BOSTON -- When Malden Catholic and Catholic Memorial squared off on Feb. 14 at the Malden Valley Forum, the Lancers steamrolled their way to an 11-0 victory.
Things were just a bit different this time around on Sunday at the TD Garden, but the result was just the same. Senior captain Tyler Sifferlen scored the game-winning goal with 2:08 to play in regulation, lifting the second-seeded Lancers to a 4-3 victory over the No. 10 Knights.
"(I told the team it) means absolutely nothing," MC head coach John McLean said of the previous head-to-head meeting between the squads. "This team isn't going to allow them just to lay down. It was a fluke ... and it happens in high school hockey. We talked about it for 4 or 5 minutes and told them it meant absolutely nothing."
Offensive pace was quiet over the first four minutes of the game, but the Lancers made sure to change that their next time up the ice.
On the first shot of the game for either team at the 4:32 mark, Malden Catholic junior defender Will Lawrence took a beautiful feed from classmate Ara Nazarian and beat Knight sophomore goaltender Brandon Collett high on his blocker side.
Speed and strength paid off 12:56 into the first period as the Knights drew even before heading into the first intermission. Paul Hardiman, a sophomore in his second year of varsity play, crashed the net hard and managed to tuck a close-range rebound past Lancer junior Alex Reissis.
Senior Michael Stathopoulous set up the whole play by taking the initial shot on goal, but Hardiman slammed the door for his eighth marker of the year.
"The past few times we've played MC, we haven't been really getting any offense going," Hardiman, a Medfield, Mass. native said. "We just thought we'd put the puck on net and that's what happened. We put a lot of hard work in and knew what we had to do to play with them."
The Knights jumped from the locker room and took the lead 3:11 in, thanks to a strong effort from Aaron Clancy. Reissis made the initial save, but could not finish the job and prevent the captain's eighth goal of the year.
At 3:46, Northeastern commit Matthew Filipe took a stretch pass from senior defenseman and captain Nick Rolli and coasted in for a breakaway.
The teams traded goals once again before the period ended. Senior Tyler Sifferlen coasted in alone off a breakaway pass from Nazarian and tucked his 19th goal of the season upstairs on Collett at 9:03.
"It just went over his shoulder," Sifferlen, a UMass-Lowell commit, said. "It just went off his stick. ... I was just attacking the net and it went in."
Hardiman's second goal and CM's third of the game came in the final minute of the third, as he stripped the puck from Reissis' control in the crease and bounced it home.
CM held much of the offensive zone time early and late in the second stanza, posting a 7-5 shots advantage with goals coming on two of those shots.
On the winning goal, Sifferlen got the puck in the low slot and finished with ease over Collett on the doorstep.
"They're a great team," Sifferlen said. "We knew that it was going to be a battle, and it will be the next game no matter what."
The Knights had a 6-on-4 chance in the final minute, but could not capitalize and remain alive in the series opener. A second crack at downing the three-time defending tournament champions comes at the Tsongas Center on Wednesday night at 8 p.m.
"I thought it was an up-and-down game with a lot of mistakes, especially on our part," McLean said. "I thought CM played a great game and had us on our heels. It was tough tonight."