Central Catholic Raiders Boys Ice Hockey '11-'12

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 08:15 PM @ Central Catholic
Team 1 2 3 Final
Burlington 0 3 1 4
Central Catholic 0 4 2 6
CARL RUSSO/Staff photo. Central Catholic played against Burlington in hockey playoff action Monday night. Central's captain, Jake Donahue battles along the boards with Burlington's Brian Hood.  2/27/2012.   » Staff PhotographerMore photos

Smith, Hovnanian unlikely heroes to send Central to Super 8

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Tuesday, February, 28 By David Willis
Staff writer

NORTH ANDOVER — Central Catholic’s Christian Smith did all he could to downplay the greatest moment of his hockey life.

“I came down and beat my guy,” he remembered. “The goalie came out to poke check and I put it past him. You work hard and see what happens.”

But with the play, the senior turned in one of the most memorable moments in Central Catholic hockey history.

With 2:39 to go in the game Smith took the puck near center ice, broke towards the net, split a pair of defenders and flipped a backhand past the goalie for what proved to be the game-winning goal in No. 10 Central Catholic’s 6-4 victory over No. 7 Burlington in the play-in round of the Super 8 Tournament last night in front of over 1,000 fans at Merrimack College’s Lawlor Arena.

With the victory, the Raiders move on to the elite Super 8 tournament for the second straight season and fourth time in six years. They will take on No. 1 seed Malden Catholic in the first game of the round robin first round on Sunday at Merrimack. The time is TBA.

“The way Christian split that D was just unreal,” said teammate Mike Kelleher, who led the way with a hat trick. “It just doesn’t get any better than that.”

Few who saw the outstanding move would guess Smith had just five goals on the season, and six goals for his career.

“You see that once in a while in practice,” said Raider coach Mike Jankowski. “And to do it on a stage like this is great. What a remarkable move and finish. That’s a highlight they’ll be playing for years.”

For a time it looked as if Central would run away with the contest.

After scoreless first, junior Kelleher took the game over, scoring three goals in a matter of 7:08 in the second period, giving him 10 goals for the season and the Raiders a 3-0 lead.

“Mike played unbelievable,” said Jankowski. “What a game. A natural hat trick. That’s incredible.”

Just when it appeared the rout was on, Burlington surged back with three goals in 46 seconds to tie the game 3-3 with 3:12 to go in the second.

But it was another unsung hero that would step up for the Raiders, when Michael Hovnanian crashed the net and banged in a goal with 0:16 to go in the second, his fourth goal of the season.

“It was the last shift of the period and there were about 20 seconds left,” said Hovnanian. “We wanted to get it towards the net and mine went in. To get the lead back was great.”

After more than 12 minutes of back-and-four play to start the third, Smith stole the puck and scored to make the score 5-3.

Resilient Burlington had one more rally, scoring with 1:19 to go to cut the lead to 5-4. Burlington managed a few more shots in the closing moment, but Kyle Williams was up to the task with a few crucial saves and Nick Gorski iced the victory with an empty-net goal with 0:00.3 left in the game.

“This is my first year really getting an opportunity,” said Hovnanian. “So to be here is just unbelievable. The Super 8, just the name is unbelievable.”

While they have the top-seed in their sights, the Raiders are confident heading into the elite tournament, which no other local school has ever qualified for.

“This is a dream come true,” said Smith. “This is the best feeling in the world, playing in front of this crowd. Super 8, here we come.”

Game Statistics:

Super 8 play-in round

Goals: CC — Mike Kelleher 3, Michael Hovanian, Christian Smith, Nick Gorski; B — Brett Diffley, Stane Mattos, C.J. Grinnell, Trevor Cimino

Assists: CC — Corey Webber, Ryan Daigle, Justin Pimental, Kyle Williams, Gorski, Smith, Christian Thompson, Kelleher; B — Brian Hood 2, JP. Scola, Joe Berardi, Joe Scali, Adam Crowley, Diffley

Saves: CC — Williams 26; B — Derek DeCastro 28

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