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.”
IRON IS HOT
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.”