- Scott Barboza, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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SAUGUS, Mass. -- As far as holiday tournaments go, it’s somewhat unusual to find such an important league matchup as Tuesday’s Catholic Central Conference battle between No. 13 St. Mary’s of Lynn and No. 16 Austin Prep at the Kasabuski Tourney on Tuesday.
The Spartans and Cougars brought a playoff-life atmosphere to a game that remained scoreless through two periods, but was filled with physical play.
Both teams scored on their first shots of the third, but St. Mary’s scoring opportunities kept piling up, adding up to a 3-1 victory.
“We’ve developed a little rivalry over the years and we knew it was going to be a battle until the end,” Spartans head coach Mark Lee said.
Scott Corcoran had AP (2-1-0, 2-1-0) to a 1-0 lead seconds into the third with the aide of a perfect cross-ice feed from captain Ryan Quinn.
St. Mary’s (5-1-0, 2-0-0) responded with some strong net front presence as Cam O’Neill tipped home his fourth goal of the season.
The score remained tied -- due in no small part to a sensational effort by Cougars freshman goaltender Elijah Harris -- until the final minutes of the game when the Spartans took advantage of the sixth power play surrendered by the Cougars.
“Whenever you take six penalties,” AP head coach Louis Finocchiaro said, “with two big ones in the third period … To have two penalty kills in the last six, seven minutes of the game, that hurt us big time.”
Spartans senior captain Bobby Mullins netted a power-play marker with 1:52 remaining, leaving the Cougars little time for a counter attack.
Sophomore transfer Jarrod Fitzpatrick iced the victory with an empty-net goal in the final minute with his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
“That’s a real goal for us, we want to repeat as league champions,” Lee said. “To do that, you have to start with Austin Prep. It’s always a battle.”
MC ROLLS, FITZGERALD RETURNS
No. 1 Malden Catholic’s 8-1 win over Bishop Fenwick saw the Lancers taking things in stride, as usual.
One particular bright spot for MC (3-1-0) though was the return of top line center Ryan Fitzgerald.
The junior assistant captain missed the first four games of the season after nursing a separated shoulder, but made his season debut centering the Lancers’ top line along with Brendan Collier (4 goals on Tuesday) and Mike Iovanna.
Fitzgerald got back into the flow of the game with a goal of his own in the second period, although a bit rusty.
“I was pretty winded out there,” Fitzgerald said. “The shoulder is fine. It’s a just a matter of getting back into game shape. That’ll just take a few games.”
Getting back into the game will be made easier by his linemates as the Lancers eye a run at a repeat Super 8 title.
“Obviously, I’ve had the chemistry with Brendan from playing together, but with Mikey I [Iovanna] comig onto the line, I’ve played with him my whole life, so it’s not new. We’ve had history. It’s pretty easy to mesh with those guys. They make it pretty easy.”
LYNNFIELD CAPTURES D2 BATTLE
The Cape Ann League and the Northeastern Conference are typically two of the strongest divisions in the state from top to bottom and this year promises to be no different.
So, with two teams looking to make noise in this year’s Div. 2 North tournament meeting on Tuesday between Lynnfield and Danvers, Pioneers head coach Vin Mirasolo reflected on a quality win after taking a 5-3 decision over the Falcons (2-2-0)
“The way we look at it, there could be any of about 15 teams in Division 2 that could be the team,” Mirasolo said. “I think we’re that mix that could, at any day, get it done.
“I like our mix [in the locker room]. It’s a good group that’s working hard and we continue to improve.”
Lynnfield (3-1-0) had its skating legs under them, led by top scorers Dylan Costa, John Festa and Greg Meininger.
But it was the depth the Pioneers exhibited on Tuesday that was most encouraging.
“We got production out of all three lines and then our sophomore goalie [Joe Bassi] made all the saves he had to make. It was a pretty good effort, overall. We’re still not where we need to be, but we’re getting there.”
ONE HOST HOLDS OFF ANOTHER
No. 10 Wakefield used a late charge to beat Saugus, 3-1, in the the day's early game between two teams which call Kasabuski home.
The Warriors (3-1-0) took an early 1-0 lead in the first period with Kevin Doherty cashing in on a broken play. Kurt Roderigues tallied the lone Sachems (1-2-1) goal to tie the game before the period was out.
That's the way it would remain until there was 1:25 remaining in regulation, when Ryan Andrews tallied the game-winner.
Kyle Leone scored an empty-netter to cap it.