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.”
UGLY GOALS, BIG GOALS
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.
MAN DOWN? MAN UP
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.”
SHORT-HANDED WHILE SHORTHANDED
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.