By Matt Williams
---- — WILMINGTON — Pretty goals win YouTube hit counts, and dirty goals win games.
When one of the best players in the state is scoring goals of both varieties, his team is going to be very difficult to beat.
Malden Catholic’s Ara Nazarian put his nose in the blue paint for a pair of goals Saturday as his Lancers stopped St. John’s Prep, 5-3, at Ristuccia Arena.
“A goal is a goal,” said Nazarian, a junior from Boxford who is committed to play at the University of New Hampshire. “We knew St. John’s was going to play hard and to beat a team like that you have to focus on getting the puck deep and going to work. We knew we needed those dirty goals.”
Another Boxford native, sophomore Jack Adams, buried the winning goal for MC (10-3) midway through the third. Prep captain and Danvers resident Mark Etherington’s second goal of the game had tied it (3-3) just 24 seconds into the third period.
St. John’s Prep freshman goalie Zach Laramie (19 saves) denied Adams’ bid from the wall initially. But about 30 seconds later with the Lancers bringing heavy pressure, Adams finished to make it 4-3.
“That line controlled that shift. They were flying around, working hard and Jack was in the right place at the right time to use his reach and get a big goal for us,” said MC head coach John McLean.
The Eagles (5-8-1) had an early lead on Tyler Scaerbo’s goal in the first period. Both of Etherington’s goals erased one-goal deficits, and while the Prep played reasonably well the Eagles were left needing nine points over their final 12 games to make the state tournament.
“Maybe early in the season you can build off a close game, but this is February now. We did some good things, but we didn’t do enough,” said Prep head coach Kristian Hanson.
Nazarian’s goals both came in the second and helped put MC in control. The first came when linemate Tyler Sifferlen (3 assists) found him all alone out front for a 2-1 edge. Later in the second, he dug the puck out of Laramie’s pads and flipped it home for a 3-2 Lancer lead.
“We have such skill that sometimes we watch one guy try to beat people, and the Prep goalie played really well so we needed to crash the net, dig in and get scraps,” McLean said. “Ara and Siff didn’t quit. They kept working and buried one of those.”
Nazarian exploded onto the scene with 26 goals and 46 points last year and now has 54 goals and 108 points in three years at MC. He has tremendous chemistry with the UMass-Lowell committed Sifferlen, and reciprocated his linemate’s pass with a beautiful 2-on-1 feed in the third that led to Sifferlen hitting the crossbar.
The skilled centerman enjoys playing against some of the guys he grew up with that skate at St. John’s Prep, and feels like he’s grown as a player as he’s reached upperclassman status.
“You get a little more mature, and you’re not taking as many penalties or getting frustrated when it doesn’t go,” Nazarian said. “You learn to control things a little better. I’ve been with Siff all three years here and we work together so much in practice; I think that’s where the chemistry comes from.”
Nick Rolli’s goal for MC with 8:20 left to play was a killer for St. John’s, which fell behind by two for the first time all afternoon. The Eagles pulled Laramie late in the game and had a 6-on-4 advantage for 37 seconds after a late MC penalty, but couldn’t crack Lancer goalie Alex Reissis (15 saves).
“Some guys played hard and we were aggressive on the forecheck,” said Hanson, whose team faces another top-ranked squad in Austin Prep Wednesday.
“We’re not giving up. It’s a cliche, but the only thing we can focus on right now is the next game.”