Boston High School: Mike Iovanna

Filipe bears torch as leader of No. 1 MC

February, 17, 2015
Feb 17
The talent pool within the Malden Catholic hockey program never seems to run dry. There is a set formula in place here that other teams can only wish they could replicate. Talented players leave and new ones arrive to take their place.

That is what happens when you are the best program in the state.

Past standouts such as Brendan Collier, Ryan Fitzgerald, Mike Vecchione, Mike Iovanna, Ara Nazarian and Tyler Sifferlen have all donned the interlocking "MC" jersey with a certain sense of pride. Each of them, in their own subtle way, made solid contributions in forging the Lancers into the super power they are today.

Rebuilding? That word does not exist in Malden Catholic vocabulary.

The latest prodigy is Matt Filipe. The first line centerman, like his aforementioned predecessors, plays the game the way it should be played. Filipe demonstrates a certain style of grace on the ice, making it look effortlessness. His puck handling skills and shooting touch have left opposing defenses mesmerized and often befuddled.

"His level of play is equal to guys we have had here in the past," Lancers head coach John McLean said.

Filipe has played varsity since his freshman year. During those early stages of his career, McLean, along with valued assistant coaches Phil Antonelli and Pat Driscoll, saw something in Filipe from the get-go and were not about to let his talents go to waste at the junior varsity level, especially if he could contribute right away to an already established varsity unit.

In Filipe's first two seasons, he played a prominent role in helping lead Malden Catholic to a pair of Super 8 titles – the Lancers’ third and fourth crowns in the last four years. The junior is now the front man for a team completely invested on trying to bring home a fifth straight championship to the suburban Boston school.

Malden Catholic enters its final week of regular season play before the main event begins in a couple of weeks. The Lancers have held onto the ESPN Boston Top 25 poll No. 1 ranking since the start of the season with an exceptional 13-0-2 record. They are just one of a handful of teams favored to win the state's most highly touted high school hockey tournament.

Filipe, a Lynnfield native, says when he first suited up for Malden Catholic he was a bit tentative due to the program's success rate and myriad of star players who have come before him.

"During my freshman year, I was more worried about not messing up," Filipe said with a laugh. "Last year, as a sophomore, I started to get into my comfort zone and now this year I've tried to take things to the next level. Since my freshman year, I have been told and continue to be told by my coaches is what this team has accomplished in the past means nothing. It's all about moving forward here.

“The goal is to win another Super 8 and that is what we are expected to do. Anything less than that is considered a disappointment."

Filipe, along with line mates Austin Goldstein and Jake Witkowski, have made themselves into one of the most formidable offensive trios state wide, thus far combining for 44 points.

As fluent a player he has become, there was still something missing from Filipe's game early in his career. McLean felt it was necessary for Filipe to begin learning the process of becoming a team leader. McLean realized that role would fall onto him once Collier, Iovanna, Sifferlen and Vecchione left.

In the interim, the expectations have risen considerably for Filipe, a co-captain, to take control of this team along with fellow captains John McLean and Will Lawrence. But McLean has been out for a couple of weeks, sidelined with a foot injury. Therefore it is up to the other two to carry the load.

"With John out, Matt and Will need to be the mouth of this team on and off the ice," the elder McLean said. "Other than being a great player, the leadership role, to me, is the most important thing. What they do and how they play, the other kids will follow."

Filipe, who stands 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, was raised into a hockey family. His father Paul won a state tile while playing for Hudson High School in 1978. He then went to Northeastern University and helped guide the Huskies to an ECAC championship and a Frozen Four appearance in 1982.

Filipe will follow in his father's footsteps, having already accepted a verbal scholarship offer to play for Northeastern.

"It is going to be fun and I am really looking forward to it," Filipe said. "I grew up going to Northeastern games. It was a place where I wanted to go. My father has been with me every step of the way. He was my first coach and has basically coached me up until high school. I've learned a lot from him as well as from my coaches here at Malden Catholic. All have helped me develop as a player."

When Filipe was in middle school, it became a no-brainer as to where he planned to attend high school. As gifted a hockey player like himself, what better place was there to go other than Malden Catholic? It is quite obvious the Lancer coaching staff is equally overjoyed by his decision.

"When you need a goal or an assist at a crucial time Matt is the person to look to," said Antonelli. "With his maturity level growing, I feel he has brought his game up to a whole different level. I tell Matt that opposing teams are coming after him all the time because he is our best player. He understands that and he realizes he needs to play through all of that stuff and remain focused. Because of that, it has opened up opportunities for our other kids to get open and score.

“However, if Matt does lose his composure out there then everyone else around him will lose theirs as well. That is why he needs to set that tone every night. For a 17- or 18-year-old that is a big role to fulfill. Not a lot of kids can do that but those who can are special players.”

A year ago, Filipe was chosen to play for the U.S. U-18 Select Team, taking part in the prestigious Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in the Czech Republic. Filipe was teamed with two other New England products – Erik Foley (Tabor Academy) and Spenser Young (Phillips Exeter Academy). Both of whom have committed to play for Providence College.

Filipe's development upon returning from over seas was quickly noticed by the Lancers coaches.

"That type of experience, as with all of our student-athletes here, is something to be very proud of," said Driscoll, who is also Malden Catholic's athletic director. "Everyone is extremely proud of Matt to be part of that team because it is such a major accomplishment. The experience gained while he was over there was great, especially from a maturity standpoint. Just being around those others guys on that team and seeing how all of them prepare, not to mention the coaches he played under, Matt was able to pick up many things along the way to help improve his overall game.

He added, “He has really become a kid that, when he wants to, can really turn it on. He has that extra gear and when he uses it, it really shows out there. There aren't too many high school kids with that kind of quality. Matt has it."
Recently named ESPN Boston's Mr. Hockey, Malden Catholic sophomore center Ara Nazarian has given a verbal commitment to the University of New Hampshire.

Nazarian, a Boxford resident, helped the Lancers to their third straight Super 8 title, after a dazzling run with nine goals and five assists in tournament play, including four short-handed goals. He tallied 26 goals and 22 assists for 48 points during the regular season.

"I am thrilled for Ara," Lancers head coach John McLean said. "He really came into his own this season and showed everyone his outstanding on-ice ability.

"We are proud and honored to add Ara to a long list of many who have achieved both academically and athletically here at Malden Catholic."

The date of Nazarian's arrival in Durham was unknown, but last year was selected by the Des Moines Buccaneers in the sixth round of the United States Hockey League Futures Draft.

Nazarian becomes the fourth Hockey East commit on the Lancers' roster last year, joining linemates Mike Iovanna (UMass-Amherst) and Tyler Sifferlen (UMass-Lowell) and defenseman Casey Fitzgerald (Boston College).

Our MIAA boys' hockey All-State Team

March, 28, 2013
All-StateF - Liam Coughlin, Sr., Catholic Memorial
Finished third among all Division 1 players in scoring, while leading the Knights back to the Super 8 for the first time since 2009-10. The South Boston native put up 28-20-48 totals, tied for first among Catholic Conference scorers this season.

All-StateF - Ara Nazarian, Soph., Malden Catholic
ESPN Boston’s Mr. Hockey award winner this season, Nazarian had 26-22-48 totals for the regular season, along with nine goals and five assists during the Super 8 tournament for the three-time defending champions. The Boxford resident and center is the first underclassman to win the Mr. Hockey award.

All-StateF – Brian Pinho, Sr., St. John’s Prep
The Providence College commit led the Eagles to a No. 1 seed in this year’s Super 8 tournament. The North Andover resident compiled 12-24-36 totals this season and, in January, was ranked No. 117 among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings.

All-StateD – Casey Fitzgerald, Soph., Malden Catholic
The North Reading resident earned his second Super 8 title with the Lancers, playing on all defensive units and is one of two players making a second-straight appearance on our All-State team. The Boston College commit had 5-17-22 totals on the season and recently was accepted in the United States National Team Development Program’s U-17 team.

All-StateD – Matt Foley, Sr., Springfield Cathedral
The two-way blue-liner finished third on the Panthers in scoring with 10-16-26 totals this year while leading them to another Super 8 apperance. A Longmeadow resident, the captain is deciding among prep schools for next year, as well as offers to play in college.

All-StateG – Peter Cronin, Sr., BC High
The only repeating First-Team All-Stater this year, Cronin finished in the top five among Division 1 netminders in both goals against average (1.40) and save percentage (94.6) while starting all 23 of the Eagles’ games. He is currently considering colleges among playing opportunities at the prep school and junior levels.

All-StateF – Tom Besinger, Jr., BC High
The Eagles’ top center and captain was force to reckon with in the circle, in addition to leading the Eagles with 35 points (10 goals and a team-best 25 assists).
All-StateF – Cam Owens, Sr., Wilmington
Finished his high school career with back-to-back Division 2 state championships. Owens racked up 30 points, playing alongside All-State honorable mention Brendan McDonough. Owens is currently weighing prep and junior options for next year.
All-StateF – Nolan Vesey, Sr., Austin Prep
The senior captain led the Cougars back to the Super 8 for the first time since the 2009-10 season and all the way to a finals appearance at the Garden. Vesey led AP in goals (18) and points (31) while kicking in 13 assists.
All-StateD – Nick Gorski, Sr., Central Catholic
A player who head coach Mike Jankowski repeatedly called his “most improved player” since freshman year, the Raiders captain played on all units, leading Central to another Super 8 appearance.
All-StateD – Jack Williams, Sr. Springfield Cathedral
A major component to perhaps the state’s best blue-line core, Williams did a little bit of everything for the Panthers, including playing forward on power-play units. The Suffield, Conn. resident tallied four goals and 19 assists for 23 points. He is currently weighing his playing options for next season.

All-StateG – Colin Soucy, Jr., Central Catholic
The break-out star of this year’s Super 8 tournament, Soucy nearly delivered the Raiders to a quarterfinal-round upset of No. 1 seed St. John’s Prep in his first year as Central’s starting netminder.

Best of the Rest – Honorable Mention
Tyler Bird, Jr., St. John’s Prep
Tommy Bishop, Sr., Chelmsford
Matt Brazel, Jr., Hingham
Brian Brooks, Jr., Canton
Mike Carbone, Sr., Marshfield
Bobo Carpenter, Soph., Austin Prep
A.J. Couto, Sr., Danvers
Ben Cox, Sr., Medfield
Peter Crinella, Soph., Springfield Cathedral
Cam Curley, Sr., Franklin
Sam D’Antuono, Jr., Hingham
Jordan Dow, Sr., Lincoln-Sudbury
Josh Edwards, Sr., Blue Hills
Brendan Greene, Jr., Winchester
C.J. Grinnell, Sr., Burlington
Marc Happy, Jr., Wachusett
Lloyd Hayes, Jr., Central Catholic
Kevin Hock, Frosh., Catholic Memorial
Mike Iovanna, Sr., Malden Catholic
Andrew Irving, Sr., Beverly
Connor Irving, Jr., Beverly
Ryan Jones, Sr., Coyle-Cassidy
Jack Kilty, Sr., Medway
Pat Kramer, Soph., BC High
Tom Koopman, Jr., Marblehead
Matt Kustra, Sr., Natick
Brendan McDounough, Jr., Wilmington
Anthony Lespasio, Sr., Bedford
Jack O’Hear, Sr., Catholic Memorial
Derek Petti, Sr., Tewksbury
Eddie Pratt, Sr., Xaverian
Nolan Redler, Jr., Winchester
Tyler Sifferlen, Jr., Malden Catholic
Mike Sorenti, Jr., Archbishop Williams
Sean Spohr, Sr., Westfield
Max Turcotte, Sr., Holliston
Max Willman, Sr., Barnstable

Matt Burchill, Sr., Marshfield
Derek Butler, Jr., Natick
John Carlson, Jr., Hingham
Adam Crowley, Jr., Burlington
Nick Edwards, Jr., Blue Hills
Sean Heelan, Sr., Catholic Memorial
Kurt Leavitt, Sr., Canton
Bryan Nelson, Soph., St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Nick Rolli, Jr., Malden Catholic
Ryan Shea, Frosh, BC High
Sam Topham, Sr., BC High

Tim Birarelli, Soph., Beverly
Alex Buckley, Sr., Newburyport
Brandon Collett, Frosh., Catholic Memorial
Jordan Davis, Sr., Norwood
Derek DeCastro, Sr., Burlington
Drew Foley, Jr., Wilmington
Nolan Greene, Jr., North Quincy
Elijah Harris, Soph., Austin Prep
John Liquori, Jr., Springfield Cathedral
Al Lynch, Jr., Framingham
Evan Morelli, Sr., Reading
James Offner, Soph., Winchester
Nick Russo, Sr., Waltham
Jimmy Tierney, Soph., Oliver Ames

Some parting thoughts on the hockey season

March, 25, 2013
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.

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.

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.
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.

MIAA championship hockey picks

March, 16, 2013
No. 1 Duxbury (21-1-2) vs. No. 2 Falmouth (19-1-2), 11 a.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Duxbury – F Hannah Murphy, F Marissa Fichter, F Jane Dudley, F Meredith Wright, F Julia Nolan, D Ally Hammel, D Payton Donato, G Rachel Myette; Falmouth – F Alexa Scribner, F Rachel Moore, F Madison Haberl, F Kelly Ferreira, D Hannah Ghelfi, D Alexx Good, G Madison Scavotto.

Breakdown: It is perhaps the most predictable of all of Sunday’s matchups and the most anticipated. The Dragons and Clippers renew a burgeoning rivalry, intensified by last year’s duel at the Garden and invigorated by the fact that either team’s lone loss of the season was handed to them by the other. Duxbury has been playing lockdown defense throughout the playoffs and haven’t allowed a goal in more than six games, including the regular season. The Clippers’ young corps will look to get over the hump, building on a bittersweet experience on the Bruins’ home ice sheet one year ago.

X-factor: Scavotto. As dominant as Duxbury’s defense has been in front of and including Myette, the Clippers are capable of the same. And their sophomore netminder is a big reason why. She could steal one.

Pick: Duxbury, 1-0.

No. 4 St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-3-4) vs. No. 7 Arlington Catholic (17-4-2), 9 a.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: St. Mary’s – F Alison Butler, F Kaleigh Finigan, F Gabby Crugnale, F Madison Molea, D Tatiana Doucette, D Amanda Donahoe, G Lauren Skinnion; AC – F Adrieanna Rossini, F Jess Piracini, F Duggan Delano, F Hayle Rudin, D Melissa Richard, G Megan Messuri.

Breakdown: The Catholic Central rivals meet for the second straight year on championship Sunday and, like their Div. 2 counterparts, also split their season series at a game apiece. Behind the benches, both the Spatans’ Frank Pagliuca and the Cougars’ Maggie Taverna have done work worthy of Coach of the Year honors. St. Mary’s has the feel of a team of destiny, neither a short bench nor nagging injuries all season long have kept the Spartans from returning to the biggest stage, all while dispatching No. 1 Woburn in the process.

X-factor: Rossini. You’d be hard pressed to find a young player in recent memory who has scored more clutch playoff goals than the AC sophomore.

Pick: St. Mary’s, 3-2.

Swampscott (19-5-0) vs. Westfield (18-3-2), 3:30 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Swampscott – F Corey Carmody, F Noah Maercklein, F Nunzio Morretti, D Chris Carman, D Trevor Massey; Westfield – F Sean Spohr, F Mike Santinello, F Anthony Cagliostro, F Adam Collier, F Neil Parrow, D Nate Barnes.

Breakdown: The Big Blue took down defending D3 finalist and South sectional champion Medway (thanks to an OT goal from Maercklein) to advance to the program’s first title game appearance. Westfield returns to the Garden ice after a one-year hiatus after taking a scorched-earth policy to Western Mass. competition, while averaging more than 5.5 goals per game.

X-factor: Swampscott freshman goaltender Tristan Bradley. The first-year backstop has been a key element to the Big Blue’s success, maintaining a 91.5 save percentage through the season.

Pick: Swampscott, 5-4.

Wilmington (20-3-2) vs. Franklin (17-7-2), 1:30 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Wilmington – F Cam Owens, F Brendan McDonough, F Jake Rogers, F Dylan DiNatale, D Brian Pickett, D Cam Collins, G Drew Foley; Franklin – F Cam Curley, F Dennis Pisani, F Aidan Isberg, F Troy Donahue, D Kyle Powers, D Kyle Filbert, G Devon Maloof.

Breakdown: The third of six rematches on the day, after the Wildcats claimed a 3-2 victory over Franklin a year ago on championship Sunday, propelled by a hat trick from Owens. The Panthers will be looking to avoid their third straight fruitless trip to the Garden, having dropped title tilts with Wilmington and Tewksbury. The Wildcats, who had Super 8 aspirations until late in the season, are eying their second straight title.

X-factor: McDonough. He’s been the break-out performer of the tournament and provides a great complement to Owens on Wilmington’s top line.

Pick: Wilmington, 3-2.

Burlington (13-6-5) vs. Marshfield (20-6-0), 8:15 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Burlington – F C.J. Grinnell, F Joe Berardi, F Joey Scali, D Adam Crowley, D Sean Costa, G Derek DeCastro; Marshfield – F Mike Carbone, F Pat Burchill, F Joe Admirand, F Pat Shea, D Matt Burchill, D Trevor Salmon.

Breakdown: While this isn’t another rematch, these teams are no strangers to this stage, with the Red Devils and Rams representing as the last two Div. 1 state champions. Both teams were near .500 squads through the first month of the season, and closed their regular-season slates with momentum they’ve carried over into the playoffs. Both these teams can skate with the best of them, but they also pay attention to the little things in the defensive zone as well.

X-factor: Crowley. I’d expect a defensive struggle in this one and so I’m going with the Red Devils’ blue-liner who always makes his presence felt.

Pick: Burlington, 3-1.

No. 4 Austin Prep (16-1-6) vs. No. 7 Malden Catholic (15-6-3), 6 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: AP – F Nolan Vesey, F Bobby Carpenter, F Frankie Candelino, F George Sennott, F Eric MacAdams, D Andrew Cross, D J.J. Layton, G Elijah Harris; MC – F Ara Nazarian, F Mike Iovanna, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Pat Wrenn, F Austin Goldstein, D Casey Fitzgerald, D Nick Rolli, G Connor Maloney.

Breakdown: AP, while short on years, is not short on talent. I think we all knew coming into this season that they were capable of reaching this stage, but it might have been a question of when. The Cougars earned their way to Sunday after dispatching town rival Reading and then No. 1 seed St. John’s Prep in Wednesday’s semifinal. It seems like years ago since there was a time when the Lancers were in jeopardy of missing the tournament all together, but they’ve played the best hockey in the state during the last month.

X-factor: Nazarian. It’s his tournament, the rest of us are just living in it.

Pick: Malden Catholic, 4-2.

Super 8: Malden Catholic 5, Catholic Memorial 3

March, 13, 2013

LOWELL, Mass. -- A quick look at the Malden Catholic line chart and you might do a double-take.

Ara Nazarian is only a sophomore?

That 5-foot-10, 185-pound bulldozer is only a sophomore? The same player that dominated last night’s Super 8 semifinal, a 5-3 win for the Lancers, is only a sophomore?

Nazarian potted a hat trick, including his fourth shorthanded goal of the tournament, as the Lancers moved on to their third straight Super 8 final as the Tsongas Center.

“He’s not a secret to me,” said Malden Catholic head coach John McLean. “I’ve coached him since he was a Mite. He likes big games. He gets up for these games. He had a great Super 8 last year and he’s fun to watch.”

Nazarian skated as the Lancers’ top-line center between Division 1 committed wingers Tyler Sifferlen (UMass-Lowell) and Mike Iovanna (Massachusetts).

“Two of them are already committed and Ara [Nazarian] will have his pick of a Division 1 school when he’s ready to make that choice,” McLean said. “He has a bright future ahead of him.”

The Lancers took a 1-0 lead early in the first period when Sifferlen managed to sneak a puck by Catholic Memorial freshman goaltender Brandon Collett.

The Knights knotted the score a little over a minute later when John Maher snapped a shot past MC netmidner Connor Maloney.

Nazarian’s short-handed tally gave the Lancers the lead back later in the first, as the Malden Catholic sophomore powered past a CM defender and was able to dangle a backhander through Collett’s five hole.

But the Knights just wouldn’t go away, as Jack O’Hear, a senior captain, tied the game.

The Lancers took the lead a third time just 29 seconds into the second period when Nazarian skated into the zone and sniped a wrister from the right circle that dinged off the post and into the net.

After CM tied the score for a third time, Michael Iovanna gave the Warriors the lead for good with just minutes remaining in the third period.

“I just wanted to get it on net,” said Iovanna, who also scored the game-winner for the Lancers in last season’s Super 8 title game. “It was a lucky bounce, I guess. I skated into the zone and Sifferlen did with the puck. He dropped it back to me and I saw a guy in a blue jersey in front so I was just trying to get it on net and it banked off their goalie and went in.”

It was the 10th win in a row for the Lancers and just their second win of the season over a Catholic Conference team.

“I’m happy for our kids,” McLean said. “We had a tough year. He had that bump in the road around January and a lot of people were doubting us. I think the kids were doubting themselves a bit and we became a team and it’s carried on.”

He continued, “But we haven’t accomplished what we want to accomplish. There’s still one more game to play.”

Malden Catholic goaltender Connor Maloney has been a bit overshadowed with the stellar play of Nazarian and the three Division 1 commitments on the team in front of him.

But Maloney has been one of the best goaltenders in the state down the stretch, including making several tough saves against a CM team that was doing a good job getting traffic to the net.

“He was here last year and I think that experience helped him a lot,” McLean said. “That second goal, I’m not sure if it went five hole because of where I was standing, but I thought he maybe should have had that one. But other than that, he had a great game.”

Wednesday’s game proved to be the final one for Liam Coughlin, a senior who is also CM’s leading scorer.

“Liam has grown,” said CM head coach Bill Hanson. “He has been great and it’s been great watching him grow for three years. He has really learned the game and learned how to play in all three zones. He’s an incredible leader. He could have gone anywhere this year or last year but he wanted to come to Catholic Memorial and play in the Super 8.”

On the other end of the spectrum, CM freshman goaltender Brandon Collett made 28 saves for the Knights.

“If we don’t have him we’re not here,” Hanson said. “I didn’t even know who he was until the first day of tryouts. I had no idea. For him to come in and play at that level, for a kid who is quiet and unassuming and he’s a 15 year old, I’ve never had a goalie that young carry that much responsibility.”

He added, “We re-established Catholic Memorial hockey tonight.”

Super 8: Malden Catholic 3, Cathedral 2

March, 3, 2013

LOWELL, Mass. -- With its penalty kill outscoring the Cathedral power play, Malden Catholic continued its hot streak by defeating the Panthers, 3-2, to take a 1-0 lead in their Super 8 quarterfinal series at the Tsongas Arena Sunday.

Lancers first line center Ara Nazarian led the way scoring two short-handed goals and adding an assist.

“Ara [Nazarian] is a very talented player, and he is dangerous any time he is on the ice,” Malden Catholic head coach John McLean said. “Those were two huge goals for us at the time because we had been in the penalty box for an extended period of time.”

The Lancers (13-6-3) made the Cathedral (16-2-4) power play a non-factor, as MC was 5-for-5 while a man down.

“It’s the penalty killers job, and we have worked on [the penalty kill] all year long,” McLean said. “I expect them to [kill of penalties], and everyone stepped up.”

Nazarian’s linemates supported his effort, as both Tyler Sifferlen and Mike Iovanna picked up two points.

“I expect that [kind of production] from them because there is a reason they are out first line,” McLean said. “[Iovanna and Sifferlen] are both going to some big time colleges, so that is what I expect out of them.”

Lancers goalie Connor Maloney rose to the occasion to help get his Lancers the win. Maloney made big saves when his team needed him, making nine third-period saves.

“You just have to stay focused and keep the puck out of the net,” Maloney said about the third-period pressure. “Being in those pressure situations makes me focus more, and it allows me to get in a rhythm.”

Nazarian and Sifferlen capitalized on a late first-period turnover in the Panthers’ zone. Nazarian forced a turnover and quickly fired a shot on goal, which deflected off Sifferlen and past John Liquori (21 saves).

“I pick-pocketed their player coming across the blue line, and I saw Tyler [Sifferlen] going toward to the goal,” Nazarian said. “I shot it and he got a good tip.”

Cathedral came right back early in the second scoring two quick goals as 22-goal scorer Peter Crinella and Artie Potter both beat Maloney, taking a 2-1 lead over the two-time defending Super 8 champs.

“To come back and score those two goals gave us a little bit of life, but unfortunately we gave up those two shorthanded goals,” Cathedral head coach Brian Foley said. “Those turned out to be the [deciding factor], we just have to do a better job of protecting the puck.

The Panthers then got a power play opportunity, but instead of extending their lead they lost it.

Nazarian scored back-to-back short-handed goals — with Iovanna picking up assists on both and Sifferlen with another helper on the second. The goals put the Lancers up, 3-2, which proved to be all they would need.

Maloney was the show in the third period, when Cathedral poured on the offensive attack, but the Lancers’ goalie stood tall making several key stops. A Casey Fitzgerald turnover put Cam Griffin in all alone with Maloney, but Maloney came up with the save.

MC was on the penalty kill twice in the third period, which included a Panthers’ power play inside of the final five minutes. Once again though, Maloney had no problems fighting off the Cathedral offensive attack.

“If we keep the shots to the outside, he is going to gobble those up,” McLean said. “ I thought he did a good job in the third period, I am very happy [with his play].”

Cathedral pulled Liquori in the final minute, but failed to get a good scoring chance as the defending champs locked in the win.

Super 8 tournament primer and picks

March, 2, 2013
There are less than 24 hours remaining before the puck drops on the Super 8 tournament Sunday at UMass-Lowell’s Tsongas Center.

So we’re taking this opportunity to break down the final eight. As the tournament takes on a best-of-three format for its first-round matchups this year, we’re taking a look at the head-to-head breakdowns for each series, along with predictions:

Series: No. 1 St. John’s Prep (17-2-1) vs. No. 8 Central Catholic (14-5-3)

Players to watch: Prep – F Brian Pinho, F Tyler Bird, F Andrew Brandano, F Jack McCarthy, F Cam Shaheen, D Brent Murray, G Billy Price; Central – F Lloyd Hayes, F Corey Webber; D Nick Gorski, D Alex Lester, G Colin Soucy.

Previous meeting: Central 2, Prep 1 on Dec. 26.

The skinny: Central fought its way into the eight-team field with an improbable comeback against Hingham in Monday’s play-in game. But they’ll have to be ready to go out of the gate against the top-seeded Eagles. Prep is deepest team in the field — from its forwards to its defensemen — and the Raiders will have to weather the Eagles’ ability to wear teams down by consistently rolling four lines (Claude Julien surely would love this Prep team). The goaltenders will also be under the spotlight in this series with both Price and Soucy making their debuts in taking over for tournament stalwarts David Letarte and Kyle Williams, respectively. The play of both goaltenders has been a strength for their teams this year.

X-factor: Can the Raiders parlay some momentum gained from their dramatic play-in game overtime victory into a Game 1 win against the Eagles? Also, what kind of a factor will Central winger Mike Kelleher be?

Prediction: Prep in two.

Series: No. 2 Springfield Cathedral (16-1-4) vs. No. 7 Malden Catholic (12-6-3)

Previous meeting: MC 2, Cathedral 1 on Feb. 21.

Players to watch: Cathedral – F Peter Crinella, F Dominic Blad, F D.J. Petruzelli, F Johnny Leonard, D Matt Foley, D Jack Williams, G John Liqouri; MC – F Mike Iovanna, F Ara Nazarian, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Pat Wrenn, D Casey Fitzgerald, D Nick Rolli.

The skinny: While the Panthers enjoyed some down time this week, MC set about making a statement in its 9-1 dismantling of Archbishop Williams in Monday’s play-in game. Perhaps no team in the state has been hotter than the two-time defending Super 8 champion Lancers and they’d like to prove that, once again, this is their time of the year. There will be plenty of top-tier talent on the ice when the team’s top forward units face off with Cathedral’s line of Crinella-Artie Potter-Blad opposed by MC’s Iovanna-Nazarian-Sifferlen troika. The key to this series, however, will be which team’s second and third lines come to play.

X-factor: Cathedral goaltender John Liquori. As we saw in the Panthers’ game against St. John’s Prep in the final week of the regular season, he’s capable of stealing points and games for them. He’ll need to be at his best to curb the Lancers’ attack.

Prediction: Malden Catholic in three.

Series: No. 3 BC High (14-3-3) vs. No. 6 Catholic Memorial (12-6-2)

Previous meetings: BC High 5, CM 1 on Jan. 16; BC High 4, CM 3 on Feb. 2.

Players to watch: BC High – F Tom Besinger, F Pat Kramer, F Steve DeForge, F Chris LaLiberte, D Sam Topham, D Ryan Shea, G Peter Cronin; CM – F Liam Coughlin, F Jack O’Hear, F Kevin Hock, F Aaron Clancy, D Dennis Medeiros, D Sean Heelan, G Brandon Collett.

The skinny: Can’t get much better than this, right? Right up there with Bruins-Canadiens. The teams will add another chapter to their storied history in the 50th-anniversary year of their hockey rivalry. While the Eagles claimed both meetings against their Catholic Conference counterparts during the regular season, the play was largely even (minus one second-period outburst in BC High’s 5-1 win in January). So expect more of the same in this series.

X-factor: Liam Coughlin. The Eagles had success neutralizing the rangy center during their regular season appearance, both in the offensive zone and in the face-off circle. But we’ve seen Coughlin (25-16-41) take control at times this season, and he’ll have to do so for the Knights to advance.

Prediction: BC High in three.

Series: No. 4 Austin Prep (13-1-6) vs. No. 5 Reading (16-1-5)

Previous meeting: N/A.

Players to watch: AP – F Nolan Vesey, F Bobby Carpenter, F Jake McKenelley, F Eric MacAdams, F George Sennott, D Andrew Cross, D J.J. Layton; Reading – F Rob Devaney, F Mike Thomson, F Jake Barbera, F Mark Dente, G Evan Morelli.

The skinny: The Battle of Reading is just one subplot to a group of first-round series rife with context. The high-flying Cougars attack will have to break through a sticky Reading forecheck that can give opponents fits. AP does enter tournament having played some of its best hockey of the year in the final week of the season, wrapping up a Cape Cod Classic championship. The Rockets, meanwhile, will gain the fan bases of the rest of the state as the lone remaining public school entrant in this year’s field.

X-factor: Nolan Vesey. Has the potential to be the best player in the tournament. For a young squad such as AP, however, Vesey’s leadership will be vital for their long-term Super 8 chances. He needs to set the tone.

Prediction: Austin Prep in three.

Super 8: Malden Catholic 9, Archies 1

February, 26, 2013

STONEHAM, Mass. -- Talk about an opening statement.

Perhaps a little dismayed, to put it gently, by being cast into the Div. 1A play-in game after winning back-to-back Super 8 championships and overcoming a mid-season swoon by ending with a six-game win streak, Malden Catholic took its anger out in its 2013 postseason debut.

Pat Wrenn, Matthew Filipe and Raff Colella each scored twice as the No. 10 Lancers filled up the scoresheet in a 9-1 rout of No. 7 Archbishop Williams at Stoneham Arena. Tyler Sifferelen and Nick Rolli each dished out three assists, while Casey Fitzgerald added a pair.

Malden Catholic (12-6-3) advanced into the Super 8 field and begins its quest for a three-peat against No. 2 Springfield Cathedral, a team the Lancers beat, 1-0, last Thursday, on Sunday at Tsongas Arena. Archbishop Williams (12-5-4) will assume the top seed in the Div. 1 South sectional.

"It's a win, it's two points, that's all that really matters to me," said Lancers head coach John McLean, carefully measuring his words. "I'm not really concerned about the score. I think we ran into a team that wasn't as experienced as we were in the tournament. I think with the big crowd, you get a little bit nervous, they got down early, and it's a tough atmosphere. They're a good, young team and I think they'll be back here."

After losing a 4-3 vote for the sixth seed to Catholic Memorial during Saturday's selection meeting, it was only fair to ask if the Lancers were using that as motivation.

"Absolutely, but we knew almost halfway through the year that we had to win almost every game to get into the tournament, or at least be considered, so we took it one day at a time," McLean responded. "The kids really became a team during that team and I think we'll make a good push."

After what seemed like a feeling period over the game's opening eight minutes, Malden Catholic opened the floodgates. Over a span of just two-minutes, 33-seconds, the Lancers got goals from Austin Goldstein, Wrenn, Wrenn again, and Ara Nazarian, then Mike Iovanna tacked on another with 33 seconds left to make it a 5-0 game at the first intermission.

Filipe got his first marker during the second period, but MC suffered a scare when Sifferlen was hit hard into the boards by Archies' Tyler Bradford and had to leave the game. McLean said afterward that Sifferlen may have hit the metal on the boards but simply seemed to have the wind knocked out of him. He was out for the remainder of the game but is expected to be fine for Sunday's Super 8 opener.

Bradford was assessed a four-minute major penalty and a disqualification, which means he has to sit out the Bishops' next two games.

With most of the regulars on the bench in the third, the Lancers kept rolling as Filipe got his second goal and Colella potted a pair to increase the lead to 9-0. Archies forward Mike Jessman finally broke the shutout bid with two minutes remaining, getting an assist from Mike Sorenti.

Recap: No. 9 Malden Catholic 4, No. 4 CM 3

January, 27, 2013

BOSTON -- When Ringo Starr sang “It Don’t Come Easy” all those years ago, he mind as well have been musing about No. 9 Malden Catholic’s fortunes of late. Entering Saturday night’s Catholic Conference showdown with No. 4 Catholic Memorial at Walter Brown Arena, the Lancers were on an uncharacteristic three-game losing streak.

But, for a change, MC played with the lead against the Knights, building a four-goal cushion by early in the third period. Still, the Lancers had to sweat it out, as CM countered for three late goals.

Yet, MC paid its dues and held on for a 4-3 win and two critical points, as the Lancers moved back to .500 at 5-5-3.

“We’ve had a rough couple of games,” junior forward Brian Cameron said. “We just wanted to work hard. We just wanted to get it over the red line, get it in, get in with the forecheckers with two guys staying high and then work from the dirty areas and get pucks to the night. That’s what we did tonight.”

The Lancers (1-4-2 Catholic Conference) amassed their lead with contributions coming throughout their forward lines.

Ara Nazarian put MC in the rare position of playing with the lead, potting his 13th goal of the season at 9:41 of the first, set up on Nick Rolli’s outlet pass.

The Lancers extended their lead in the second with Cameron’s first goal on the year, with Austin Goldstein and Will Lawrence picking up helpers.

And they seemed to all but snuff out CM’s comeback hopes with two early goals in the third. Cam Ferry marked his return to the lineup after being held out with a concussion with a goal at 2:44 of the third. Less than a minute later, Lancers captain Mike Iovanna scored what would prove to be the game-winner with a tip-in of point shot from John McLean III.

Then, midway through the third, it all changed.

“The problem is that we’re not used to playing with the lead,” MC head coach John McLean Jr. said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a lead this year like that [four goals]. We made some mental mistakes that we didn’t make in the first two-plus periods.”

John Maher broke up the shutout bid of Lancers goaltender Alex Reissis (17 saves) at 7:11 of the third. CM freshman defenseman Frank Cosolito then drew the Knights within two goals with his first career goal. Less than a minute later, Liam Coughlin made it a one-goal game with his 22nd goal of the season, with assists from Sean Heelan and Cosolito.

CM (8-4-2, 2-3-0) played with an empty net for the final 48 seconds, but was unable to get a shot on goal despite having an attack zone faceoff.

Now, as the Lancers mount their late push toward a playoff berth, it’s all a matter of what the reigning Super 8 champions do with the momentum.

“We just need to keep rolling,” Cameron said. “Our ultimate goal is to make it to the Super 8 and this was a huge win for us, a Catholic Conference win.”

In recent weeks, John McLean Jr. has referenced the Lancers being “too cute” with their play. As a result, MC made a concerted effort to get back to basics in practice this week, coming off of Tuesday’s loss to St. John’s Prep.

The difference was evident.

“I thought we had a good three, four days [of practice] with everybody back,” McLean said. “We got back to doing the basic things. We got to the red line, we dumped it in and we did the dirty work. Tonight, we didn’t score on rushes, it was all about getting it deep, and working hard and grinding them.”

Similarly, CM has been mired in a bit of a recent scoring slump. The Knights (0-3-2 in their last five) are now winless since their 7-4 win over MC in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 8; and they’d been held to just five goals in their last four games entering Saturday’s action.

So, while falling short of breaking their losing skid, there were positives to be gleaned from the Knights’ three-goal, third-period outburst.

“We’re in a five-game, I don’t want to call it a tailspin because we haven’t played badly, but we’re in a stretch where it’s not going in the net for us,” CM head coach Bill Hanson said. “We needed something like that third period to happen, for a little infusion of confidence, for us to say, ‘Hey, this is what we are.’”
MALDEN, Mass. – Things couldn’t be anymore different for Catholic Memorial hockey this season. After missing out on the postseason for a second straight season in 2012, the No. 2 Knights left their bad habits behind.

For example, the early two-goal deficit CM faced in Tuesday night’s Catholic Conference game against No. 5 Malden Catholic would’ve been enough to bury the Knights in previous seasons. That’s mainly because CM struggled to score goals during that time.

That is no longer the case and the Knights flexed their offensive muscle, pulling away in the third period for a 7-4 win over the Lancers.

“This team, last year and the year before, once we were down two goals, it would’ve been game over,” Knight head coach Bill Hanson said. “We got that first goal and the tying goal and, like I’ve said before, they have no fear. They’re not cocky, they’re not arrogant, they just really focus on doing their job. They’re wonderful to coach.”

CM (8-1-0, 2-0-0 Catholic Conference) found itself in a 2-0 hole within the first five minutes of play after goals from Ara Nazarian and Pat Wrenn.

Two minutes later, the Knights began their ascent with a goal from Beau Starrett. And CM would tie it up before the first intermission with its first of four goals (4-for-6) on the power play.

The goal was also the first of four goals from freshman Kevin Hock. The winger scored the next two CM goals for the hat trick and again drew the Knights even at 4-4 at 11:52 of the second period. Hock later added his fourth of the game – the Knights’ sixth – in the third period, also a power-play goal.

Hock was the beneficiary from the continued All-State-caliber effort of center Liam Coughlin.

Coughlin — who capped the Knights’ victory with a goal, his 20th in nine games—continued his otherworldly play with a five-point game, picking up assists on each of Hock’s tallies.

CM senior defenseman Dennis Medeiros also had a strong game, adding three assists.

Not to be overshadowed, Lancers captain Mike Iovanna also put in a four-point game, scoring MC’s third goal in addition to dishing out three assists and setting up each of Nazarian’s two goals.

The difference proved to be CM’s potent man-up unit, however, torching the Lancers’ penalty kill for four goals, including the eventual game-winner, scored by senior defenseman Sean Heelan before the second period was out.

“[MC] took a lot of penalties in their last couple of games, so we knew coming into this game that they’d take a lot of penalties and we had to bury and finish our opportunities,” Hock said. “Coach [Hanson] designed the power play yesterday and it worked out well today.”

Coughlin’s early season scoring bonanza has raised the tide across the Knights’ ranks.

For a team that struggled to score big goals during the last couple of seasons, CM has been downright prodigious in the first half of the 2012-13 season, averaging more than five goals a game.

“It’s awesome,” Coughlin said. “Last year, we had 39 goals and I think we have more than that now, way more. It’s awesome. The team’s happier, Coach is happier. I think that’s why we’re playing so well, we want it more.”

With 31 points through nine games, Coughlin has emerged as a serious Mr. Hockey Award contender. And while his hot hand has been appreciated, Hanson heaped even more praise on his senior captain after Tuesday’s victory for his unselfish approach to the game.

“I thought Liam had his best game of the year tonight,” Hanson said of Coughlin. “He was on the puck, he was pressing the issue, creating a lot of space and it works hand-in-hand with Kevin’s goals.”

With so many snipes at either end of the ice sheet, it wasn’t a great night to be in net overall. But Knights freshman goaltender Brandon Collett continued to make his presence felt in a big way in the pivotal third period.

While CM clung to a one-goal lead, MC (3-2-2, 0-2-1) completed its first successful penalty kill early in the third period after a Casey Fitzgerald penalty. As Fitzgerald finished his time in the bin, he flew out the door and snuck behind the Knights defense for a breakaway chance in on Collett. The ice-cool first-year goaltender made a stop on Fitzgerald’s wristshot bid and then made a second stop, with the Boston College commit trying to go upstairs on the backhand.

After Collett’s momentum-shifting stop, CM scored on its next power play chance and shut out the Lancers’ vaunted offense.

“The thing that changed the whole game is when Fitzgerald went down and our freshman [Collett] stoned him, twice,” Hanson said. “If they score on that play, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

BOSTON – The most noteworthy element of the 2-2 tie Wednesday night between No. 1 Malden Catholic and No. 2 BC High is that the Lancers, for a third straight game, were again faced with a third-period deficit.

And again, perhaps predictably, MC pulled itself even with a late comeback. For the two-time defending Super 8 champions, playing from behind is a bit of unfamiliar territory. That comes with the fact that the Lancers haven’t lost a game to an MIAA opponent in nearly two calendar years now.

Yet, MC has still found a way to procure points out of some hairy situations. Down a goal to Hingham in their host Christie Serino Christmas Classic, MC pulled out a 2-1 win. A day later, they erased a two-goal deficit to come away with a point and shootout victory over Austin Prep.

As MC (3-0-2, 0-0-1 Catholic Conference) started play in its 2013 schedule, the Lancers continued to place themselves behind the 8-ball. This time out, it was slightly different as they were the aggressors, taking an instant 1-0 lead 10 seconds into play on Ara Nazarian’s goal, assisted by Casey Fitzgerald.

But MC was unable to stay out of the penalty box all night, racking up 10 minor penalties and providing BC High (5-0-1, 0-0-1) with eight power-play opportunities. The Eagles only found the back the net once during the man-up chances, but it was a costly goal, as Ryan McDonough scored from below the faceoff dot on BC High’s fourth power play of the game at 10:06 of the second period. Eagles captain Tom Besinger and Ryan Shea both added assists on the play.

“Special teams were the difference in this game,” BC High head coach John Flaherty said. “We had the opportunities, we didn’t capitalize on them. And if you let a good team hang around, they’re going to hurt you.”

Again, the Lancers worked the rope-a-dope act to their advantage, netting the equalizer at 6:25 of the third on a rising wrister from Tyler Sifferlen in the slot. Working on a perfectly executed breakout from defenseman Nick Rolli to winger Mike Iovanna, the Lancers stretched the ice sheet, resulting in Sifferlen’s chance, which beat Eagles netminder Peter Cronin (21 saves) blocker side.

“The third period, we picked it up like always, just like the last two games we’ve played in,” said Sifferlen, a UMass-Lowell commit. “We’ve been learning to come out the first two periods, but we can’t save it all for the third period.”

BC High’s tallies on the evening weren’t about to be cued up for the SportsCenter Top 10, but Lancers head coach John McLean admired the Eagles’ ability to do something his squad hasn’t been able to do of late.

“We need to start getting some dirty goals,” McLean said. “Sometimes, we tend to be too pretty. Their goals were pretty much when they threw pucks to the net and they went in.”

Case and point was Steve DeForge’s marker midway through the first period. DeForge knotted the score, 1-1, at 8:17 of the first, after collecting a loose puck at the MC blue line. He cut across the ice from the left wing boards toward the slot.

“The defenseman was giving me a little screen real quick, so I put it on my backhand and hope for the best,” DeForge said.

His fluttering backhander found its way past MC’s Connor Maloney (25 saves), proving that good things come to those who get pucks to net.

The Lancers’ penalty kill unit put in yeoman’s work, shutting down a stream of BC High chances on the man-advantage.

While McLean was displeased with his team’s discipline at times, he was encouraged by some gutsy work on the man-down.

“Our guys are committed to it,” he said of the Lancers’ PK unit, “they’re committed to blocking shots and playing their roles.”

And, while killing penalties often requires selfless plays – giving up the body to block a shot or cut of a passing lane – Sifferlen took that to another level.

MC entered Wednesday’s Catholic Conference opener with a bug moving around its room. Second-line winger Cameron Ferry and top-four defenseman John McLean III were forced to sit out due to illness. That’s when John McLean Jr. decided to get creative.

Given his son’s share of the penalty kill load, McLean wanted to keep legs fresh and, as a result, slid Sifferlen back to defense for several key kills. The tactic is nothing new to MC’s philosophy on the man-down, as McLean pushed last year’s ESPN Boston Mr. Hockey Award winner Brendan Collier back to the blue line when situations warranted.

However, there was one major difference. While Collier had experience playing defense, it was entirely foreign to Sifferlen.

“Coach came up to me today and said you’re playing defense on the [penalty kill],” Sifferlen said. “That was it.”

And, in the process, maybe the Lancers found some versatility they never knew they had.

Recap: No. 1 Malden Catholic 5, No. 6 Austin Prep 4 (SO)

December, 29, 2012
MALDEN, Mass. – The calendar said December, but Austin Prep and Malden Catholic were playing March hockey.

The two teams were so even Friday that bonus hockey and then some was needed to decide the champion of the inaugural Christie Serino Christmas Classic. When the smoke had cleared, the No. 1 Lancers had come back from a two-goal deficit in the final two minutes to defeat the No. 6 Cougars in a shootout after a 4-4 tie at the Valley Forum.

While the Lancers claimed the tournament championship, the game counts as a tie in the MIAA standings.

“It feels really good coming back like that,” MC captain Mike Iovanna said. “We were really tired and stuck with it and pulled it through.”

The chaos started after AP senior Nolan Vesey sliced through the Lancer defense, deked MC senior goalie Connor Maloney out of position, and slid the puck in to put the Cougars up 4-2 with just over six minutes to play.

After that, the Lancers (3-0-1), who had looked lackadaisical for stretches of the first two periods, played like a two-time defending state champion.

Iovanna lifted a backhand over sophomore goaltender Elijah Harris with 2:56 left to halve the deficit.

“They sometimes think they can just show up and win and they realize, ‘Oh my god, we’ve got to get the puck deep and work,’” Malden Catholic head coach John McLean said. “They dug down again and showed a lot of character against a good team.”

AP’s Bobby Carpenter was called for a slash 30 seconds later that set up more theatrics from MC’s top line of Iovanna, sophomore Ara Nazarian, and junior Tyler Sifferlen. Iovanna came off the goal line and found Sifferlen in front. Sifferlen then jammed it home with 2:10 to play, giving the Lancers a new lease on life.

The assist was Iovanna’s second of the game and the goal capped a two-point night for Sifferlen.

“I thought that was a tough call to make at that point in the game, but I’m not going to use that [as an excuse],” AP head coach Louis Finocchiaro said. “I thought it was a fantastic high school hockey game. I’m proud of our kids. We went blow for blow [with MC]. They played hard. I told our kids, if we have an effort like that every night, we’ll be tough to beat.”

The overtime was played at a frenetic pace and saw the teams trade scoring chance after scoring chance. The most hair-raising moment for the Lancers came with Maloney caught out of position with just over two minutes left and the puck sitting in the crease. Sophomore Cam Russo wasn’t able to reposition his body to get a stick on it and wound up skating past the puck.

Maloney was able to turn aside seven shots in the overtime.

“The overtime saves were crazy,” McLean said of Maloney. “He made two or three on that one shift. He came up big when he had to. [He is a] senior goalie, Super 8-champion goalie. We relied on him. He saved the game for us.”

In the shootout, the teams were tied at two before junior Pat Wrenn skated out to take the Lancers’ fifth shot. He went 6-hole and tucked it under the arm to give MC an improbable win.

“It was the most nervous thing I’ve ever had to do,” Wrenn said. “I didn’t even know what I was going to do. I came down, made a lucky move, and it got by him.”

Serino helped build Malden Catholic into the power it is today, and both the Lancers’ coaches and players knew the importance of winning the title of his tournament.

“This is our tournament,” Iovanna said. “We had to win it for Coach.”

“It’s a huge deal for us,” Wrenn said. “It’s the first one we’ve had since he passed away, and we just wanted to come out and bring it home for him.”

“He brought a lot to this program and it was important for us to recognize him,” McLean said. “It’s our trophy and we can hold it for a year. Hopefully, we never lose it.”

Russo, the third-line center for the Cougars, had a monster game. He scored AP’s first and third goals and looked more than comfortable playing against the No. 1 team in the state.

“Cam Russo is a good, smart, head’s-up player,” Finocchiaro said. “[He is] just always in the right position. After we finished last year, I asked our coaches who did we talk to the least as a freshman and it was Cam Russo. He’s intelligent, he’s always in the right place. He just does a good job.”

Last year, Andrew Cross hoisted the Super 8 championship trophy alongside his MC teammates. This year, he was in the small locker room.

Cross, a junior, was playing his first game against his old teammates since the transfer and didn’t back down. Cross played a solid game on the blue line and scored one of the Cougars’ goals in the shootout.

Finocchiaro said he was proud of the way Cross performed.

“Tough environment for him to play in where he was a former player here and I thought he played like a warrior for both nights,” Finocchiaro said. “He didn’t shy off, he played hard, and I just felt it was appropriate to give him our team award for the tournament.”

After winning back-to-back state titles, and coming back against Hingham in the tourney opener, it seemed as if the Lancers might have become complacent.

McLean hopes that two thrillers in as many nights reignites his team.

“We have the skill to do it; we have the character to do it, but it’s going to catch us,” McLean said. “We need to be ready and we weren’t ready for two-and-a-half periods. And that’s my fault. If I have to make some changes, I’m going to make them.”

If the Lancers play the full 45 minutes to their potential, they will be just as hard to beat as their two state championship predecessors.

“I think this was a good lesson for us,” Maloney said. “After this game we’re going to come out harder in the first two periods rather than wait to the third.”

Coming into last night’s game, AP (2-0-2) was young and unproven. No more.

While young, the Cougars have plenty of talent, but it took a performance like Friday’s to legitimize AP among the MIAA’s very best.

“I think we made a statement this tournament that we could play with the big teams,” Vesey said. “It’s unacceptable for a loss, but I like the way we competed tonight. Never accept a loss.”

Even in defeat against MC, the Cougars made a statement, and their win over St. Mary’s gives them a good idea how league play will be once it begins.

“If we get anything out of this, hopefully, we learn from it and, in February, we don’t allow that to happen,” Finocchiaro said. “I just think it’s something we’re going to build off of. I thought we had every opportunity to win the game tonight.”

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

December, 28, 2012

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."

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."

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."

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."

ALLSTON, Mass. –- There’s no mystery that a great part of Malden Catholic hockey’s recent success can be attributed to some very talented top lines. The two-time defending Super 8 champion Lancers still have perhaps the state’s best line in Mike Iovanna, Ara Nazarian and Tyler Sifferlen returning for the 2012-13 season, but the question heading into this season is where else they’d find goals.

If Saturday’s 5-1 victory over New Jersey powerhouse Delbarton School is any indication, the Lancers might just have the depth in store to think about a three peat. MC (1-0-0) got contributions from throughout its ranks, particularly its second line of Brian Cameron, Cameron Ferry and Pat Wrenn, in a sound win over the Green Wave in the teams’ annual early season meeting.

“We’re just trying to work all four lines, trying to get as much chemistry as possible, get going and get as many goals early as we can,” said Wrenn, a junior center.

The teams engaged in a tightly checked first period, but the Lancers took a 1-0 lead to room for the first intermission after Cameron worked the end boards and sent a pretty back-handed pass to the slot onto the tape of Wrenn’s stick.

MC opened things up during a three-goal onslaught in the second. Defenseman John McLean’s blue-line blast gave the Lancers a two-goal cushion at 3:15 of the second. Then, Wrenn added his second of the game at 10:55. Ferry capped the outburst with a Lemieux-like bank shot from a steep angle at 13:51.

“Everyone was feeling jitters a little bit,” Wrenn said. “We started hitting our stride more [in the second period] and started playing more as a team.”

Delbarton broke up Connor Maloney’s shutout bid with M.J. Mellilo’s goal with 3:28 remaining in the game. While Delbarton’s defense did its best to limit the quality scoring chances of the Lancers’ top line, Iovanna rounded out scoring with a rising wrister with 32.9 seconds to play.

MC head coach John McLean Sr. talked about the expectation he has for the Lancers’ second line filling some of the scoring void this season.

While it didn’t start the way he’d envisioned, McLean was pleased with the group’s overall effort. In total, MC’s second line combined for three goals and two assists on the evening.

“I expect that from them,” McLean said. “They’re two juniors and a senior and they’re going to have to play that way.

“The first couple of shifts, they just didn’t click. But after we had some words, they turned it around. We can’t have one line, that doesn’t work. Then I thought they played great. [Wrenn] was flying around, doing all the dirty work and I really like his game tonight.”