harris to do his job behind them.

A key cog in the maturation of the Cougars defense has been Cross. The junior spent two years at Malden Catholic, who will be AP's opponent in the championship game, before transferring over to Austin. His steady presence on the ice and guiding voice in the locker room has been invaluable to the rest of the young Cougars and that group is playing its best at the right time.

"I know we're very young," Cross admitted after Wednesday's game. "They've learned a lot from Coach [Finocchiaro] and I've taught them a couple of things myself about the high school game. Coming from playing select hockey and coming up to high school, thats a huge difference. We've grown as the year's gone on and playing against better competition makes you better every day. The forwards we have coming down at us in practice one on one, it's tough so we have very talented guys to up against."

AP OFFENSE DOES ITS PART
Speaking of those talented forwards, they had to come through as well and the Cougars top line really shined on this stage. After a scoreless first period, the two teams looked to be headed toward another goose egg n the scoreboard in the second until, with just under six minutes remaining. Eric MacAdams delivered a perfect feed to Nolan Vesey (2 goals) for an open look that AP on the board first.

St. John's Prep answered in the third as Tyler Bird stuffed home a rebound at 6:46 and finally began to show signs of reminding everyone why they were the state's top-ranked squad for most of the season. With just 2:40 remaining, MacAdams was hauled down on a breakaway that gave the Cougars a power play, and they cashed in on a flukey bounce.

Bob Carpenter fired a shot from the right wing circle that was tipped by Cam Russo and the puck went up into the air toward the far post where Vesey was camped with St. John's senior captain Brent Murray. Vesey's stick went up at the same time as Murray's glove, and the puck went off the blue-liners hands and dropped down into the net to give Austin a 2-1 lead with 2:11 remaining.

"It was a power play and I ended up on my off side," explained Vesey. "The puck went back to Bobo Carpenter and he let a rip go. My linemate, Cam Russo, tipped it, kind of went up in the air and their defenseman's glove and my stick went up and I couldn't even tell you. I closed my eyes then I saw the puck go over the line. Thats all that matters."

The Eagles pulled goalie Billy Price (18 saves) with just over a minute remaining for the extra skater, but Harris came through with a pair of big saves in the closing seconds to finish it off.

"I thought we played a pretty good game," Eagles head coach Kristian Hanson said. "Did we play a great game? No, but I thought we played well enough to win. We've had difficulty all year capitalizing and tonight it came back to bite us. You can blame it on a number of different things but bottom line is we didn't finish and they scored one more goal than we did. It doesn't matter how it goes in, they all count the same."

For Austin Prep, there is no waiting for next year. Their time has come now.

"Obviously its great experience and for them it took a while to believe in themselves and to know how to win big games," Finocchiaro said. "It was a learning process for us and halfway through the season, we were like, 'We don't know if its going to come.' We thought it might not come this year and we may have to wait until next year because we were up and down, we were like a rollercoaster. But then our last four games of the season, we've played really well right through tonight. They got some confidence going, they believe in themselves.

"St. John's Prep is a tremendous hockey team. They've been the number one hockey team all year long and for us to beat them tonight is a huge accomplishment."

LOOKING AHEAD
Sunday will hold extra special meaning to several Cougars, including Finocchiaro, who was a disciple of the late Chris Serino. Cross was a regular in the rotation during Malden Catholic's run to a second straight title a season ago. Now he stands as the top defenseman for Austin Prep and he knows a lot of eyes will be on him from now until Sunday.

"I'm looking forward to this game," Cross said with a smile. "I didn't think it was going to happen this way. It's going to be a dramatic game playing against my old teammates. I've known a bunch of them since I was probably about seven years old, I've been playing against them my whole life. We've just got to work hard at practice and go over the systems. We played them once already and we gave them a game. We didn't like the outcome (MC won, 4-3 in OT during the Chris Serino Holiday Tournament) the first time so we're going to be looking for some revenge."

And while MC has overcome its midseason struggles and once again looks like the team to beat, don;t think for a second that Austin Prep plans to lay down for them on the TD Garden ice.

"They won it the last two years," Vesey said almost defiantly. "There's not going to be a third time."

Recap: No. 1 Malden Catholic 2, No. 9 Hingham 1

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
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MALDEN, Mass. -- Hingham was beating and beat up No. 1 Malden Catholic for the greater part of two periods Thursday in the teams' first-round game at the inaugural Christie Serino Christmas Classic.

The Harbormen took it to the host Lancers and clung to a 1-0 lead through the third period, playing a physical, sound defensive brand of hockey.

Then, as so many teams have found out in the last several years in MC's run to back-to-back Super 8 titles, the margin for error against the Lancers is razor-thin. In about a two-minute span of the third, Hingham went from leading, to tied, to losing and desperate. MC held on the late lead for a 2-1 win over the Harbormen, thanks to a two-goal effort from sophomore center Ara Nazarian.

"You can't be perfect against them, that's tough," Hingham head coach Tony Messina lamented after his team put in a nearly 45-minute complete effort. "They're just coming at you all the time."

Hingham (3-2-0) claimed the lead midway through the second period when junior center Matt Brazel collected a loose puck off the right wing boards in the neutral zone and strafed in on a breakaway at Mach speed, beating Lancers netminder Connor Maloney 5-hole on the finish.

MC (3-0-0) struggle to find any sort of offensive rhythm despite being given three power-play opportunities in the first period, in which the Lancers were held to just two shots. At even strength, the Harbormen continued their aggressive forecheck and clogged up passing lanes through center ice, taking away MC's penchant for home-run type plays through the neutral zone.

"They were jamming us in," Lancers head coach John McLean said. "We found the middle a couple of times, but it comes down to the fact that they outworked us."

However, things opened up for MC ever so slightly in the third period, when the Lancers outshot Hingham, 12-4. While a majority of MC's shots came from the periphery, the Lancers stepped up their presence in front of Harbormen goaltender John Grenier (24 saves). Those efforts came to bear when Nazarian pulled the Lancers even with 6:56 remaining in the game, taking a directed slap pass from defenseman Nick Rolli and chipping it past a splayed out Grenier.

Nazarian then followed with the game-winner 2:33 later, depositing the rebound from a shot by winger Mike Iovanna. Tyler Sifferlen notched his second assist of the game on the play.

"We came out for the first two periods and we got dominated,” Nazarian said. “They were all over us, working way harder than we were. Going into the third, in the locker room, we talked about making the simple plays, just getting it deep and working hard and it paid off."

FAMINE THEN FEAST
McLean was frustrated by the Lancers' lack of production on the man-advantage, although both teams combined to go 0-for-10 on the power play, with the respective penalty kill units staving off five chances each.

And while Messina was pleased by the work of his man-down unit, the frequency with which they saw the ice was maddening.

"We had to kill too many penalties the whole game and we use the same players on the kill that we need to score goals, so it worked against us there at the end," Messina said.

Hingham's defensive effort, led by another strong outing from preseason All-State blue-liner John Carlson, on a whole was overshadowed by a momentary lapse in the third period. But the Harbormen imposed their will for the majority of play.

"We were pretty happy about that," Messina said of his team's efforts in the neutral zone. "They're very good with their long passes up to their forwards and that's what you've got to watch for."

AFTERBURNERS
Hingham dealt MC a dose of their own medicine when it came to Brazel's goal in the second. The fleet-footed pivot was able to step behind the MC defensive pairing and then turned a step into a country mile.

After collecting the loose puck in full stride, Brazel took on the long stride of Usain Bolt to the finish line before finishing with the wrester.

Brazel's final burst inspired awe on the Harbormen bench, including that of former BC standout and Boston Bruin Bobby Allen, who's an assistant on Messina's staff now, even expressed his amazement.

"We talked about it on the bench," a wide-eyed Messina said.

He added, "He separated, it was unbelievable. That showed me a lot in that it was at the end of his shift, too."

IN MEMORIAM
MC advances to play another Top 10 squad in Austin Prep in the Serino Tournament championship game today at the Malden Valley Forum (6 p.m.).

The tournament is dedicated to the memory of the late Lancers head coach and athletic director who succumbed to cancer in October. Serino's wife, sons and family members joined the team captains for a ceremonial puck drop before MC's tilt with Hingham.

"We want to keep it every year and make it special," McLean said of the first-year event. "It was nice having his wife and kids here and his family, it was important. He gave a lot to the school."

Recap: No. 6 Austin Prep 5, St. Mary's (Lynn) 3

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
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MALDEN, Mass. -- Louis Finocchiaro could be Chris Serino’s most successful coaching pupil. So, it seemed fitting that Finocchiaro’s team notched the first win in the inaugural tournament that honors Serino’s name and memory.

Finocchiaro’s Austin Prep team defeated St. Mary’s of Lynn, 5-3, in the opening game on Thursday afternoon behind a two-goal effort from senior winger Nolan Vesey.

A Saugus native, Finocchiaro played for Serino at Saugus High from 1980-83, where he’s still the all-time leading scorer for the Sachems. He followed in Serino’s footsteps as Saugus’ head coach in 1997 after a stint as an assistant with his alma matter and then later joined Serino’s staff as an assistant at Merrimack College and was on the staff in 2001 when Serino took a leave of absence to battle his first bout with throat cancer.

“Chris was a dear friend of mine,” Finocchiaro said. “We’re excited to be here, in this tournament, and obviously this is its first year, so to get the first win and to be in the finals is pretty exciting.”

The Cougars were paced by a dominating first period where they outscored Spartans 2-0 and outshot them 8-3 (14-3 in shot attempts).

Cam Russo put Austin Prep on the board with a wrister from the left circle that beat Nick Holt short side. Russo’s third-line teammates, George Sennott and Brent Hill, each picked up assists.

Then, with just 58 seconds left in the period, Hill doubled the lead by jamming home a loose puck to Holt’s glove side, his two linesmates again getting helpers.

The Spartans came alive in the second period, however.

Ryan McManus cut the deficit on a power play with 6:46 left on the clock, firing a seeing-eye wrister from the right point that Austin Prep goaltender Elijah Harris never saw and the puck snuck over his left shoulder.

Austin Prep freshmen Jake McKenelley gave the Cougars a two-goal lead back just two minutes later but a pair of St. Mary’s goals in under a minute tied the score.

First, Jordan Manthorne beat Harris with a tough-angle shot from the bottom of the left circle and then Ryan Madden tucked a puck behind Harris from the goal line.

“We had a good first period, we’re up 2-0, and then we just didn’t come out strong in the second,” Finocchiaro said. “We need to learn that we can’t let teams back into the game like that. We have to finish.”

Vesey potted his first of two goals with just 32.5 seconds left in the second period, snapping a shot from in close on the right side that beat Holt over the glove. The senior tacked on some insurance five minutes into the third period when he beat Holt over the shoulder to make it 5-3.

YOUTH PREVAILS
Including the three goaltenders dressed on its roster, 15 of Austin Prep’s 24 players dressed last night were either freshmen or sophomores.

Outside of Vesey’s two tallies, Austin’s other goals came from a sophomore (Russo) and two freshmen (McKenelley and Hill).

“We have a lot of new players and we’re very young,” Finocchiaro said. “So at times, we’ll have situations where we’ll feel our lumps, but it’s a good group. They’re hard workers. We’re still not where we want to be in terms of chemistry, but that will come. There’s still plenty of work to do, we want to be better in our defensive zone, but you also want to be good at the end (of the season) not at the beginning.”

Andrew Cross, a former Lancer defenseman who played on Malden Catholic’s last two Super 8 championship teams, is one of just two juniors on the Austin Prep roster. He was skating in his first game back on Valley Forum ice after transferring at the end of last season and he led his team with three points (3 assists). He’ll face his former teammates in the tournament’s title game Friday. Sennott also finished with three helpers for the Cougars.

ANSWERING ADVERSITY
Finocchiaro was pleased with the way the Cougars responded after a feisty St. Mary’s team clawed its way back into the game.

After being outplayed badly in the first period, St. Mary’s outshot Austin Prep 11-8 in the second, outscoring them 3-2, before Vesey’s late goals sealed the victory.

“We answered, and that’s encouraging,” said Finocchiaro, whose team remained undefeated, improving to 2-0-1. “After that second where we let them back in the came we could have rolled over and folded but we didn’t. We came back out in the third and took care of business. [St. Mary’s] played really aggressive, really hard.”

Harris was a microcosm of his team, starting strong with some middle-period struggles before closing the door in the third period.

“He made some nice saves,” Finocchiaro said. “There were some funky goals that maybe he’d like to have back – the one on the far left boards and one on the power-play from the point – but he then came back and made some big saves for us down low on their power play, so he rebounded and responded well.”

Austin Prep now battle the host Lancers in the title game at 6 p.m. on Friday. St. Mary’s will faceoff with Hingham in the consolation at 4 p.m.

MC elevates Driscoll from interim baseball coach, AD

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
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Malden Catholic today announced the elevation of Pat Driscoll to head baseball coach and Athletic Director, both from interim status.

Driscoll took over the head baseball job in late May, just before the start of the MIAA playoffs, after Steve Freker resigned suddenly. Driscoll had also been the school's interim athletic director as the late Chris Serino's health deteriorated. Serino passed away last month.

Driscoll had held the position of Assistant Director of Athletics at Malden Catholic since 2006, and he has been a member of the school’s coaching staff since 2001.

"Pat Driscoll has extensive experience as a coach at the high school level,” Malden Catholic headmaster Edward C. Tyrrell said in a statement. “He has proven his ability and value to our sports program as Assistant Athletic Director. He is a leader who focuses on the values, ideals, and mission when working with our students, families, faculty and staff. We consider Pat a true asset to Malden Catholic and to the Malden Catholic Athletics Program.”

Over the past 12 years, Driscoll’s coaching experience has included hockey, baseball and golf. He is presently MC's assistant varsity hockey Coach and junior varsity golf coach. He was Austin Prep's junior varsity hockey coach from November 2003 to 2005, and served as a coach of the Intercity Baseball League from June 2002 to 2007.

Driscoll is a member of the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association, the Massachusetts Hockey Coaches Association and the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

Commentary: A seat next to Coach

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
12:17
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He insisted that I take a seat next to him. I didn’t feel comfortable doing so. It was a strange setting, sitting front and center facing a crowded room -- never mind the fact that we’d effectively be eating on stage. The idea horrified me.

Then he clenched my arm and with a whisper’s tone, he reassured me, “Sit right here.”

His face was frail, a toll of having not been able to eat solid food for months. Yet his eyes remained sharp, blue as the sky and big as saucers. He delivered his words with the conviction you’d expect from a coach, rallying his team during an intermission session. He guided me to my chair and sat right next to me.

I didn’t feel like I belonged, nonetheless, directly next to the man of the hour. After finishing off a second straight Super 8 championship, Malden Catholic hockey had dedicated the season to its ailing coach. The banquet night, too, in effect, was a tribute to him. He was the sole reason every face in the room was there. Everybody knew what that night meant to him.

But there he was, sitting next to me, unable to eat food himself. He sipped from a glass of ice water in between chats with countless visitors to the head table. Each time someone approached, he insisted on getting up to greet them, shuffling around the banquet table to give out a hug.

At the end of the night, after all the awards were given out and the dessert plates were left with nothing but frosting bits, he stood to talk.

When he spoke, grown men were brought to sobbing out loud. None of the faces turned up front flinched, save for the dabbing of a tissue to the corner of the eye.

On that night, everyone was there for Chris Serino. And, despite his poor health, he was there to support them.

-----

I hadn’t met Chris until about two years prior to that night. I’d been invited to present ESPN Boston's Mr. Hockey Award to the Lancers’ BU-bound senior captain Brendan Collier at the team banquet, Malden Catholic celebrating its second straight state championship season.

It wasn’t some dog-and-pony show. That night had the feeling of a family gathering, but with the tenor of a last goodbye. Serino was fighting tooth and nail with throat cancer, which came to bug him again in the fall. It kept him away from being behind MC’s bench, even though you knew he’d give anything in his power to be there -- for his kids.

Still he couldn’t keep away. You’d see him sneak in and out of the Valley Forum in Malden before and after MC games. During the annual holiday tournament at his hometown Kasabuski Rink, I ran into Serino. Against doctor’s orders, he was in the rink (which by my humble estimate is among the most frigid in Massachusetts) to watch not only his MC team play, but also his beloved Saugus Sachems. His retired jersey No. 5 banner hung in the opposite corner. We talked about his son’s baseball career.

Despite undergoing treatments, Serino was in attendance for most of the Lancers’ Super 8 games in March, including the state championship game at the TD Garden.

After that game, which the Lancers won on a late goal by Mike Iovanna (coincidentally, he wore No. 5), Serino appeared in the losing side’s room.

“I couldn’t believe when I saw him walk in,” BC High coach John Flaherty said Monday night after hearing news of Serino’s death. “The locker room got dead quiet when he walked in."

Serino, again with a voice that struggled above the hum of the air conditioning, congratulated Flaherty’s Eagles for playing such a competitive game. It’s a moment that’s stuck with Flaherty.

“He was tough, he was competitive,” Flaherty said. “Some people thought he was all about wins and losses, but what he did with my team that night, nobody in there will ever forget.”

-----

I didn’t know Serino earlier in his career, but what I encountered during the last couple of years covering his teams was nothing short of genuine.

I heard all the time about his morning breakfast meet-ups with former captain Mike Vecchione, who’s also Saugus born and bred. Even as his health betrayed him last year, he’d constantly keep in touch with captain Brendan Collier and other members of the team. He spoke to Lancers coaches Phil Antonelli, John McLean and Pat Driscoll daily about the program and the athletics scene at MC in his absence. In reality, he never left because -- for the most part -- they couldn’t keep Serino away.

When news of Serino’s death surfaced Monday night, countless messages came flooding. The players and students he touched left messages of memoriam and support for his family on Twitter in droves.

I immediately thought back to the last time I saw him, at the banquet hall. That was his night.

There was always an open seat at his table.

Malden Catholic's Serino dies at 63

October, 15, 2012
10/15/12
9:47
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Chris Serino, a multi-sport standout in his high school career at Saugus and most recently the athletic director and hockey head coach at Malden Catholic, died on Monday, Lancers assistant coach Phil Antonelli says.

Serino, 63, had been battling throat cancer. He was a three-sport standout (baseball, football, hockey) at Saugus High, where his No. 5 hockey jersey is retired at the Kasabuski Arena Ice Skating Rink. His hockey coaching resume included stops at Northfield Mount Hermon, Harvard and the University of New Hampshire, in addition to seven seasons at Merrimack College. He took over the Merrimack bench in 1998, becoming the sixth head coach in program history. He also served as athletic director in his tenure at Merrimack.

Serino also served as baseball head coach at UNH.

After stepping down from both posts at Merrimack, Serino landed in the same positions at Malden Catholic. There, he led the Lancers to a Super 8 tournament state title in 2010-11. He stepped back from the hockey program for the 2011-12 season in early November after being diagnosed with throat cancer. The Lancers capped a repeat performance last year as Super 8 champions, dedicating the season to their ailing coach.

"The thing about Chris was that he was selfless," Antonelli said Monday evening. "Everything he did was with the kids in mind. I didn't matter if you were a hockey player, or just student at the school, he tried to help as many people as he could. That's the legacy he'll leave behind."

Funeral services will be announced at a later time.

When reached for comment, former Lancers captain Mike Vecchione, now with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL, offered memories of his former coach:

"Coach Serino was an exceptional man that cared more for the game than anyone I know," Vecchione wrote. "He was passionate about his players and I'm thankful to have had the chance to play for him.

"He was more than just a coach to me; he was someone I could go to for anything and I'll miss him a great deal. He taught me never to give up no matter what the circumstances and is the architect behind my success. I'll never forget what he did for me and I love him."

MC's Iovanna: 'UMass fits me'

May, 25, 2012
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MALDEN, Mass. -- The back-to-back defending Super 8 hockey champion Malden Catholic Lancers held their yearly end-of-year banquet Thursday night at Anthony’s in Malden.

It was an emotional evening, capped off by a speech from head coach Chris Serino, who continues his fight against cancer.

After the event, we chatted with Lancers junior forward Mike Iovanna, who scored the game-winning goal against BC High. Iovanna’s kept the momentum going into the offseason, including his commitment to UMass-Amherst last month.

Here’s the blow by blow with the always dapperly dressed winger:

On his college decision: “I took a tour of the school last year and I feel in love with the campus. I looked at a couple of other schools, but UMass caught my eye. It’s not the BC’s or the BU’s of the world, but I love everything about it. They’ve been watching me and we’ve been talking back and forth. A couple weeks after the Super 8, after the final game, the assistant coach called and offered me. I accepted right away because it was my first choice. I just think UMass fits me.”

On Chris Serino’s speech: “It was so emotional. When coach got up to speak, I couldn’t even look at him. It kills me, I almost broke down crying. It was very emotional and it means a lot to all of us.”

On Serino’s impact on him: “He’s the one that got me to go to Malden Catholic. He’s been there every step of the way with me.”

On expectations for next year: “The goal is to win it again, obviously. It stinks with the guys that are leaving, but we should be good. With Ara [Nazarian] and Siff [Tyler Sifferlen], I think those guys can step it up next season.”

NOTES
--After receiving his ESPNBoston.com Mr. Hockey Award, BU-bound captain Brendan Collier confirmed that he will playing with the Valley Junior Warriors next season before joining the Terriers in 2013.

--Serino took the podium and thanked the assembled for their continued support, wrapping up the evening’s festivities saying, “I wouldn’t be here except for having all of you in this room.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

MC's Collier is ESPN Boston Mr. Hockey

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
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ESPNBoston.com and its High School section today announced that Brendan Collier, senior winger for the Malden Catholic Lancers, is the recipient of its second annual "Mr. Hockey" award, presented to the top male high school hockey player in Massachusetts.

[+] EnlargeBrendan Collier
Jon Mahoney for ESPN.comAfter scoring an overtime game-winner in last year's Super 8 championship game, Malden Catholic's Brendan Collier (left) added another postseason goal in Sunday's victory over BC High as the Lancers skated to their second straight D1A title.
The Mr. Hockey Award winner was chosen by a panel of experts made up of ESPNBoston.com staff, correspondents and high school hockey coaches. Collier will be presented with the award at a later date.

“Brendan Collier has been one of the most dynamic hockey talents in all of New England during the last couple of years,” said Scott Barboza, co-editor of ESPN Boston High Schools and coordinator of the site’s hockey coverage. “Not only is Collier a skilled player in the offensive zone, his true value as a hockey player is evident in all the little things he brings to the game. Whether it’s hustling on the backcheck or helping to kill a penalty while playing defense, Collier has proved he’s a true champion.”

The Lancers captain and Charlestown resident led the program to its second straight Super 8 tournament title on Sunday in a 3-1 win over rival BC High. The championship capped an emotional season for MC, with coach Chris Serino battling cancer.

In addition to tallying a goal in this year's Super 8 final, Collier also netted the overtime game-winner during the Division 1A final last season against St. John's Prep.

The Boston University commit tallied 26 goals and 39 assists for 65 points. Collier led all Division 1 scorers this season, holding a six-point advantage over the second-place finisher.

“During a very emotional season, he didn’t focus on himself or his individual statistics, he worried about his teammates and Coach Serino,” Lancers coach John McLean said.

Collier looks to play a year of junior hockey next year before joining the Terriers in 2013. He is also a member of MC's golf and lacrosse teams.

“His selflessness and leadership brought another Super 8 title to Malden Catholic and Coach Serino,” McLean said. “His hockey future is very bright, his future as a person is limitless. It was truly an honor to coach Brendan.”

Super 8 final: Malden Catholic 3, BC High 1

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
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BOSTON – Every championship means something. But the Division 1A Super 8 crown won by Malden Catholic meant everything.

To players such as junior Mike Iovanna, whose game-winner helped push the Lancers past BC High, 3-1 at TD Garden.

And to Chris Serino, MC's cancer stricken head coach, who although too ill to perform his whistle-tooting duties, played a huge emotional role in Malden's second consecutive crown.

“You know what,” said Iovanna, whose backhander with 8:06 gone in the third snapped a 1-1 tie, “we did it for him. It's tough to see him like that. Our season was based on him.”

[+] EnlargeMalden Catholic Hockey
Jon Mahoney/ESPNBoston.comMike Iovanna tallied what would prove the game-winning goal during the third period of Malden Catholic's Super 8 title game victory over BC High Sunday at TD Garden.
Senior defenseman Colin MacGillivray was in hearty agreement.

“Everything on that ice was dedicated to him,” said MacGillivray. “We just did it for him. We wanted it, and we did it.”

They did, but not without a struggle, after having spotted BC High an early goal.

The Eagles grabbed that lead on Sam Topham's tally, 1:59 into the contest.

Showing no reluctance to jump into the offense, Topham, a sophomore defenseman, took a feed from freshman Tim Larocque, barged to the bottom of the left circle, then threaded in his tight-angle shot which caught Lancers' junior goalie Connor Maloney by surprise.

“Those were all things we worked on this week in practice,” Eagles head coach John Flaherty said. “Driving wide. We knew where they were vulnerable.”

Matters opened up in the second period, which put both goaltenders on the hot seat.

BC High netminder Peter Cronin faced 17 shots in the second stanza, including Iovanna's sharp wrister which he gloved.

The Eagles missed out on a golden scoring chance a minute later, when Michael Brooks was set up by linemate Tom Besinger, but missed the open net.

“That wasn't the only one,” said Flaherty. “Three or four pucks that laid there for us to bury. When you're playing with the fire power of Malden Catholic, you need to be mistake free and capitalize on everything they give you.”

Instead, was the Lancers who exploited a BC High breakdown and used it to tie the contest, 1-1, at 11:28.

Brendan Collier, working a 2-on-1 with Ryan Fitzgerald, took Sifferlen's cross-ice pass, put a head fake on Cronin and tucked the puck inside the right post.

The stalemate continued until midway through the third, when an uncleared puck in the Eagles zone ended up on Nick Rolli's stick near the blue line.

Rolli saw Iovanna cutting to the net and deftly fed him the puck.

“We were really pressuring them down low,” said Iovanna. “They couldn't get it out. We kept banging on them.”

Iovanna finished the play by lifting a back hander over Cronin's shoulder from six feet away.

Lancers freshman Casey Fitzgerald put the game out of reach with 4.6 seconds remaining, when he sent a shot 150 feet into an open net.

By that time, the Malden faithful, including Serino who was in attandence, were able to celebrate this sweetest title.

“I've been there since my freshman year,” MacGillivray said. “We've basically been a family together. It sounds weird, but [Coach Serino] is like the father of the family. We did it for him.”

Said MCinterim coach John McLean, “It's mission accomplish. It's been a very long, tough season, mentally and physically. The kids dug down in the third period and did what they had to do.”

With hockey being such a close-knit fraternity, Serino, who is still Lancers athletic director, had a real presence in the Eagles' dressing room, too, one that was still grieving the in-season passings of the fathers of two BC High sophomores.

“We were playing for our own cause,” Flaherty said. “Two of our kids lost their dads. (But) I have the utmost respect for Chris Serino. He just came into my locker room and congratulated our guys. That's what true Chris Serino is. Here's a guy fighting for his life and he takes the time out of celebrating with his team to come into my locker room.

"That's what hockey is. It's a family.”

MC's Super 8 run inspired by Serino

March, 14, 2012
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MALDEN, Mass. -- Malden Catholic hockey's season had an auspicious start when head coach Chris Serino announced he was stepping aside for the season to deal with health problems in December.

The program was entrusted to John McLean, who took over as head coach in the interim, along with fellow longtime assistants Phil Antonelli and Pat Driscoll.

The Lancers haven't disappointed as the No. 1 team in our Top 25 poll throughout the season. But the pressure will mount on Wednesday, as they look to advance to the TD Garden and secure their second straight Division 1A title. Still, the biggest goal the Lancers hope to live up to is the ability to deliver another title in honor of their ailing coach, who is undergoing treatment in a bout with throat cancer.

We visited MC's practice on Monday to file this story:

ESPN Boston MIAA hockey tourney picks

February, 29, 2012
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The MIAA boys' and girls' tournaments have kicked off across the state, and with snow pushing back some of the competition today, we’re taking the time to dissect the brackets and weigh in with our predictions for the postseason.

BOYS' TOURNAMENTS:
SUPER 8 - DIVISION 1A:
Favorite: Malden Catholic (15-1-4).

Dark horses: St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-1-3), St. John’s Prep (13-5-2), Hingham (16-4-2), BC High (10-5-5).

Overview: Once again, this is MC’s tournament to lose. The Lancers have been No. 1 in our poll from box to wire and they’ll be playing with ailing coach Chris Serino in mind. However, St. Mary’s, Prep and BC High will be tough outs, particularly if any of the respective teams goaltenders (Bailey MacBurnie, David Letarte and Peter Cronin catch fire. The Harbormen might be our darkhorse, however. That team has been sneaking up on the competition since Day One.

The pick: Crossovers: MC, St. Mary’s, Prep, Hingham; Championship: MC over Prep.

DIVISION 1:
Favorites: North – Burlington (14-1-6), Westford Academy (13-4-4); South – Needham (14-6-1), Marshfield (18-2-2).

Dark horses: North – Woburn (12-5-4), Reading (10-4-6); South – Norwood (14-3-4).

Overview: Otherwise known as the Super 8 consolation brackets, play-in game losers Burlington and Needham return to their respective brackets with chips on their shoulders. However, the teams with most to prove might be a pair of squads who were left off the Super 8 table in both Westford Academy and defending D1 champions Marshfield. The highlight to the tournament could a potential North semifinal between the aforementioned Red Devils and Woburn, who’ve had the Tanners’ number twice this season. Also look out for another potential semifinal with a league rivalry to it with Norwood on Needham’s side of the bracket.

The pick: North final – Burlington over Andover, South final – Marshfield over Needham; Final – Burlington over Marshfield.

DIVISION 2:
Favorites: North – Lynnfield (17-3-1), Boston Latin (14-2-4); South – Franklin (16-2-3), Canton (15-2-3).

Dark horses: North – Wilmington (11-4-5), Winthrop (12-6-2), Saugus (11-6-3); South – Coyle-Cassidy (8-11-1).

Overview: We feel that the Div. 2 North boys’ hockey bracket might be the most competitive in the state, regardless of sport. Again, the Northeast Conference is well represented with both Saugus and Winthrop scoring first-round “upset” wins. The tournament will still run though No. 1 and 2 seeds Lynnfield and Boston Latin, however. The South is dominated by three Hockomock League squads (Canton, Franklin and Mansfield) who’ve seen plenty of each other throughout the season. But always look out for the battle-tested squad from Coyle, which sports a sub-.500 record, but has done so against a host of Super 8 teams.

The pick: North final – Boston Latin over Danvers; South final – Canton over Franklin; Final – Boston Latin over Canton.

DIVISION 3:
Favorites: North – Bedford (16-4-0), Lowell Catholic (13-5-2); South – Medfield (16-3-1), Pembroke (15-4-3); Central – Hudson (18-1-1); West – Longmeadow (10-6-4).

Dark horses: Marlborough (13-5-2), Shawsheen (12-5-3), Swampscott (8-8-4), Westfield (14-4-2).

Overview: The state’s biggest field of teams lies in Division 3, where some of the perennial favorites are back at it and among the top-seeded teams. Perhaps the story of the year has been Bedford, which earns the No. 1 seed in the North. The South bracket is likely to be decided in the fourth matchup of the season between South Shore rivals Pembroke and Scituate. Hudson claimed top-billing in Central, while in the West, the road still runs through power Longmeadow, but Westfield eyes a return trip to the Garden ice.

The pick: EMass final: Pembroke over Lowell Catholic; Central/WMass final – Hudson over Westfield; Final – Pembroke over Hudson.

GIRLS’ TOURNAMENTS
DIVISION 1:
Favorites: Acton-Boxborough (17-1-2), Westford Academy (16-2-2), St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-3-1), Woburn (15-3-2).

Dark horses: Arlington Catholic (16-3-1), Braintree (13-5-2), Hingham (14-6-1).

Overview: Last year’s Division 1 runners-up Acton-Boxborough emerge at the No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament, riding 8th-grade goaltender Cali Loblundo and top-scorer Kati Goguen once again. Westford Academy pulled the No. 2 seed, but could have its hands full with defending champion Hingham lying in the reeds at No. 10. Of course, this was also supposed to be the year that St. Mary’s of Lynn was written off as a legitimate contender, but Frank Pagliuca has pulled off perhaps his best-ever coaching job (according to those who know) and has the Spartans primed for another run into late March.

The pick: Semifinals – Acton-Boxborough over Woburn and St. Mary’s over Hingham; Final – St. Mary’s over A-B.

DIVISION 2:
Favorites: Duxbury (18-0-1), Walpole (15-2-3), Belmont (14-4-2).

Dark horses: Canton (13-7-0), Fontbonne Academy (11-8-1), Westwood (14-5-1).

Overview: The best in the state thus far may have resided in Division 2, as defending champion Duxbury ran the table and was the state’s only unbeaten squad. Walpole has also been among the most consistent teams in the state, running over Bay State opponents with a mix of high-octane offense and steady defensive play. The story of the year — ever since their stunning December upset of Woburn — has been Belmont. The MIAA’s oldest girls’ hockey program has returned to prominence after the squad went winless just three years ago.

The pick: Semifinals – Duxbury over Belmont, Walpole over Westwood; Final – Duxbury over Walpole.

Final Super 8 field projection and mixtape

February, 24, 2012
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On the final day of the regular season, and with less than 24 hours remaining before Saturday’s Super 8 committee selection meeting, we’ve cobbled together our final field projection for the state’s premier hockey tournament.

The top six seeds have remained pretty consistent down the stretch, but we see two new squads slipping in the back door to nab the final play-in game positions.

Also, we thought it was fitting to take a cue from friend, colleague and longtime Super 8 supporter Chris Forsberg, by way of John Buccigross, with a little musical tribute to each team, chronicling some of our favorite (or not so much, or otherwise noteworthy, whatever fits, right?) songs of the last year or so.

1. Malden Catholic (15-1-4)
Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking:
1

Where they ranked in last projection: 1

Why they’re in this spot: Lancers’ only loss of the season came against an out-of-state opponent (New Jersey powerhouse Delbarton), in addition to one of their ties (Hamden, Conn.). MC’s also been at No. 1 in our poll from “box to wire” to steal one of Chris Serino’s expressions. Plus, the Lancers will be a motivated squad headed into the tournament, playing for their ailing former coach.

Song that fits: Coldplay, “Us Against the World.” I’m a much bigger fan of the Brit-band’s early catalogue and was in attendance for one of their first U.S. shows. Not a huge fan of Mylo Xylato (or the last two albums for that matter) but this song fits, not to mention we know a couple Lancers will appreciate the nod. The message is clear, they’re doing it for Serino this year.

Lyric that fits: “Through chaos as it swirls/ It's us against the world.”

2. St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-1-3)
Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking:
2

Where they ranked in last projection: 2

Why they’re in this spot: The Spartans lone loss of the season came to the aforementioned Lancers in the first game of the high school hockey season; they even improved upon their first result, tying MC at the Kasabuski tourney. Perhaps the most steady team of the season, playing in front of sophomore goaltender Bailey MacBurnie (1.30 GAA in 21 games), who’s been a revelation.

Song that fits: My Morning Jacket, "The Day is Coming." Last year's "Circuital" wasn't one of my favorite band's best efforts (you see a pattern beginning to emerge here?), but this one's a gem from one of the most imaginative bands working today.

Lyric that fits: "If opportunity, rears its head/ Will you answer, or stay home in bed?"

3. Hingham (16-4-2)
Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking:
3

Where they ranked in last projection: 3

Why they’re in this spot: The wildcard of the season. Obviously, the Hingham brand of hockey is synonymous with the Super 8, but not even head coach Tony Messina knew exactly what he had coming into this season. The inexperienced, but talented Harbormen haven’t missed a stride this season. There’s no single sensation that’s carried the load, but Hingham is deep, evidenced by their five forwards (Sam D’Antuono, James Gordon, Matt Hughes, Ryan Linehan and Patrick Mannion) with 18 or more points on the season.

Song that fits: Real Estate: "It's Real." My favorite break-out band of the year. Their sophomore effort "Days" was one of the best albums of last calendar year. A must-listen for anybody who enjoys The Smiths, or songs about the Jersey coastline.

Lyric that fits: "I skated on the frozen Sea/ It's real as far as I can see."

4. St. John’s Prep (13-5-2)
Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking:
5

Where they ranked in last projection: 4

Why they’re in this spot: This spot could be a toss-up between the Eagles and the Eagles of BC High. In this instance, we’re going to slot Prep ahead of their Catholic Conference rivals on the tail end of their schedule. Although Prep and BC High tied their season series, both claimed two-goal victories, the committee might look at BC High’s recent ties at the Cape Cod Classic (wins for tournament purposes) as reason to slide them to No. 5. Looking beyond the play-in games, Prep’s top line of Tyler Bird, Brian Pinho and Sam Kurker is one of the few lines in the state that create problems for MC’s vaunted top line.

Song that fits: Avicii "Levels." A staple of Prep's warmup mix this season, and as ubiquitous a dance song in society this side of anything off of Daft Punk's "Discovery." Fully expect to hear this song about 1,000 times during the Super 8 at Lawler. Get ready.

Lyric that fits: "Oh, sometimes/ I get a good feeling." (Well, come to think of it, that's about all there is for lyrics.)

5. BC High (10-5-5)
Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking:
4

Where they ranked in last projection: 5

Why they’re in this spot: As we explained, there’s little separating the Eagles of Morrissey Blvd. and the aforementioned Eagles. It’s just that the Eagles’ two shootout wins and one-goal win over Archbishop Williams in the Cape Cod Classic this week might cost them a higher seed than this spot. In either case, they’re a shoo-in and a dangerous squad at that as goaltender Peter Cronin (.915 save percentage) has only matured since his eye-opening performance in last year’s tournament. Let’s not forget either, the Eagles a relatively young squad as well, with only four seniors (Adam Conway, Brian Furey, Bartley Regan and Matt Sullivan) on the roster.

Song that fits: M83, "Intro." This is the lead-in to Anthony Gonzalez's masterpiece "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming" (yes, the song you skip over to get to "Midnight City"). My favorite album of last year, for those of us who still actually believe in the concept of the album.

Lyric that fits: "The battle's fought/ The deed is done/ Our silver hum runs deep and strong."

6. Springfield Cathedral (10-6-6)
Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking:
6

Where they ranked in last projection: 9

Why they’re in this spot: Outwardly, the Panthers don’t have the most striking record, but only three of their losses have come in-state. And all of those losses came against teams ranked before them in this projected field (BC High, MC, St. Mary’s). They’ve shown they can skate with the best in the state, albeit, they coughed up a point in a 5-5 with Prep after holding a 4-goal lead. But Wednesday’s hard-fought 1-0 win over Needham in their host tournament showed how difficult this team can be to play against. As in that game, sophomore John Liquori has been solid and senior captain Frank Crinella (13-15-28) is as tough to play against as he is talented.

Song that fits: The National, "Conversation 16." Trying to figure out what lead singer Matt Berninger's lyrics are about is like trying to do a Rubik's cube blind-folded. But they sure are interesting, if not entirely depressing. Great band, the band that Coldplay wishes they could be but are not, what with adoration of critics everwhere (including me).

Lyric that fits: "I was less than amazing/ Do not know what all the troubles are for."

THE FINAL FOUR (PLAY-IN TEAMS)

7. Central Catholic (12-3-5)
Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking
: 7

Where they ranked in last projection: 6

Why they’re in this spot: We had the Raiders avoiding a play-in game in our previous field, but given their play down the stretch (3-0 loss to Andover stings), it feels like that’s exactly what they’re staring down for a second straight year. Still, as in year’s past, Central has made a Super 8 push with a strong second half and things seem to be falling into place with ESPN Boston preseason All-State goaltender Kyle Williams (2.00 GAA) playing his best hockey down the stretch.

Song that fits: At the Drive-In, "Rolodex Propaganda." OK, not a new song, but the reunion of the late-90's greatest band has me excited.

Lyric that fits: "Pinch history feel the pinch blistering/ Pinch me in my dreams cause I'm still not listening."

8. Burlington (14-1-6)
Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking:
10

Where they ranked in last projection: 8

Why they’re in this spot: An emphatic 7-3 win over a quality Chelmsford team Thursday night in the Cahoon Tournament championship is exactly the kind of emphatic statement that can help a team this time of year. As the winner’s of the Middlesex League’s small schools division, we believe the Red Devils will be the lone team representing one of the state’s toughest conferences. The only thing that could work against them is a high amount of ties. They’re also a little light in the marquee win category. Senior forwards Trevor Cimino and Brett Romkey were two of my favorite players to watch this season.

Song that fits: Bon Iver, "Minnesota, Wi." Just because Justin Vernon's Grammy acceptance is still one of the most priceless moments in recorded internet history.

Lyric that fits: "Never gonna break/ Not for a part in any gamut of the dark."

9. Needham (16-4-1)
Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking
: 8

Where they ranked in last projection: Out of Top 10

Why they’re in this spot: You could make the case that Wednesday’s Springfield Cathedral Tournament game against the Panthers was a battle for the right to take the sixth seed. Given that the Rockets played well, but came away with a 1-0 loss, that’s why they’re here. This isn’t an offensive juggernaut, and hopefully the Rockets’ recent goal-starved performances will not negatively affect them, but they play solid team defense. It starts from the goalmouth out with a dependable, experienced goaltender in Connor Murray. Senior captains Lucas Davis and D.J. Walsh are equally adept in the offensive zone as they are in their own end.

Song that fits: Jack White, "Love Interruption." As soon as we lost The White Stripes, White came back with this solo effort that cuts to the bone. After a couple tough Super 8 appearances, Needham's looking for more than just another appearance.

Lyric that fits: "Yeah, I won't let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me anymore."

10. Westford Academy (12-2-4)
Current ESPN Boston Top 25 ranking:
17

Where they ranked in last projection: Out of Top 10

Why they’re in this spot: Alright, so this is our boldest prediction, given that the Grey Ghosts still have one paramount game to play (as of the time of publication) against another Super 8 Watch List team in Milton at the Irish-American Shootout championship. We’re going to project that the Grey Ghosts make the DCL/MVC the only public school league with two representatives; you can make the case the DCL/MVC was the strongest public conference this season, top to bottom. In addition, I like the way the Grey Ghosts attack with speed. They also have one of the most underrated D-men in the state in senior captain Pat Houghton (1-15-16) in front of senior goaltender Zach Webert.

Song that fits: Holy Ghost!, "Hold On." Ghosts, get it? Plus, they're a Brendan Hall favorite.

Lyric that fits: "It seems like I've been here before."

Recap: No. 1 Malden Catholic 5, No. 7 Prep 3

January, 14, 2012
1/14/12
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WILMINGTON, Mass. – Fitting of the rematch to a championship game, Ristuccia Arena was packed to capacity for Friday night’s bout between last year’s Super 8 finalists, Malden Catholic and St. John’s Prep.

While the teams didn’t need overtime to find a victory this time around, the 1,100 in attendance were captivated through three periods as the top-ranked Lancers again got the better of their Catholic Conference rivals, 5-3.

Sure, the teams looked a lot different, but the same conclusion could be drawn from both games. MC (6-1-1, 3-0-0) looked to be a just a tad faster, a bit sharper and, in the end, able to execute more effectively.

And, although the Prep (4-4-0) fell to 0-3-0 in Catholic Conference play — with a disappointing 4-3 loss to No. 21 Xaverian mixed in on Tuesday – Eagles head coach Kristian Hanson thought his team is nearly in the same position as they were this time last year.

“At the midpoint last year, we were 5-4-1 after 10 games, and I could see at that point last year that we were starting to emerge,” Hanson said “Clearly, we’ve got some things to work on, but we’re getting closer.”

The Eagles started quickly with senior co-captain Sam Kurker tallying his 11th goal of the season three minutes in.

Prep held an advantage in shots on goal early, but the Lancers finished the period in a flourish. After Tyler Sifferlen tied the score with 6:29 remaining in the first, MC headed to the room with a 2-1 lead, getting the go-ahead with five seconds on the clock. A dogged forecheck from Ryan Fitzgerald, forcing a Prep defensive zone turnover, ended up in his fifth goal in four games played.

The teams traded goals in the second period, with Sifferlen tallying his second of the game at 1:32 and Prep’s Brian Pinho scoring his first of two markers with 7:38 remaining.

The Eagles again had a good start to the third period, with Pinho netting his second on the power play at 2:09.

“We’re just trying to go to net,” Pinho said. “That was the plan for the whole team, just try to drive to the net. We know they’re a good team, both offensively and defensively. So we were just trying to get pucks to the net, get rebounds and get some dirty goals.”



Yet, Prep wasn’t able to carry momentum into end-of-period play. The unyielding MC forecheck, often forcing Prep’s defense into poor decisions, took over.

Sophomore winger Pat Wrenn (after netting a pair of goals against BC High) notched the game-winner with 6:47 to play, with freshman blue-liner Casey Fitzgerald earning the assist on a centering pass from below the goal line.

Senior captain Brendan Collier tallied the insurance marker 33 seconds later, beating Prep netinder David Letarte (29 saves) with a wicked, rising wristshot.

RUNNING THE GAUNLET
MC’s team speed and skill with the puck can cause fits for defensemen. So blue-liners need to be precise and quick when attempting to break out of their own end.

That was a precisely what did Prep at the end of the first, with Sifferlen benefitting from the up-check of freshman center Ara Nazarian.

Nazarian, MC’s first man in, forced a turnover below the dots, and shoveled a saucer pass over to Sifferlen for a 1-1 score.

“The last thing you want to do against a really good transition team, or a quick offensive team like them, is to turn the puck over at the blue line with your guys going one way,” Hanson said. “And then, all of a sudden, the puck’s headed the other way.”

Or worse, in the back of the net.

WRENN TAKING FLIGHT
The sophomore wing, who’s nestled in just fine with senior Bobby Keogh and Paul Myers on the Lancers’ third line, has scored some big goals of late.

That has earned the admiration of his Charlestown homeboy Collier, who reflected on Wrenn’s growth in the past year.

“He’s very skilled. He was with us last year as a freshman. We knew he was going to have a big season [this year]. He’s matured physically, mentally, and he’s a become a better player with the year under his belt. He’s just hitting his stride right now.”

As for Wrenn, he’s just taking cues from some of the best.

“I’m just trying to work my hardest,” he said. “We have the older guys like Collier and Fitzy [Ryan Fitzgerald] around, they’re good role models for us.”

CHESS MATCH


Friday’s matchup saw two of the most highly skilled players in the state, and future Boston University teammates, going toe to toe, with MC’s Collier and Prep’s Kurker.

The pair got up close and personal throughout much of the game, with Collier shadowing Kurker on the wing. But Collier also drew the assignment of playing against Prep’s top power play unit on defense. Both head coach John McLean and before him, Chris Serino, have used Collier, a smooth two-way skater, in that capacity.

It’s a challenge that Collier embraces, even if it meant taking a couple lumps from his future teammate.

“With Sam [Kurker], you’ve got to put a body on him,” Collier said with a laugh. “He might run you over, but you’ve got to put a body on him.”

KINGS OF THE CIRCLE
Of note, MC was downright dominant in the face-off circle, winning 42 of 64 draws on the evening.

So the Adam Oates Award of the night goes to the quartet of Ryan Fitgerald, Nazarian, Keogh and Nick Mansiello.

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