NORTH ANDOVER – Local hockey fans who hadn't heard of Malden Catholic forward Ara Nazarian before this year's Super 8 tournament have probably heard of him now.
Nazarian, a freshman, collected a goal – his fifth in four Super 8 games – to help the top-seeded Lancers defeat seventh-seeded Central Catholic 4-0 Wednesday in the Super 8 semifinals.
“He tends to figure out the game at each level as he moves up,” Malden Catholic head coach John McLean said. “He's got a pretty good hockey IQ and when he gets a chance he's gonna put it in the net.
“I know what he can do because I've coached him since he was a Mite. He scored in some big games [during the regular season] and he's scored some big ones here. He's a big-time player.”
Malden Catholic, last year's Super 8 champion, also received goals from sophomore defenseman Nick Rolli, senior forward Brendan Collier and junior forward Ryan Fitzgerald.
The victory earned the Lancers a spot in the Super 8 championship game, where they will face BC High on Sunday (6 p.m.) at TD Banknorth Garden. BC High moved on with a 3-2 triumph over St. John's Prep in Wednesday's other semifinal.
“I've had them [BC High] marked from Day 1 as the team that would be there,” McLean said. “Just nonstop. Great coach, great kids and it's gonna be a great game.”
Central Catholic made the program's deepest run in the Super 8 tournament.
“The kids fought all the way to the end,” Central Catholic head coach Mike Jankowski said. “We wanted to be a little more conservative in our own zone. Give up a little bit. Be patient. The kids stayed with it. They did a great job.”
Although Malden Catholic collected both goals scored in the second period, the best chances in the period belonged to the Raiders.
Malden Catholic goaltender Connor Maloney stopped Central Catholic's Corey Webber on a penalty shot with 4:15 left in the period, and then Maloney stopped Michael Hovnanian's breakaway attempt with 3:36 remaining in the period.
“You gotta put those away when you're in trouble,” Jankowksi said. “When you don't finish them the sticks start to get a little heavier.”
“[Maloney] made a few more big saves besides those two,” McLean added. “He kept us in it. This is two games in a row where our offense gets going and we forget we have to play defense. The kids get excited when they score the goals and hear the fans, but defense wins hockey games.
“Maloney had a great game tonight. He was our player of the game.”
OLD FRIENDS MEET AGAIN
Sunday's game will be the fourth time Malden Catholic and BC High have faced each other this season. Malden Catholic posted a 7-4 victory during the regular season, and a 3-1 victory earlier in the Super 8 tournament. The teams also skated to a 2-2 tie during the regular season.
“I'm looking forward to it,” McLean said. “We always have good games with them. It's gonna come down to who going to eat the puck, block a shot. Who's gonna want to get in front and get dirty. I think it's gonna come down to heart. I think it's gonna be a great game for the fans.”