By Mike McMahon
NORTH ANDOVER — Ryan Fitzgerald was born in Florida and lived in Nashville and Toronto before settling down in North Reading when he was nine years old.
Such is life when your father plays in the NHL.
Now, the Malden Catholic junior leads a slew of locals on the defending champion Lancers, who beat Central Catholic 4-0 last night at Merrimack College's J. Thom Lawler Arena to advance to their second straight Super 8 championship game at TD Garden on Sunday.
Fitzgerald, Malden Catholic's leading scorer with 47 points (30 goals, 17 assists), has already committed to Boston College as has his younger brother Casey, a freshman defenseman.
The Fitzgerald's father, Tom, played college hockey at Providence before spending 19 seasons in the NHL, including a year with the Boston Bruins in 2005, his final season.
"Growing up around here I think you either really want to go to BC or BU," said Fitzgerald, who had a goal and two assists in last night's win. "I've always been a BC fan so it was an easy choice for me."
Not a single local on the Malden Catholic squad is a senior, yet they makeup four of the Lancers' five leading scorers.
North Andover's Tyler Sifferlen is a sophomore winger and plays alongside freshman Ara Nazarian, who grew up in Boxford but went to St. Michael's and played all of his youth sports in North Andover, including playing youth hockey for the esteemed Middlesex Islanders, which operates some of its teams out of Merrimack College.
Nazarian and Sifferlen figure to be the next big things to come out of a program that has had four Division 1 commitments over the last two years. Along with the Fitzgerald brothers, senior Brendan Collier (Charlestown) committed to Boston University and a graduate off last year's team, Mike Vecchione, committed to New Hampshire but reneged earlier this season. He hasn't chosen where he'll play. Former defenseman Mark Adams is a sophomore at Providence College.
"I've known Ara since he was little," Malden Catholic coach John McLean said. "He tends to try to figure it out and learn at each level he's moved up. In big games, he puts the puck in the net. He has a good, hard hockey IQ. For me, it's not a surprise (the season he's had), I've coached him since he was a mite. He's a big-time player."
Malden Catholic and former Merrimack coach diagnosed with cancer
Former Merrimack College head coach and athletic director Chris Serino, the current head coach and AD with the Lancers, is in the midst of a second battle with throat cancer.
Serino took a medical leave before the Malden Catholic season began and has given the head coaching reins to assistant John McLean, who was also his assistant on the Merrimack staff.
Serino, 62, survived a battle with throat cancer in 2001, when then-associate head coach Mike Doneghey served as interim head coach for the Warriors much of that season.