Central Catholic Raiders Boys Ice Hockey '07-'08

Sat, Jan 19, 2008 04:00 PM @ Andover
Team 1 2 3 Final
Central Catholic 0 0 1 1
Andover 0 0 1 1

Brien beats horn, gives Central tie with Andover

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Andover 1, Central Catholic 1. » Deborah Hammond, Staff PhotographerMore photos

Sunday, January, 20 By David Willis
Staff writer

After scoring only two goals a year ago, Central Catholic defenseman and 2007 Eagle-Tribune All-Star Mark Brien spent much of the offseason working on his shot.

Yesterday, it paid off in a big way.

With the Raiders trailing by a goal with less than a minute to play, Brien took a pass just inside the blue line and blasted the puck past Andover goalie Nick Drew for a power play goal with 38 seconds left that gave Central a 1-1 tie with the Golden Warriors in a battle of the area's two premier teams.

The Merrimack Valley Conference does not play overtime. "Brendan (Slein) send a nice pass out to me that was flat so I could get a good shot off," said Brien, who enthusiastically pumped his fist after firing home the goal. "I saw that we had a good screen in front of the goalie and I saw him slide to one side, so I just tried to shoot it into the far side."

The goal was Brien's sixth of the season, crushing his career high of two he had hit each of the past two seasons. "Last season I couldn't even find the net with my shot," he said. "This summer I worked hard so I could at least put it on net and find the goalie. I just wanted to shoot it as hard as I could."

And his shot yesterday put a fitting end to a strikingly even contest.

"It was one of the plays we use on the power play," said Central Catholic (6-3-3) coach Mike Jankowski. "We have worked on it a lot in practice. I think both goalies played great tonight."

Raiders netminder Mike Alesse was nearly perfect. The senior made 22 saves, 13 of which came in a very tense second period. His best stop came with 10:34 left in the second. Golden Warriors speedster Matt Rayner came in on a break and tried to go to Alesse's left. The goalie responded by kicking the puck away with his left pad.

It was the fourth game this season in which Alesse had allowed one of fewer goals. The Super 8 standout of a season ago has a pair of shutouts.

His lone mistake came at 12:44 of the second when Andover's George Flanagan took a pass from John Hyslip and backhanded it in for his team-best ninth goal of the season.

And the Golden Warriors' Drew nearly made that lead stand up. The senior first-year starter made 21 stops, the best of which came when he turned away another blast by Brien with 2:17 left in the final frame.

"Nick didn't get to play too much last year with Danny (Abreu) lighting the world on fire," said Andover head coach Mario Martiniello. "But we have all the confidence in the world in him. And now he is showing that to everyone."

The tie was the first of the season for the Golden Warriors (8-2-1) in their first major test since their move up to Division 1 from Division 2, where they played last season. "We knew what we were getting into playing in Division 1," said Martiniello. "Of course you always want to win, but I am happy with the tie. That is a very good team."

Central forward Tim Houston was equally satisfied with his team's effort.

"It was a very good comeback," said Houston. "It was good to see we could come back and not get down on ourselves. "We are finally picking it up and playing like we did last year. We are rounding into form."

The Raiders face another tough task tomorrow when they host the state's top team, Catholic Memorial, which bested Central last season in the Super 8. Andover visits Lynnfield, the team it defeated in the Division 2 North final a season ago, tomorrow.

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