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MIAA hockey playoff notebook

With no action on the local rinks on Monday, we decided to clear out the ole trusty reporter's notebook after a busy first week of tournament play.

Saturday’s first-round Super Eight matchup was a family affair for the Evangelista clan.

The family’s attention was divided between cousins Conor, of top-seeded Malden Catholic, and Tommy, of eighth-seeded Central Catholic.

Adding another dimension to the matchup was that Conor, a junior defenseman on the Lancers’ top pairing, would be duking it out all night with Tommy, a junior center, and the Raiders’ top line.

“My cousin’s really fast, so I told my uncle that I’d have to break Tommy’s blades to have a chance out there, so that he didn’t burn me,” Conor said with a smile. “We talked a lot before the game though.”

Conor may have gotten the last laugh, as Malden Catholic held off Central in a 4-3 victory, but the cousins also have had opportunities to play on the same side while growing and most recently as last summer during the Hockey Night in Boston tournament.

It’s also evident that talent runs through the bloodline. Conor was among the top scoring defensemen in the state with 27 points during the regular season, while Tommy has been a consistent scoring threat for Central with 17 goals and 20 assists this season.

“We didn’t have anything else on the side,” Conor said of his pregame conversations with Tommy, “just bragging rights.”

VECCHIONE ON HISTORIC PACE

You can ascribe many labels to Mike Vecchione’s play, but you might soon have to apply the title all-time leader to his very impressive resume.

With three assists during Malden Catholic’s 4-3 win over Central Catholic on Saturday, Vecchione tied the Catholic Conference’s single-season scoring record with his 73rd point. The UNH commit entered Super Eight play with 26 goals and 44 assists for the regular season.

“I had no idea,” Vecchione replied after being informed of the milestone. “That’s a great feat.”

It seems fitting that Vecchione would tie the record with assists since it’s the selfless manner that has allowed the winger to prosper to unparalleled heights playing alongside linemates Brendan Collier (63 points regular season) and Ryan Fitzgerald (66 points).

SHEA UNSTOPPABLE

Every year, there seems to be a breakout player who takes his game another level to lift his team in the Super Eight. Think of then junior Tim Driscoll willing the Harbormen to the title last year, including his game-winning goal in the final.

It’s safe to say that the early leader in the clubhouse in this year’s young tournament is Woburn forward Casey Shea. The junior forward led the Tanners in scoring this season, so his postseason brilliance thus far hasn’t come as a surprise. But he’s certainly set a tremendous pace.

Shea made a big splash in Woburn’s win over Springfield Cathedral in a play-in game on Monday with five goals, including a natural hat trick in the first period. So what did he do to follow up that performance? He only turned in a SportsCenter-worthy goal, beating two St. John’s Prep defenders in alone, deking them out of their skates before finding the back of the net once again.

“Casey did what he usually does,” Tanners head coach Jim Duran said of the goal.

WARRIORS CAST OFF TOP SEED

Who could’ve seen Coyle-Cassidy’s overtime upset over top-seeded Mansfield in Division 2 South this weekend? Well, we hate to toot our own horn as did have the Warriors as one of our dark horse teams in our postseason picks.

All kidding aside, there’s a concurrent theme to C-C’s upset, as well as that of Scituate over top-ranked Bourne in D-3 South, and that’s strength of schedule.

The Warriors entered postseason play with a marginal record of 9-9-2. However, the degree to which they’d been tested in their 20 game schedule was without parallel in D-2. Aside from turning in their eighth straight Eastern Athletic Conference title, Dave Borges’ team played a schedule that included four Super Eight field teams, including BC High, Hingham St. Mary's of Lynn and Springfield Cathedral, and a host of other Division 1 teams. Granted, the Warriors took their lumps against both BC High and Hingham, but they showed why they could be such a dangerous postseason team tying up Cathedral, 2-2, just one week before the Panthers slipped into a Super Eight play-in game.