Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Central Catholic Hockey Overwhelms Waltham

By John Mcguirk (@patsfan1313)

- Throughout much of the first half of the season, Central Catholic has had a knack of lullabying its opponents to sleep during the first period, before turning on the switch and leaving teams in its wake.

That script proved to be no different Wednesday evening as the Raiders, nursing a one goal lead after the opening 15 minutes, shifted their offense into another gear in the second by netting three goals, enroute to a 5-2 victory over Waltham in a Merrimack Valley/Dual County League matchup played at the Icenter.

"Our second period was really strong tonight," said Central Catholic first-year head coach Kim Brandvold. "I thought (Waltham) was a pretty good team so this is a good win for us and made us better. These kids are pretty easy to hold accountable so if you tell them something they are going to go out and try and do it. So if you need to change some things, these kids are willing to do that and it shows throughout the game."

After an early struggle, the Raiders were finally able to pull away from the pesky Hawks during that decisive middle frame. At 8:38, senior Matt Lane pushed back a rebound to give Central Catholic (9-0) a two goal advantage.

"We are trying to do the right things and get the puck inside," Lane said. "When we do that things happen. Pucks seem to bounce the right way for us and we end up doing the right things."

For much of the second period, the Raiders were in control at both ends of the ice. Able to cycle the puck literally at will, Central Catholic managed to secure a positional advantage that allowed them to receive its fair share of open looks on net.

With under two minutes remaining in the frame, the Raiders left no doubts as Owen Fowler, taking a crisp cross feed from Ray Galasso, and Eric Lester each tallied to send Central Catholic into the final intermission on top 4-0.

The Raiders, finishing with 34 shots, put up 16 during the middle period while holding Waltham to just three of its overall 15 attempts.

Central Catholic wasted little time jumping on the Hawks. Just 1:13 in, Sean Brown sent a hard wrist shot from the left dot past senior goalie Kyle Penton for the early lead. For a large portion of the initial frame, the Raiders remained on the attack but could not capitalize any further on the scoreboard. With just over five minutes remaining, Waltham began to amp up its offense a bit. Yet despite its efforts, they failed to slip anything past netminder Matt Pasquale. The junior finished with 13 saves and has allowed just five goals on the season.

"Matt is the best there is hands down," praised Lane. "On top of that, our defense is playing very well. The back end is just shutting teams down as you can tell by the amount of goals we've let up this season."

Nonetheless, the Hawks had to be pleased to stay within one goal following the initial frame. But things changed dramatically a few minutes later once the Raiders sounded the wake-up call and returned to their philosophy of moving the puck swiftly and, in turn, generating space inside the offensive zone. Throughout the second period, the Hawks failed to lay a body on the opposition and often found themselves a step or two behind the Raiders inside the their defensive zone.

With a four goal-lead in its hip pocket, and its top-rated goaltender continuing to work his magic, things looked secure for another Central Catholic triumph. Four minutes into the third, that feeling would increase after William Winship, trailing as part of an odd-man rush, poked in a rebound for his eighth goal of the season to make it 5-0.

But credit Waltham for continuing to fight. Realizing the deficit was too much to make up, the Hawks refused to surrender. For their efforts, goals by Justin Moran and Brian Pescatore in the waning minutes made things a bit more respectable. Also kudos to Penton, in spite of the plethora of shots put forth by Central Catholic, made some top-notch stops to keep things within striking distance.

The Hawks (6-1-2) came into this tilt without a loss and for the most part, proved themselves worthy of being a force moving forward in Division 1 North. As they showed, this club, should it reach the postseason, has enough talent and fortitude to make a serious run.

"Let's forget about the second period as I know we played well in the first and third periods," said Hawks head coach and Hall of Famer John Maguire. "Central is an outstanding team and are, by far, the best team I've seen this year. They aren't the No. 1 team for a reason. I thought Kyle played well to keep us in it but we didn't help him out in that second period. A real positive note for us was for us to score a couple of goals against their outstanding goalie. It should give us a little bit of confidence heading into our next game. We weren't quite ready for that second period but I thought overall we competed for the majority of the game."

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