BOSTON -- So many super goals have been scored on the TD Garden surface, but few will rival the highlight reel shot pocketed in overtime by Brendan Collier that won the Super 8 title for Malden Catholic, Sunday.
Collier roofed a backhander at 4:50 of the extra session to give the Lancers a heart thumping 4-3 triumph over St. John's Prep and the school's first state championship since the 1974 edition captured the Division I crown.
“It's unbelievable,” said Collier, a junior, who is already commited to Boston University. “What we put in, we got out. We were picked to win the whole thing all year, and stuck with it. We worked as hard as we could the whole year. It's awesome.”
Nearly as awesome as Collier's shot was his celebratory doggie paddle on his stomach to center ice, where he was pounced on by a host of joy filled mates.
As quickly as it all happened, Collier said it was almost as though time had stopped in it's tracks.
“It didn't kick in until I was under the pile,” he said, “what actually just happened. I don't remember doing it. I had one or two (moves) in mind. But it depended on how I scored. It was a given that I was going to do that one.”
“The 'swimmer',” quipped Ryan Fitzgerald, who netted Malden's second goal. “I think he had that planned.”
What could be dreamed, but not anticipated, was the elation produced by winning the state title.
“It's a blur right now,” said Fitzgerald. “I'm still coming to grips with it all. But it's an unbelievable feeling.”
After grinding to a scoreless first period draw the teams hooked up for a wild second period that saw each score twice.
Prep held leads of 1-0 and 3-1, but couldn't hang on to either of them.
“We tried to slow them down,” said Prep senior Colin Blackwell, as he iced down a banged up shoulder. “We wanted to make them make turnovers. We capitalized on a couple, and they caught us on a couple.”
The first strike for the Eagles came on Matt MacDonald's goal at 2:34, after a blind heel pass from Shane Eiserman.
However, just 26 seconds later, MC's Tyler Sifferlen jammed in his own rebound to make it 1-1.
St. John's later lurched to a two goal advantage after tallies by Colin Blackwell and John Farrow, with Farrow cashing in a cross ice dish from Blackwell at 12:05.
But once again, Malden responded quickly, pulling to within one, 3-2, 25 seconds later, on Fitzgerald's tip in of a cross by Vecchione.
“I saw the play developing,” said Fitzgerald. “I just had to get my stick on it.”
Said Vecchione, “We knew we had to battle back really quick. They would have just jumped on us, and we would have been down by three or four.”
Vecchione, who is committed to UNH, saw to it that it didn't happen. With 6.6 seconds left in the period, he tied the contest again, 3-3, with a magnificent rodeo-style effort which he capped while almost horizontal, as he was being roped by Prep defenseman Scott Derrickson.
“I really don't know how it went in,” said Vecchione. “I just put it to the net, and started celebrating.”
The third period settled nothing, although Prep spent most of the last three minutes of regulation on power plays.
“In a way,” said Eagles coach Kristian Hanson, “I was a little bit nervous, because I know how dangerous [the Lancers] can be on the penalty kill. They can generate a lot of offense. We tried to be a little bit conservative with that. It's just one of those things.”
That set the stage for Collier's clincher, one that he likened to the falling down needle-threader by BC's Steve Whitney, Friday, during the Hockey East semifinals.
Collier's, however, involved a few head fakes on Prep goalie David Letarte, followed by a laser into the top left corner off the back hand from the right side.
“It just came natural,” said Collier. “I don't know if I developed it, or just lucky to be blessed with. It just kind of happened.”
It couldn't have happened at a better time to suit Vecchione, who had suffered through the Lancers playoff heartaches of the past few seasons.
“"It was very emotional for me,” said Vecchione. “I can't say enough about the kid [Collier]. I love him. He played his heart out.”
They all did.
Dan Hickling is a freelance writer based in Kennebunk, Maine.