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Recap: No. 2 Malden Catholic 4, No. 1 Austin Prep 1

MALDEN, Mass. -- When Malden Catholic's front line of Ara Nazarian, Tyler Sifferlen and Jake Witkowski are working in unison, opposing teams know that a long night is in store for them.

On Saturday night, the dominant trio exploited Austin Prep, each registering a goal, en route to a 4-1 triumph in the title game of the second annual Christie Serino Christmas Classic at Valley Forum II.

The victory marks the second for the Lancers in this event. Last year, they slipped past AP, winning in a shootout.

The No. 2 Lancers improve to 4-0, while the top-ranked Cougars fall to 3-1-1.

"Ara and I have been playing three years together now," said Sifferlen, a senior. "This year we have Jake fitting in and he knows where to find us. He fits right in with us. Tonight we did pretty good together. We just go out there and look for each other and if we score, we score."

Following a scoreless opening period, MC opened its offense up in the middle frame, scoring three unanswered goals to grab a commanding lead. Junior defenseman John McLean got things started with a shot from behind the AP net that deflected off the skate of goaltender Elijah Harris and across the goal line at 1:50 to give the Lancers a 1-0 lead.

While a banged up Cougar squad had trouble passing the puck around once inside the MC zone, the Lancer offense continued to dictate the tempo. At 6:14, Sifferlen made a well-executed pass to Nazarian in front of Harris, who slipped the puck past Harris to make it a two-goal game.

Harris, a junior, finished with 22 saves.

Six minutes later, it was Sifferlen's turn. Solid puck movement from Nazarian and Witkowski set up his score, as he beat Harris glove side to make it 3-0.

The flow of this game remained unstable throughout. MC was whistled for 10 penalties as it tried to gain the physical edge over its opponents. But on the flip side, AP's power play became obsolete. The Cougars would just once playing with the man-advantage. That coming on Anthony Cieri's late third period tally when this contest was already secured. The Cougars could manage only 12 shots on freshman netminder Kyle Casey.

"Obviously they are a very good team," AP head coach Louis Finocchiaro said. "We didn't do anything on the power play tonight. We're banged up (losing forwards Jake McKenelley, Eric MacAdams and defenseman Mike Disciullo to injury). I thought MC played a strong, physical game. We've got to learn from it, make ourselves better and not dwell on it. It's done with."

Just 33 seconds into the final period, MC added to its total, again, with the first line doing the damage. Nazarian and Sifferlen worked the puck inside AP's zone. Witkowski was left all alone in front of the net. The junior gained possession of a loose rebound before quickly depositing a shot over Harris' left shoulder, extending the lead to four goals.

Shortly after Cieri's score, the Cougars had a golden chance to cut into the deficit a little more after being handed a 5-on-3 opportunity. But AP failed to convert the two-man advantage as the Lancer penalty kill unit rose to the challenge as the final minutes ticked off.

"We had a little bit of practice tonight with our penalty kill," said MC head coach John McLean. "I wasn't very happy with some of the penalties we took. It is what it is and we had to bear down. We practice it a lot and I thought we did a good job tonight. We have guys that buy into it and they go out and execute it. The big thing is they block shots. They're willing to get in front of pucks. Overall, I'm very pleased."