BILLERICA, Mass. -- Lloyd Hayes wore a smile that nearly stretched from one ear to the other as he spoke with reporters following Monday night’s Super Eight tournament play-in game.
Hayes, a freshman, turned out to be the hero in Central Catholic’s 3-1 triumph over St. Mary’s of Lynn. Hayes scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal when he swatted a rebound past St. Mary’s goaltender Donald Hesse to break a 1-1 tie with 2:19 to play.
It was the fifth goal Hayes has scored this season, and certainly the most memorable one.
“Kevin Poulin got the rebound and brought it right to the net,” Hayes explained. “He almost had [the goal], but I just put it home. I had plenty [to shoot at]. I wasn’t going to miss that.
“It was unbelievable. My adrenaline was flowing like crazy.”
Central Catholic got an insurance goal when junior forward Ryan Daigle scored into an empty net with 3.6 seconds to play.
“You can’t get any better than that, right?” Central Catholic coach Mike Jankowski said. “This game is all you can ask for. You’re able to play your way in and show you’re deserving, and hats off to St. Mary’s. They played fantastic. It was a great hockey game.”
Mike Kelleher also scored for eighth-seeded Central Catholic, which improved its record to 17-5-1. The Raiders will face top-seeded Malden Catholic in Saturday’s quarterfinals.
“Everyone contributed tonight,” Jankowski said. “Three different guys (scored). Everyone chipped in. The first guy and the last guy on the bench.”
Ninth-seeded St. Mary’s slipped to 14-6-3 and will now compete in the Division I North tournament. It was the first time the Spartans have appeared in the Super 8 field.
“I thought we played two very solid periods of hockey,” St. Mary’s coach Mark Lee said. “Then in the third we came out flat and just never really got it going. They took advantage. That’s a good team over there.
“We had a good jump in our step for the first two periods. I don’t know why, but in the third period we were kind of sluggish.”
St. Mary’s opened the scoring when Corey Bartlett beat Central Catholic goalie Kyle Williams with a straightaway slap shot from just inside the blue line at 7:20 of the first period. Defenseman Cam Kennedy was credited with the only assist on the goal, which was scored while the teams were skating four-on-four.
Central Catholic pulled even on Kelleher’s power-play goal at 8:58 of the second. Nick Leonard set up Kelleher with a cross-ice pass and Kelleher converted from low in the left faceoff circle.
Kelleher has a team-high 18 goals this season, and Leonard leads the team in points (43) and assists (33). Tommy Evangelista collected the second assist on Kelleher’s goal.
It looked like the teams might be headed to overtime until Hayes pounced on a rebound and scored while he was near the left post.
“For a freshman it was pretty amazing,” Jankowski said. “Pretty amazing.”
“Donald had the stop, we couldn’t clear the guy in front and they had two or three whacks at it,” Lee added. “I think it was on the third whack they got it. Just a good effort on their part, and we couldn’t clear the front of the net.”
“Hesse gave the effort we needed. We just couldn’t finish as a team.”
Central Catholic, which lost a play-in game last season, has won seven of its last eight games.
“I guess it comes down to they played three periods of hockey, and we played two,” Lee said. “We just didn’t have the same energy we had in the first two periods in the third.”