As always, Vecchione led by example

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By Jason Mastrodonato
Globe Correspondent / March 21, 2011

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It was a scary thought for St. John’s Prep coach Kristian Hanson when his team was up, 3-1, in the second period and Malden Catholic’s explosive top line — which had combined for 76 goals this season — still hadn’t scored.

That’s when Lancers senior captain Mike Vecchione — the only four-year varsity player on the roster — rallied the troops.

“I was screaming at the kids,’’ Vecchione said. “I was like, ‘We need to get going because the momentum is in their court,’ and I knew as a leader I just had to go out there and lay it all out on the ice.’’

Moments later, Vecchione sent a cross-ice pass to Ryan Fitzgerald — a relay Fitzgerald believes only Vecchione could complete — that the sophomore converted for the Lancers’ second goal.

Vecchione scored minutes later, and Brendan Collier flipped a backhand into a coffee-can-sized hole in overtime to give MC the Super 8 crown.

“We’re very aware that if you build a lead you have to be as careful as you can to protect it,’’ said Hanson, who thought his squad did a good job containing MC’s top line. “They’re the type of team that when the pressure is on they seem to step it up even more.’’

Vecchione has been MC’s leader all season. But it hasn’t just been his ability to score goals that has impressed.

Malden Catholic coach Chris Serino said he’s never seen a single practice where his captain didn’t give 100 percent.

“He skates up and down the ice,’’ Serino said. “He just does everything.’’

Vecchione’s fortitude and drive is what his coach and linemates say changed the course of last night’s game.

He was skating so hard for a loose puck in the second frame that he crashed into Prep goalie David Letarte and was whistled for charging.

And with six seconds left in the period, Vecchione got a quick jump on a dump from Collier, fought off two defenders, and beat Letarte — who could only watch as the puck sailed by him.

“That’s just determination right there,’’ Fitzgerald said. “He wanted it so badly you could tell in the locker room before the game. It doesn’t surprise any of us that he put that goal in and played the way he did.’’

The University of New Hampshire-bound Vecchione skated his last game in an Malden Catholic uniform last night, but it won’t be the last he’ll see of his dynamic linemates.

Fitzgerald, a sophomore, has committed to Boston College and Collier, a junior, to Boston University.

For at least one year though, there will be big skates to fill on the Lancers’ first line.

“It’s not going to be the same, it really isn’t,’’ Collier said. “You can’t replace Mike. No one can replace Mike.’’