LOWELL — Taking the ice as the overwhelming underdog — a No. 8 seed facing off against a No. 1-ranked squad with just two losses for the season — Central Catholic skated in with one goal in mind.
Set the tone.
“We just needed that first goal,” said Raiders winger Lloyd Hayes. “We felt confident and knew we could score. But, going in as the last seed, we just needed to score that first goal to show that we were there to play.”
Just 5:08 into the game, Hayes threw that first knockdown blow, gathering in his own rebound and banking the puck off a defender’s skate for the goal that gave No. 8 Central that fast lead.
The Raiders would surrendered that advantage just once, and never lose grip on momentum on the way to dominating top-seeded St. John’s Prep for a 4-1 victory in the first of their best-of-3 Super 8 first round series.
Central Catholic (15-5-3) will look to sweep the series and earn a berth in the Super 8 semifinals for the second straight season when the two teams face off on Thursday at Stoneham Arena (7:45 p.m.) An Eagles win would force a decisive Game 3.
“We knew we weren’t supposed to win this game,” said defenseman Alex Lester. “We heard everyone picking the Prep in two games. But we had beaten them before, so we knew we could play with them, and we showed them what we could do.”
Central also defeated the Prep (17-3-1) in the regular season (2-1). The only other team to best the Eagles was fellow Super 8 qualifier BC High.
“The whole hockey world was underestimating us,” said senior captain Nick Gorski. “We had to go out and prove ourselves to all the doubters, and make everyone else believe we could do this. So scoring that first goal was huge.”