Merrick's shootout goal gives Central Super 8 upset
Sunday, March, 04
By David Willis
NORTH ANDOVER — There was no question in Steve Merrick’s mind. He was going five-hole.
“The five-hole is my go-to move in a shootout and the goalie left it pretty open,” said Merrick. “I just put it home and I saw it go right it. I have never been so happy in my life.”
Standing alone at center ice, Central Catholic’s fourth shooter in the five-man shootout, Merrick started left, broke right and just in front of the crease fired a shot between the goalie’s pads to give his team the lead with his third goal of the season.
Raiders goalie Kyle Williams followed that with two more outstanding saves and No. 8 Central Catholic shocked No. 2 St. Mary’s of Lynn 6-5 in first game of the round-robin Super 8 first round yesterday in front of a packed house of 2,489 at Merrimack College’s
“I have never felt anything like this,” said Merrick, a 5-foot-5 senior. “Playing in front of a crowd like this, and getting the win means the world to me.”
The Raiders (14-3-5) will next face rival St. John’s Prep on Wednesday (time TBA). It was just the second loss of the season for St. Mary’s, (18-2-3).
“This is a huge win,” said senior Ryan Daigle. “You never know what’s going to happen in a shootout, but we came through.”
Despite entering the game with just two goals on the season — and four for his career — Merrick was ready when called upon in the shootout.
“When we practice shootouts I usually put them in, so I had a feeling coach was going to throw me out there,” he said. “It was a lot of pressure, but I think I kept my composure.”
Merrick looked the part of a veteran goal-scorer with his goal, the only score in the shootout, which sent the crowd into hysterics as he pumped his fist in celebration.
“He always does that move,” said Daigle. “Goalie comes out to poke check and he goes five-hole. He probably has the best hands on the team.”
But St. Mary’s still had two shooters remaining, and Williams was able to turn both away empty, kicking one shot away with his left pad and clinching the victory with a butterfly save on a slap shot.
Seconds later, he found himself at the bottom of a massive pile of teammates celebrating the win.
“It was like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders,” said Williams. “On the last shot I told myself that I was going to let him make the first move and I was going to move next, and it worked.”
With the game on the line, Williams’ teammates had the utmost confidence in the returning Eagle-Tribune All-Star.
“We knew he could do it,” said Merrick. “We would never have won it without him.”
Mike Hovnanian gave Central the lead just 1:26 into play, and thanks to goals by Mike Kelleher, Daigle, Christian Smith and Corey Webber, the Raiders held a 5-3 lead with 9:33 left in the game.
But St. Mary’s rallied with two goals, the second tying the game with 2:43 left in regulation on a 2-on-1. The Spartans also controlled the pace of play for much of overtime, but Williams was hot and benefited from a pair of well-placed posts.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh God,’” Williams said with a laugh. “But you just have to not think about the pressure and play it like a normal puck. I was confident in overtime and the shootout.”
Central now has its eyes set on Wednesday’s meeting with St. John Prep. The Eagles defeated the Raiders 4-0 in their regular-season meeting on Jan. 7.
“We are so pumped to take on St. John’s,” said Daigle. “That is always a game we look forward to and they got us good in the regular season, so we want some revenge.”
Division 1A First Round
Goals: CC — Mike Hovnanian, Mike Kelleher, Ryan Daigle, Christian Smith, Corey Webber, Steve Merrick; SM — Tim Aylward, Bobby Mullins, Brendan Magaery, Tom Braswellm Bryan Wilkins
Assists: CC — Zach Cote 3, Smith, Jake Donahue, Kelleher, Alex Lester, Merrick, Nick Gorski; SM — Eric McAdams, Cam Grenham, Jarrod Fitzpatrick 2, Connor Parent
Saves: CC — Kyle Williams 34; SM — Bailey MacBurnie 22