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From top down, a new MC

By Craig Forde
Globe Correspondent / December 18, 2011
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Just one month before Malden Catholic opened up shop in defense of its first Super 8 title, it found itself down one very important piece from last season’s puzzle.

Coach Chris Serino announced that he would be taking a leave of absence because of complications from pneumonia.

In stepped Serino’s longtime assistant, John McLean, for what the Lancers hope will be a seamless transition.

“We’re trying to make things as smooth as possible and take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time,’’ said McLean. “The key is to play as a team and slow things down. We want to keep it simple and play team hockey.’’

The Lancers also will be without the services of top center Ryan Fitzgerald to start the season. The Boston College-bound junior injured his left shoulder in a Mass. Selects game and no timetable has been set for his return.

“He is a great young talent,’’ said McLean. “There is no need to rush him back, so we’ll just wait until he is fully ready.’’

Freshman Ara Nazarian, who highlights a solid crop of new talent, has filled the void on the first line alongside captain Brendan Collier and Mike Iovanna.

Brendan White and Colin MacGillvray return to anchor a solid core of defensemen and BC High transfer Conor Maloney takes over in goal.

“The challenge is that everyone is out to get us, where before we were one of those teams that were able to go out and hunt down the top teams,’’ said McLean. “Now everyone looks at their schedule and circles Malden Catholic.’’

When it comes to the Lancers defending their crown, the journey must go through the usual gauntlet of Catholic Conference foes, each capable of being a top contender.

You can’t begin to talk Super 8 without mentioning 13-time champion Catholic Memorial, which missed the postseason last year for the first time in 27 seasons.

Coach Bill Hanson makes no apologies for his team’s grueling schedule last season and with 17 returning players he has stacked the deck again for the Knights, who will face the likes of Delbarton (N.J.) and Fairfield Prep (Conn.).

“We’re a year older, a year better, bigger, stronger, and faster,’’ said Hanson. “We expect to hold our own this year.’’

Junior forward Liam Coughlin is a dynamic presence and defensemen Dennis Medeiros and Jared Beckwith lead an experienced group on the blue line. Sophomore goalie Shane Starrette posted a 1.78 goals-against average in nine games as a freshman, which included a tie against Malden Catholic and a win over BC High.

St. John’s Prep senior David Letarte, Central Catholic senior Kyle Williams, and BC High junior Pat Cronin are three of the top goalies in the state and all are capable of carrying their teams despite some heavy hits to their rosters.

“[Cronin] played every game last year,’’ said BC High coach John Flaherty. “He already has 35-40 games under his belt and his approach and preparation is as good as any goaltender we’ve ever had.’’

Woburn, along with Marshfield and Needham, stands as one of the top public schools looking toward the Super 8.

Globe All-Scholastic forward Casey Shea returns to power the Tanners’ offense and bruising Jake Secatore will head a defense corps that returns five starters.

“There will be a lot of pressure on us from other teams,’’ said Woburn coach Jim Duran. “We just have to take care of our own business, work hard, and the rest should fall in place.’’

Division 2

After winning 10 Cape Ann titles, Wilmington moved to the hockey-hungry Middlesex League, giving it a stronger schedule that should prepare it for a deep playoff run.

“We know we are going to be in for a battle every night,’’ said coach Steve Scanlon. “But we want to qualify for the tournament and compete for the Middlesex Small first.’’

Junior Cam Owens, who had 25 goals and 32 assists last season, will spark a balanced offensive attack and goalie Drew Foley could have a breakout season as a sophomore.

Other teams that should contend include Winthrop, Concord-Carlisle, Boston Latin, Canton, Franklin, and defending state champion Tewksbury.

Division 3

Defending state champion Marblehead may have a tough road ahead of it after graduating 10 key players, but captain and senior goalie Mike Harper will look to hold the fort as the Headers gain experience.

Lowell Catholic could turn some heads with the offensive-minded duo of brothers Joe and Jake Sartorelli, along with returning goalie Dan Curran.

Other teams to watch are Bourne, Pembroke, Shawsheen, Bishop Feehan, and Westwood.

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