LOWELL — The chances mounted for Springfield Cathedral in the third period as the Panthers chased a one-goal deficit with the advantage of three power-play opportunities.
But Malden Catholic senior Connor Maloney (16 saves) turned away nine shots in the final period, and the Lancers’ penalty-killing unit stood tall as the team secured a 3-2 win against Springfield Cathedral Sunday at the Tsongas Arena, in the first game of the best-of-three Super 8 quarterfinals.
Ara Nazarian scored two shorthanded goals in the second period and the Lancers killed five power plays overall, denying Springfield Cathedral any advantage with an extra attacker.
“To me, it’s their job,” Malden Catholic coach John McLean said of the penalty kill. “We work on it all year long and they’re very talented players and it’s really up to them. We were in the box for five power plays and I expect them to do that. I’m very happy with the way they did.”
More so, the Lancers benefited when shorthanded, generating a multitude of scoring chances.
Early in the second period, Springfield Cathedral swung the momentum in its favor by scoring two goals. Sophomore forward Peter Crinella scored to knot the game, 1-1, at 3:04. Then Artie Potter shelved a one-timer over Maloney’s left shoulder to give the Panthers a 2-1 advantage at 5:25.
However Malden Catholic sparked to life, even with sophomore Casey Fitzgerald in the penalty box for elbowing. The Panthers struggled to take advantage of the power play, while Nazarian, Malden Catholic’s crafty sophomore, scored a pair of shorthanded goals 26 seconds apart to give his team a 3-2 lead.
“The first period didn’t go our way, and to come back and score two goals in the second gave us some life,” Springfield Cathedral coach Brian Foley said. “But unfortunately we gave up those two shorthanded goals and that happened to be the game.”
The first slipped over John Liquori’s shoulder, but he had no chance on the second one as Malden Catholic charged on a 3-on-1 breakaway. Mike Iovanna assisted on both goals.
“We had a lot of quality scoring chances on the penalty kill,” Nazarian said. “So it worked out.
“We just kept it simple and didn’t get nervous, and said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ ”
In the first period, Tyler Sifferlen gave the Lancers a 1-0 lead when he tipped in a Nazarian shot.
Malden Catholic (13-6-3), which is defending consecutive Super 8 titles, will play Springfield Cathedral (16-2-4) Thursday at Stoneham Arena. With a win, the Lancers can win the series and advance to the semifinals.
“We have to come out hard,” Maloney said. “They’re going to come out twice as hard and they’re going to want to beat us and get that game back.”