WAYNE, NJ — Screaming down the right wing in the second period, Antonio Arcaroli ripped a shot that rang off the post and out of play.
The iron was unkind this time but the hockey gods saw fit to award Arcaroli another opportunity.
With his team deadlocked in a one-all tie in the third period of the Bergen County Tournament Final, Arcaroli ripped another shot off the post — but this shot rang true — off the inside bar and in — sparking Bergen Catholic to a 3-2 triumph over top-ranked and defending champion Don Bosco Prep at The Ice Vault in Wayne Thursday night.
The victory signaled the first county title in school history for Bergen Catholic, No. 3 in The Hockey Night in Boston Top 10.
Making its finals-debut, Tommy Olson gave Bergen Catholic a 1-0 lead 7:02 into the game, but Connor Sedlak tied it for Don Bosco Prep in the second period before Arcaroli and Nick Stoebling connected in a crucial third and final frame. Goaltender Brendan McCaskey was stellar throughout, guiding second-seeded Bergen Catholic to wins over Ridgewood and St. Joseph-Montvale before registering 29 saves in the final to unseat the eight-time and defending county champion.
“Today we played as a team,” Arcaroli said. “We played the right way, the way coach told us and every line was rolling — we all played our best.”
After ringing the bar earlier in the game and getting caught on a turnover that led to Sedlak’s game-tying goal in the second, Arcaroli answered the bell and found redemption in the third.
“Bouncing back,” Arcaroli, the Tournament Most Valuable Player, said. “We had a lot of turnovers this game and one of them was mine that led to a goal. I knew I had to bounce back so I worked hard for the rest of the game and got the ‘W.'”
Just 2:01 after Arcaroli gave Bergen Catholic its second lead of the game, Nick Stoebling converted from in close to extend the Oradell school’s lead to 3-1.
Stoebling’s marker — which was originally awarded to teammate Nick Chiarazzi — proved critical, especially after Sal Guzzo cut the deficit to 3-2 with 1:26 remaining in regulation. The goal, which came moments after Don Bosco Prep pulled Ethan Marich in favor of an extra attacker, made it a one-goal game once again. But Don Bosco, which had won eight straight county titles since its inception in 2012, could not pull off the feat a second time.
“Honestly, I have to thank my defense,” said McCaskey, who did not yield a goal until Don Bosco Prep’s 24th shot of the game with 5:15 left in the second period. “They really helped me with rebounds, clearing the puck out of the zone, letting me see the puck. They did their job so I could do mine.”
The victory avenges an earlier-season 4-0 loss to its county rival, but more importantly erases years of heartache at the hands of the Ironmen on the ice. On the gridiron, Bergen Catholic is one of the most successful football programs with 17 state titles to its credit, but Thursday night’s county title was its first in ice hockey.
“At the end of the day, it’s not the most-skilled team, it’s the hardest-working team and we outworked them today,” Bergen Catholic coach Tom Keough said. “We came together as a team.”
Keough, in his second year as head coach at his alma mater, was a player on the Bergen Catholic teams that captured state titles in 2001 and 2003. He is determined in bringing back that winning culture to the Crusaders.
“When I played we didn’t have a county tournament,” Keough said. “It’s new to us but there’s bragging rights here. Winning the county championship is definitely a big deal for us. Not only are we number one in the county, we want to be number one in the state of New Jersey.
“We got the first goal and just rolled from there,” Keough continued. “Tommy Olson’s goal was huge. It took the pressure off our back getting the first goal. We can hang with anybody in the state and we showed that.”
Olson’s goal seven minutes into the game was his fifth of the season, setting the tone and the table for the Crusaders.
“It all started with Aram Minnetian rushing the puck down the ice,” Olson said. “He got it deep, got it to me behind the net and I just wrapped it around — I snuck it between his legs. It was huge. In practice, before the game, we said we need to get the first one to set the tone and that’s exactly what we did.”
Sedlak made it a 1-1 game 9:45 into the second period assisted by Eric Vivinetto for Don Bosco Prep, which captured its first state title in school history last season.
“We really thought we were going to come in and win,” Sedlak said. “It’s a big learning point. Things are not going to come easy. Last year was last year. We’re no longer state champions.
“All our shots were outside the house, we didn’t get too many scoring chances in close and that’s what it came down to,” Sedlak said. “A 1-1 tie in the second — we knew whoever scored the next goal would be big. That’s where it went south for us. But we never quit. We’ll be there until the last whistle blows.”
Don Bosco Prep (10-4-1) felt Bergen Catholic’s third goal of the game was off-sides. In a penalty-riddled affair resulting in a combined 40 minutes in the box, discipline was trait neither team exhibited.
“A championship game, a tight game, we just didn’t get the bounces tonight,” Don Bosco Prep coach Greg Toskos said. “We had a lot of chances early with pucks in the crease but didn’t put them in the back of the net and Bergen Catholic took advantage.
“I liked the way we battled, we battled hard, we’re not going to give up on games like that, not in a championship game,” Toskos said. “We’ve won this tournament a long time, eight years in a row, but this year we didn’t so we’ll see how we handle that adversity. We need to use this as motivation.”
“It was a good run for eight years but we didn’t get it done tonight,” Sedlak added. “We’re back to zero. Yes, we’ve won this tournament year-in and year-out, but now we’re back to square-one.”
Bergen Catholic improves to 11-3. No matter how the rest of the season plays out, the championship banner returning to Oradell will hang in the gym forever.
“It’s great — great to have a banner up in the gym — haven’t had one since 2003,” Arcaroli, a sophomore, said. “I’m looking forward to seeing that.
“Arcaroli is a heck of a player,” added Keough. “He’s one of the top forwards in the area. He came to play and he can shoot. Second time around he did much better putting that puck in the net.”
1-0 BC Tommy Olson (unassisted) 7:58-1st
1-1 DB Connor Sedlak (Eric Vivinetto) 5:15-2nd
2-1 BC Antonio Arcaroli (Nick Stoebling) 12:38-3rd
3-1 BC Nick Stoebling (unassisted) 10:37-3rd
3-2 DB Sal Guzzo (Connor Sedlak, Jake Geraci) 1:26-3rd
Shots: 31-20 DB; McCaskey, 29 saves; Marich, 17 saves
Written by John Christian Hageny @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
HockeyClan continues to upgrade its apps to benefit their growing hockey community.
Want to write about hockey? Join the HockeyClan community! While you are here visiting Rate Rinks! You can rate every rink you have ever been to based on the most important criteria. Interested in doing your own Player’s Blog? Send your hockey story to us at firstname.lastname@example.org