NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- Burlington coach Bob Conceison said he saw some good things from his hockey team Monday night. Just not enough of them.
Burlington fought back from a three-goal deficit, but Central Catholic was the better team from start to finish and posted a 6-4 victory in a Super 8 play-in game at Merrimack College's Lawler Arena.
“The difference in the game was our lack of consistency in some parts of the game,” Conceison said. “Our lack of execution in certain parts of the game – and the fact that they're a good team. They played the way they had to to beat us.”
Senior forward Mike Kelleher scored three goals for Central Catholic, which also received goals from Mike Hovnanian, Christian Smith and Nick Gorski (empty net).
Central Catholic improved its record to 13-3-5 and will face second-seeded St. Mary's (18-1-3) on Sunday at Merrimack College.
“Nothing surprises me with this group,” Central Catholic coach Mike Jankowski said. “They're resilient and hard-working. They believe and they keep pushing.”
Brien Diffley, Steve Mattos, C.J. Grinnell and Trevor Cimino provided the Burlington offense. The Red Devils dropped to 14-2-6.
Kelleher gave Central Catholic a 3-0 lead by recording a natural hat trick in the second period, but Burlington pulled even before the period ended. Diffley started the comeback by scoring a power-play goal at 10:52, then Mattos and Grinnell struck 14 seconds apart to tie the contest at 11:48.
The momentum shifted again before the period ended, however, as Hovnanian put CC in front 4-3 by scoring with 17 seconds to play.
Smith extended the lead to 5-3 in the third, but Cimino answered for Burlington with 1:19 to play. Gorski capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with one second on the clock.
“We've been shaky with those 3-0 leads, but we did well,” Central Catholic goaltender Kyle Williams said. “'We gave it up, but we got it back.
“They're a great team. Glad to beat them.”
Burlington had a 27-25 edge in shots on goal.
“The goal at the end of the second period was an answer for them,” Conceison said. “I give all the credit to Central. They're a good team, but our team never quit throughout the whole game. I'm proud of the way we played.”
LET'S GET PHYSICAL
Conseison said Central Catholic's physical play was one of the keys to victory.
“They took the body on us, and that's what good teams do,” he said. “They separated us from the puck and we weren't able to make the plays that sometimes we're able to make. They were a little bit bigger than us and a little more physical. When you play good teams that's the way they play you. That's what they do.”
Central Catholic entered the game with 69 goals in 20 games, so the Raiders weren't looking to get into a shootout. Jankowski said the team played its typical style, but benefited from two goals by its third line.
“The third line getting a couple goals, one of them with  seconds left – that can make a big difference,” Jankowski said. “Mike Kelleher was just a different person. He was the real deal tonight.
“I thought we played our game. Goals are hard to come by for us. They're all manufactured, working-class goals, but tonight we showed a little bit more and it was nice to see.”