The pocket of space Austin Prep goalie Elijah Harris left unprotected wasn’t big enough for a puck to fit through cleanly. As far as the common eye could see, Harris had the net covered.
At 5 feet 7 inches, 130 pounds, Harris is forced to pay extra attention to the angles. And until the third period of Sunday’s Super 8 final, Malden Catholic’s Ara Nazarian couldn’t find a scoring line with a protractor.
Finally, with the coffee-can-sized opening of daylight, Nazarian snapped a wrister from the left wing and nailed the bull’s-eye.
The puck rattled between Harris’s shoulder and the near post before dropping to the ice just behind the red line.
In the path to becoming a high school hockey dynasty, MC, with its third straight Super 8 title after a 3-2 victory over Austin Prep Sunday night, has been graced with talented players who can shake off the bright lights and hot cameras of the TD Garden and make jaw-dropping plays.
Mike Vecchione. Brendan Collier. Ryan Fitzgerald. And now Ara Nazarian.
“I think [he’s in that class], 100 percent yes,” said MC coach John McLean. “He’s that type of player. I tell everybody [Vecchione] played freshman, JV, then varsity – he was a hard-working, character kid. Same with Ara. They just have the passion. It’s not hard to coach.
“Sometimes you have to remind them they have to work a little bit harder and it’s not always about them. Not that they’re that type of kids, but they enjoy the spotlight, they enjoy scoring goals, and sometimes it’s hard. But it’s fun to watch.”
Nazarian, still three months away from his 17th birthday, has been doing this since he was 6 years old.
For some, it gets boring. When being the best player on the ice looks as easy and effortless as it has for Vecchione, Collier, Fitzgerald, and Nazarian, the glamour starts to fade. It’s like eating filet mignon for dinner every night. After a while, a hot dog sounds better.
“A ton of kids,” McLean said, “they’re good when they’re young and then all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Here are the girls, I’m going to drink and I’m going to quit.’ But Ara is just good. He loves the game, he’s always watching videos and going to games. He’s a fan.”
Nazarian walked out of the locker room Sunday night without a shirt and without a smile. He wore his hockey pads and a wet towel around his neck.
He talked in monotone, diminishing his great plays and focusing instead what he could do better.
If anyone told him his ballerina-dancing, wrist shot-sniping, silky-dekeing antics during the game made him stand out from everyone else on the ice, there’s little doubt he would have disagreed.
And that’s what makes him so special. He still thinks he’s eating hot dogs.
“It’s in his blood,” said McLean, who has coached the electric sophomore since Mites. “He has the same gift as he had when he was 6. He has a very high hockey IQ and like any kid his age, he’ll have his ups and downs just because he’s a teenager. But ever since he was that age, big games, big crowds, championships — you need a goal, he’s got it.
“Tournaments in Canada — he was the one getting the trophies or the medals. He’s just a talented hockey player.
“But he’s willing to put the time in. Anyone who is willing to skate four days a week and work out four days a week, that’s what these kids do. If it’s your passion and that’s what you want to do for a living or go to school for, you have to work at it.”
On a line with UMass-Lowell-commit Tyler Sifferlen and UMass-Amherst commit Michael Iovanna, Nazarian, who also had an assist Sunday, is the one who shines. Asked what his role is, though, he said, “I just try to get them the puck so they can score.”
Nazarian entered the Super 8 with a team-leading 26 goals and added eight more, including four shorthanded, in the tournament. His snipe that helped give MC a third trophy might have been his best.
But better is sure to come from the Division 1 college hockey prospect.
“He has not arrived,” McLean said. “He knows that.”