WEST ORANGE — Don Bosco Prep, seeking its first NJSIAA Non-Public State Finals appearance in four years, had extra motivation when it took on Pope John in the semifinals Wednesday night at the Codey Arena in West Orange. The Ironmen had fallen to the Lions twice this season, including the Gordon Cup semifinals, and were possessed to rid their demons in a third and final bout with a berth to the state championships on the line.
Team captain Ryan McLinskey found an open seam and buried a shot past Pope John goaltender Matt Schoer with 52.1 seconds left in the first period and second-seeded Don Bosco Prep never looked back en route to a 5-0 victory over second-seeded Pope John in the semifinals of the Non-Public Tournament at Codey Arena in West Orange.
“The loss in the regular season and the Gordon Cup semifinals really got to us and we wanted to get back at them in a big way tonight,” McLinskey said. “To get back at them with a 5-0 victory is everything for us and every year we talk about how much we want that state championship. It’s going to be really special to play for the championship and I think we are going to win it all this time.”
Don Bosco Prep is seeking its first state title in school history.
The Bergen County school had an early chance to take the lead three minutes into the opening period when Tyler Neilsen was awarded a penalty shot but the senior shot the puck wide to the left to keep the game scoreless.
Schoer was a difference-maker through the first two periods in net for Pope John and finished with 36 saves in the game. But it was the Bosco defense that was the difference-maker in the game, holding the Lions to just 12 total shots in the game. That stout defense allowed the Ironmen offense to get it going in the third.
After a scoreless second frame, Don Bosco Prep erupted for four goals in the third period — including two from Liam McLinskey in a span of 2:01 — before Ryan came back with his second of the game with 1:35 remaining. The Ramsey school continued to put its lethal power-play attack on display and converted its third goal with the man-advantage with 1:09 left after Graham Garlasco found the back of the net.
“The first time we played them we out-shot them and it happened again in the Gordon Cup which hurt,” Don Bosco senior goaltender Alexei Masanko, who stopped all 12 shots he faced to record his eighth shutout of the season, said.
“We weren’t going to let them beat us for a third time this season because no team beats us for a third time,” Masanko said. “We were hungry in this game and we are ready to play in the finals.”
Masanko held the Lions in check with two big saves in the second period that allowed Liam McLinskey, his brother, Ryan, and Garlasco to connect on the power-play to solidify the victory in the third.
Don Bosco (20-6-1) will face the winner of top-seeded Delbarton and fourth-seeded Christian Brothers Academy for the Non-Public state championship Monday night at the Mennen Ice Arena in Morristown.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought victory just like this win and we will have to battle to the end against teams like Delbarton and CBA,” Masanko added. “They are always are best rivals of the year and we are looking forward to playing one of those teams.”
Pope John finishes 20-3-3 in a record-setting year that included a trip to the Gordon Cup championships.
“This year certainly exceeded a lot of expectations,” Pope John coach Ryan Brown said. “We knew we had a smaller group this year. We don’t have the depth that Don Bosco or Delbarton has but I’m proud of our coaches for doing a really good job this year with these kids in getting them to this point. We have a very young group and hope to be back again next year.”
Written by Chris Costa/HockeyClan